I refer to the article “Parliament: WP’s Leon Perera apologises, withdraws statements on Mediacorp’s editing of parliamentary footage” (Straits Times, Jan 8).
It states that “House Leader Grace Fu acknowledged and thanked Mr Perera for the apology, adding she did not want to “read too much” into whether his intentions were deliberate.
“The MPs are given parliamentary privilege to speak freely and surface different views, but this must not be misused to misrepresent facts or mislead the Parliament,” said Ms Fu, who sent a letter to Mr Perera last week asking him to apologise.
“Statements that are wrongly made in this House deserve to be retracted if it is indeed untrue, so that members can benefit from the discussion and restore trust in each other’s statement in this House. Only in that way, we can have a useful and effective discussion in this House,” added Ms Fu, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.”
In this connection, let’s try to look at some examples in Singapore’s history to try to have a better understanding of possibly some of the issues – from a perspective of “public interest and fair comment” – as to what may or may not be construed as “misleading”?
The Finance Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam in a Parliamentary reply in July 2014 said that only the GIC managed CPF funds.
"The CPF Board invests CPF members’ monies in Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS). These are issued specially by the Government to CPF Board. They are not traded instruments. The payout from the SSGS is pegged to the interest rates that the CPF Board is committed to pay its members...the comingled funds are first deposited with MAS as Government deposits. MAS converts these funds into foreign assets through the foreign exchange market. A major portion of these assets are however of a longer term nature, and are hence transferred over to be managed by the GIC.
The SSGS proceeds are not passed to Temasek for management. Temasek manages its own assets, and does not manage any CPF monies."
So, why is that in 2007, when MP Low Thia Kiang asked, “I would like to seek clarifications from the Minister. Does the GIC use money derived from CPF to invest?” – Then Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen said, “The answer is no”? (parliamentary source)
And also why did the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew say in 2001, when he was the chairman of GIC, that “I want to clarify that there is no direct link between the GIC and the CPF.”. The Straits Times carried an article headlined, “GIC does not use CPF funds: SM Lee”?
Then Minister for Labour and Communications Ong Teng Cheong said in 1982 that, “CPF savings form a large portion of Singapore’s savings. These savings are used for capital formation which means the construction of new factories, installation of new plant and equipment, expansion of infrastructure such as roads,’ ports and telecommunications, the building of houses and so on”. Temasek has an annualised return of about 16% per annum, since its inception.
Since state companies like SingTel were arguably built with CPF funds and were transferred to Temasek – is it arguably, categorically and absolutely correct for the Finance Minister to say that “No. It (Temasek) has never managed CPF funds”?”