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Paranoia breeds secrets and secrets breed speculation in this country

Dr Tan Cheng Bock recently asked, “What’s happening to our reserves? Are our reserves all gone?”

He will not get any answers because one of the country’s most closely guarded secrets is the nature and extent of the reserves.

Even President Ong Teng Cheong came across a brickwall when he tried to find out about the reserves. It is a secret so divine that the head of state could not be entrusted with it, although his job was to safeguard the reserves.

There is also much that is clandestine about how GIC (formerly the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation) and Temasek (formerly Temasek Holdings) go about their business.

So much is shrouded in secrecy that the citizens of the country, who are essentially the shareholders, have no clue as to what exactly is happening, not even what their management costs are.

It is an open secret that one of the country’s best kept secrets is the salary of Ho Ching, the CEO of Temasek and wife of the Prime Minister. Which only leaves people with no choice but to speculate.

Some figures that ought to be made public are also kept secret – like the actual number of new citizens the country embraces each year, and a breakdown of the countries they come from.

Since national security is not at stake, is the motivation behind the secrecy political?

What about the identities of the perpetrators behind the SingHealth cyber attack? We know but can’t tell you, the government declares.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said revealing the identities of the perpetrators are would not enhance the security of the SingHealth system and could have negative outcomes for Singapore’s foreign policy. Let’s just put it down to judgement call.

Even when there is a duty and responsibility to be upfront and transparent, the go-to mode is secrecy. Like the HIV registry leak, kept secret from victims of the stolen data and the public for more than two years. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong attributed it to judgement call.

With so much secrecy, is there any wonder that Singaporeans have to resort to much speculation?