Answering a parliamentary question on how the allegedly false statements made on the salary of Temasek CEO Ho Ching are harmful to the public interest is “not appropriate”, said Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah in Parliament today (5 May), as the matter is currently before the court.
Ms Rajah was responding to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera on behalf of the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Mr Perera had asked how the subject statement on the annual income of Mdm Ho harms the public interest as defined in Section 4 of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA). This was in reference to the four correction directions issued under the act on instructions of Mr Heng last month over the allegedly false statement.
On 19 April, the POFMA office issued four correction directions to HardwareZone user ‘darkseidluv’, The Temasek Review’s Facebook page, The Online Citizen’s Facebook page and website and Mr Lim Tean for sharing this alleged falsehood regarding Mdm Ho’s alleged remuneration of S$99 million annually as Temasek CEO.
The correction order stated that is the opinion of the Finance Minister that it is in the public interest to issue these directions.
Following this, TOC filed an application to the Minister to cancel the correction direction which was rejected. Subsequently, TOC raised the matter to the High Court.
In response Mr Perera’s questions, Ms Rajah said, “One of the issues that TOC [The Online Citizen] has raised before the court relates to the public interest grounds under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act, or POFMA, as this issue is now before the court. Given the specific circumstances of this case, it is not appropriate to answer this question.”
Replying to Ms Rajah’s answer, Mr Perara asked whether the government’s approach to the matter might end up undermining public trust instead.
He said, “So, if we take the approach that, you know, POFMA directives are going to be issued, every time a false figure is given for compensation on the top management of sovereign wealth funds, for the CEO Temasek Holdings, and those POFMA directives are issued, but the real figure is not given – does that really meet the objective of reinforcing public trust in those institutions, or does that actually, potentially erode public trust, because it would breed more speculation to no constructive end.”
Responding, Ms Rajah said that the main issue here about whether there is a question of public interest has already been put by TOC in front of the court for judicial review. As such, it is up to the court, an independent tribunal, to make that decision.
She said, “And that is before the court, and the court is an independent tribunal that will make that decision. So at the end of the day, in so far as the specific question of public trust is involved, the court will decide on that. With respect to the other matters, those don’t really pertain to this particular question,” said Rajah.
As for the other aspects of Mr Perera’s reply, Ms Rajah said that those do not really apply to his original question.
She reiterated, “The public trust will be upheld because the public will know that when the court decides in this issue, whether or not the test under POFMA was met.”
Gov’t & Temasek denies Ho Ching’s alleged salary but doesn’t provide actual figure
The same day that the correction direction were issues, Temasek released a statement denying the claims that its CEO earns an annual salary of S$99 million.
Though it rarely ever addressed the matter of remuneration of its top management, this time Temasek addressed the claims of Ho Ching’s salary directly, merely saying that the claim is “false”. Temasek also noted that Ho Ching’s annual compensation is not the highest within the firm nor is she among the top five highest paid executives.
As for the government’s clarification, the Gov.sg website also repeated that the that the claims are false and referred to Temasek’s statement.
The government also noted that it “does not set the remuneration of staff in Temasek; this is the responsibility of its Board and management”.
It continued, “In the case of Temasek, its Board Committee, the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee (‘LDCC’), is responsible for the establishment of guidelines and policies on performance measurement and compensation plans.”
The site noted that the remuneration of the Executive Directors of Temasek Holdings is approved by LDCC and endorsed by its Board.