SINGAPORE — There is “no doubt” that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) will be hit by the corruption scandal involving former minister S Iswaran, but this cannot compromise the party’s zero-tolerance stance against corruption.
This was said by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Thursday (Jan 18), hours after Iswaran, Singapore’s ex-Transport Minister, was handed 27 charges for corruption, bribery and obstruction of justice.
“Will this incident have an impact on the party and party morale? I have no doubt that it will,” Mr Wong told the media, stressing that the PAP’s “non-negotiable” stance against corruption is “part of our DNA”.
“But we cannot allow this political hit to compromise our zero-tolerance stance against corruption. That’s why the party, the Government, will continue to do the right thing and do everything we can to keep our system corruption free.”
The bulk of the charges filed against Iswaran on Thursday relate to him allegedly receiving items worth more than S$384,000 from billionaire hotelier Ong Beng Seng.
These included tickets for theatre plays and football matches.
Iswaran has resigned from the Cabinet and as a Member of Parliament.
Mr Wong added that Iswaran’s case will not affect the Government’s leadership transition timeline.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced previously that he would hand over the reigns to Mr Wong before the next General Election and before the PAP’s conference this year.
These plans remain “on track”, said Mr Wong on Thursday.
In response to a question on whether the Government will tighten processes to which ministers might receive or reject gifts, Mr Wong said they are expected to uphold a code of conduct.
The code of conduct “sets out the principles and rules in which ministers should act and your personal offence” and is “clear, sound and valid”.
For example, ministers should not receive gifts that place them under obligation in a conflict of interest position, said Mr Wong.
He said the code of conduct — put in place since 1954 — will continue to be updated and reviewed, “taking into account the experiences and learnings from this incident”.
“I should also say when we look at our system in Singapore, it is a system where we do our best to try and prevent and deter corruption,” said Mr Wong, adding that this does not mean there are no corruption cases.
“But that’s why CPIB is also a key part of the system. And they will investigate any incident thoroughly and when necessary, take action as they have done in this case.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TAUFIQ ZALIZAN