The country is interested, the country is watching – what about the President and Prime Minister?

The country is interested, the country is watching – what about the President and Prime Minister?

by Augustine Low

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said of the Parti Liyani– Liew Mun Leong case yesterday: “I think it’s good that both sides, PAP MPs as well as WP MPs, appear to be very interested.”

It goes without saying that it is incumbent on Members of Parliament to show interest. Indeed, the country is very interested, the country is closely watching the government’s response.

Strangely enough, there has not been any interest shown by the President and Prime Minister.

On 2 Sept, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Singaporeans: “Do not doubt. Do not fear. Jewel will shine again. Changi will thrive again.”

Eight days later, Liew Mun Leong – the man at the forefront of the development of Terminal 4 and Jewel – abruptly resigned as Chairman of Changi Airport Group. He also relinquished his other roles with Surbana Jurong, Temasek Foundation and Temasek International.

Since then, PM Lee has been active on Facebook, talking about reducing the mosquito population and tackling COVID-19 – but not a word about what the country has been talking about.

President Halimah Yacob has also remained silent throughout the saga. It wasn’t always this way.

Let’s take the case of the National Kidney Foundation scandal which rocked the nation in 2005. It emerged that NKF chief TT Durai earned S$25,000 a month, received annual bonuses that amounted to $1.8 million between 2002 and 2004, used NKF funds to maintain his personal car and travelled on first-class flights.

Madam Halimah was then a People’s Action Party backbencher and union leader. She said that she felt “under siege” after the revelations of NKF’s lavish spending: “At every union meeting I attended, I was besieged with a deluge of questions. There were many angry words, frustrations and above all, a sense of betrayal.”

Madam Halimah also called out the lack of accountability: “There was a total failure of checks and balances and all those who were supposed to supervise and act as guardians of the public interest failed in their task. The public was completely misled and their trust was abused.”

The Parti Liyani–Liew Mun Leong case has laid siege to trust and confidence in the system and exposed a breakdown in checks and balances.

The very things that Madam Halimah used to rail against, she is now keeping mum about.

It seems that in this country, the higher you go, the more silent you become and by the time you reach the top, silence truly is golden.

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