Dawson Koo /
A flurry of comments was unleashed on the Internet after Dr Lim Wee Kiak, People’s Action Party Member of Parliament, was reported to have made the following comments to the Chinese press:
"If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister's ideas and proposals, hence a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity."
Criticisms of Dr Lim flew thick and fast. On The Online Citizen Facebook page, more than 200 comments were posted about it in less than half an hour yesterday.
Dr Lim has since responded, on his Facebook page, to the criticisms by saying that he was quoted out of context, and that criticisms of his remarks were an “attempt by many” to “use this against [him].”
“As a PAP MP, I am glad that I have many friends and also on the other side many who are not so friendly. It is sad when things are quoted out of context and when they do not report the whole thing,” Dr Lim said on his Facebook page.
Later he explained that he had made those remarks “jokingly” to the reporter. Again, he claimed that his comments were taken out of context.
Is this another case of a misquoted statement, as Dr Lim claims?
He defended the high salary drawn by the Minister for Communication, Information and the Arts (I believe other ministers too) and said that media CEOs who are paid millions will not listen to the minister if he did not earn as much or be given an appropriate salary. How many media CEOs in Singapore are able to draw millions of dollars in salary, in the first place?
What is Mr Lim's definition of a "reasonable payout" which will "maintain a bit of dignity?" I believe it is more than $500,000 annually since he apparently set it as a benchmark.
Why didn't he put the rest of Singaporeans in his shoes? What about the annual salary of an average Singaporean? $500,000 a year is an impossible amount to reach for many and something that which they can only dream of. Many of us don't earn even half that amount, let alone near it. It may even take us decades to reach it. So, where is our dignity then?
During the elections campaign, then-Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said that the issue of ministerial salaries was not a concern among most citizens. Yet, PM Lee recently commissioned a committee to review ministers’ pay after the PAP’s vote share dropped to its historical low, and ministers salaries was believed to have played a part in this. Isn't it ironic that two people from the same party are singing two different tunes before and after the elections?
As for Dr Lim, he has not explained how his words were taken “out of context”. MPs should not make such insensitive statements and then turn around and claim to be misquoted – without explaining where this supposed misrepresentation was.
That is just taking the easy way out.
At the very least, Dr Lim should write to the Chinese press to explain how he was misquoted. In the meantime, he should refrain from accusing those “on the other side” of attempting to “use this against” him.
With additional commentary by Andrew Loh.