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PM Lee did not like being questioned about Ho Ching’s salary – former CNA bureau chief




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Former Indonesia bureau chief for Channel NewsAsia Ms Haseenah Koyakutty has said that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not like being questioned about his wife, Ho Ching’s salary as chief executive of sovereign wealth fund Temasek.

Sharing her account on Twitter, Ms Haseenah who is now a freelance journalist said that this occurred before Mr Lee became the Prime Minister of Singapore, and that she was “direct about the conflict of interest without beating about the bush.”

Ms Haseenah had referred to a blog post by Reform Party’s secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam titled, “How many more years will go by before we learn how much the Lees have paid themselves while in public office?” In his post, Mr Jeyaretnam had questioned why Ho Ching’s salary is a state secret.

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The Reform Party chief had referred to the parliamentary question filed by the Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat, and the response he got from Second Minister for Finance, Lawrence Wong.

Mr Png had asked Mr Wong “whether there is a remuneration cap for key management staff of Fifth Schedule companies like GIC and Temasek; and for the past five years, what is the range of total annual remuneration, including salary, annual and performance bonuses, paid to the top three highest paid executives in GIC and Temasek respectively.”

Mr Wong, who also serves as National Development Minister, replied to the parliamentary question saying:

“GIC and Temasek are commercially-run companies. The remunerations of their staff are therefore decided independently by their respective boards. The Government maintains an arms-length relationship with the companies and does not interfere in their operational decisions such as remuneration. Instead, we hold the boards accountable for their respective performances.
“Broadly speaking, both entities adopt remuneration frameworks that are based on performance and industry benchmarks. The salaries are benchmarked to the relevant markets and sectors where the entities compete for talent. This ensures that they can attract and retain capable people.
“The remuneration frameworks also aim to support and reinforce a prudent risk-taking culture. A portion of the remuneration in both entities is tied to long-term performance. This ensures that staff, including senior management, are rewarded for long-term sustained performance, rather than a focus on short-term gains.
“Ultimately, the Government evaluates the performance of the two entities based on their long-term returns, net of all expenses incurred.  These figures are published in their annual reports, and they show that both GIC and Temasek have performed creditably under challenging market conditions.”

Mr Jeyaretnam slammed Mr Wong’s answer as being “grossly arrogant and insulting to Singaporeans’ intelligence”.

In a subsequent tweet, Ms Haseenah said that a “kind civil servant present (at Mr Lee’s media huddle in 2004) told (her afterwards) that PM went ballistic after that media question time.”

She added: “I appreciated the civil servant’s initiative to let me know as a friend but had PM addressed my question properly back then without temper tantrum, maybe he wouldn’t be in hot soup today?”

Ms Haseenah said that if it is true that Mr Lee went ballistic after being questioned about his wife’s salary, it is a “princeling” sort of behavior – or behaviour in which an individual acts like a “prince”. She also asked when Mr Lee was going to resign as Prime Minister.


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