By Andrew Loh
Some online commentators have been asking Member of Parliament (MP), Intan Azura Mokhtar, if she had endorsed or recommended Chinese national Yang Yin for permanent residency.
Mr Yang is embroiled in a court battle over the control of the assets of 87-year Chung Khin Chun.
While the public’s query with Ms Intan is understandable, it is perhaps not fair to the MP if the query is also intended to criticise her for supporting Mr Yang’s application, if indeed she did.
MPs write letters of recommendations for all sorts of things which their constituents request of them - whether it is to apply for welfare assistance, or for job recommendations with the CDC, or to the HDB for housing issues, or even for legal matters.
Thus, it is no surprise that MPs would also support PR applications of their grassroots members or constituents.
Having said that, however, the Government needs to be more transparent in how it approves applications for permanent residency. This is especially pertinent given that Singapore has some 500,000 PRs presently, with more applying each year.
And this is where Ms Intan also needs to be more transparent – if she indeed made recommendations to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to support Mr Yang’s PR application.
Mr Yang is reported to have been granted his PR status “sometime after 2011”.
Other than this, nothing much is known about how his application was made, what he had submitted to the ICA, and what he had told the MP or had done, for her to be impressed enough to support his application, if indeed she did.
One would think that an MP’s letter and support carries some weight when he or she makes a representation to an authority for certain matters.
As such, an MP has a responsibility to make sure that who and what he or she is supporting is worthy and credible.
Mr Yang, who is presently under probe by the ICA for matters regarding his PR application, is also reported to have faked his university qualifications, and had misrepresented himself as a member of or having dealings with several business organisations.
He has also been arrested and is currently out on bail on a charge of criminal breach of trust.
Additionally he is being accused of and is being sued for allegedly stealing cash and jewellery, emptying out Mdm Chung’s bank account, and for losses and damages incurred because of his “breach of duties” as someone who was granted a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) by Mdm Chung to help her look after her assets.
So, the picture is quite clear – Mr Yang seems to be someone who thinks nothing of engaging in fraudulent methods to get what he wants.
It is thus not unreasonable for members of the public to question if Ms Intan was hoodwinked by Mr Yang into lending support to his PR application.
The aim here is make sure that due diligence is done on the part of those in positions of authority whose actions and words carry weight, and how if there are loopholes or lapses in judgment these can be corrected and addressed properly so that future incidents do not happen again.
The question of due diligence is especially relevant because news reports say that Mr Yang’s neighbours had informed their MP of their concerns of Mr Yang’s behaviour in the neighbourhood earlier.
So, one would think that Ms Intan, as a representative of the people in her constituency and the wider Singaporean public, would explain openly and clearly what transpired as far as Mr Yang’s application for PR is concerned.
And she might also perhaps want to explain too how Mr Yang became a grassroots leader in a rather short period of time after being given his permanent residency “sometime after 2011”.
In a Straits Times report on 8 September, Ms Intan was reported to have said that Mr Yang was “a grassroots leader and one of several leaders in Ang Mo Kio GRC helping foreigners integrate into society.”
“But Dr Intan said she did not know Mr Yang personally and that he was one of the many grassroots leaders in her constituency,” the Straits Times reported then.
However, about 9 days later on 17 September, the Straits Times made a correction to that report. (See here.)
“What Dr Intan said was that Mr Yang was one of many grassroots leaders but he does not hold a key post,” the newspaper said.
Did the paper perhaps receive word from the MP to make that correction?
No one knows and the Straits Times did not explain if it was contacted by the MP.
Nonetheless, it raises the question: if Ms Intan did not know Mr Yang personally, as the Straits Times report said, on what basis then did she recommend or support his application for permanent residency?
All of these incidents and silence from Ms Intan can only add to more speculations.
As one minister recently advised, "All of us will make mistakes. But when a mistake is made, just come clean and say so... don't cover up.”
While no one is accusing Ms Intan of any “cover-up”, one would hope that she would say more than expressing disdain for those who are questioning her.
The more the MP keeps silent, the more speculations will spread, and this will be unfair to her and her grassroots volunteers and leaders.
As an MP, one would hope she has the responsibility – to her constituents, her grassroots volunteers and leaders - to explain things, rather than keep a stony silence which helps no one and which in fact, taints all.
TOC has previously sent two email queries to Ms Intan on this issue. At time of publishing, Ms Intan has yet to respond to our queries.