I understand that political spouses have a certain role to play alongside their husbands or wives who are politicians. They are on hand to formally greet dignitaries and provide social support. This role however is ceremonial at best. It has no official capacity. After the initial greetings and pleasantries which are photographed, these spouses usually retreat when actual discussions commence.
It therefore comes as a surprise that wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee), Ho Ching was reported to have joined PM Lee, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, China’s Vice President Wang Qishan together with other Singapore ministers and officials, as the group sat down to discuss various issues.
While Ho Ching, as head of Temasek Holdings, is a powerful woman in her own right, it still remains that she has no official governmental role. In that regard, her presence at governmental discussions may be misplaced. Instead of sitting down to join the group in their discussions, shouldn’t she have left after the initial greetings?
Further, Ho Ching’s position as head of Temasek could create potential situations of conflicts of interest by joining that discussion. Temasek, while government linked, is supposed to be a private entity. If we have the head of a private corporate taking part in governmental discussions, is it arguably possible that this could create an undue advantage for Temasek?
We don’t know what those discussions entailed but could they have contained commercially sensitive information that could affect Temasek’s performances? Even if nothing sensitive was discussed, how does this look to the general public and potential overseas investors if they suspect that PM Lee’s wife has an undue advantage? As Singapore continually tries to build a global city reputation, this might not be the best message to send out (even if unwittingly).
Looking at the photographs of the event, it would appear that everyone in attendance (save for Ho Ching) had an official capacity. How then is Ho Ching’s presence justified and explained?
It is important to note that Wang Qishan is an extremely influential figure in Chinese politics who works closely with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Does Ho Ching’s presence in this meeting send out the message that she and PM Lee are a team? Does this mean that if we vote for PM Lee, we are also voting for Ho Ching as a package deal? Do Singaporeans actually want this?
Based on a recent Yahoo poll, over 80% of Singaporeans do not think that Ho Ching would have made a good minister. Should this power couple dynamic message be broadcast in this manner in the face of this?