Former CNA reporter recalls being told how PM Lee threw a tantrum after being questioned about Ho Ching’s salary

Former Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reporter Haseenah Koyakutty shared a blog post written by Reform Party chief, Kenneth Jeyaretnam in which he again questions the secrecy behind the salary of Temasek Holdings CEO and wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Ho Ching.

Ms Koyakutty said she’s ‘glad’ that Mr Jeyaretnam is remaining persistent on the issue which she herself has attempted to dig into several times before.

She explained that she had once asked the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a media face time in about this very topic in 2004 just before he assumed the Premiership and that he apparently ‘did not like it’. A civil servant had apparently told the reporter that the PM went ‘ballistic’ afterwards. Ms Koyakutty also noted that the PM hadn’t answered the question properly.

She said, “I appreciated the civil servant’s initiative to let me know as a friend but had PM addressed by question properly back then without temper tantrum, maybe he wouldn’t be in hot soup today?”

She then drew a comparison to Myanmar’s own Aung San Suu Kyi’s ‘entitled’ behaviour which has revealed itself in the past few years.

TOC has reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office for comment on these statements made by Ms Koyakutty.

No answers, only deflections

In his article, Mr Jeyaretnam highlights Worker’s Party MP Png Eng Huat asking the Ministry of Finance (MOF) in Parliament for details about the remuneration of the top brass at Temasek Holdings and GIC – a holding company and sovereign wealth fund, both owned by the Singapore government.

In Parliament, Second Finance Minister Lawrence Wong responded to MP Png’s question by saying that the government has an ‘arms-length’ relationship with Temasek and GIC and that the government refrains from interfering with their Boards’ decisions, such as the appointment of Ho Ching as CEO of Temasek. He later adds that salaries at Temasek and GIC are decided respectively by independent boards.

“Broadly speaking, both entities adopt remuneration frameworks that are based on performance and industry benchmarks”, he explained.

Mr Jeyaretnam said, “If I am wrong about the likely billions of dollars Ho Ching has been paid, then why has the Government refused to tell us her earnings? Why is it a state secret?”

Temasek, as TOC has reported before, is an exempt private company under the Singapore Companies Act, meaning it is not required to publish its audited statutory consolidated financial statements. Without those, we have no way of know just how much Ho Ching makes as CEO.

When Mr Png pointed out in a follow up question that the government should know the remuneration structures of the companies of which they are the major shareholders, Mr Wong proceed to merely explain ‘the system’ they are attempting to design with Temasek and GIC – sidestepping any discussion of remuneration.

This response is entirely contradictory to what the Minister of Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam had said in parliament before that “you can ask for whatever information that you want and we will either have to give you the information or we will have to explain to you why we cannot give it”.

Mr Wong’s answer to WP’s question clearly is neither informative nor does it explain why the actual answer cannot be given. It’s merely deflective. We still don’t know what Ho Ching’s salary is or why that information cannot be made public.