SINGAPORE — The discussion regarding the rental of state-owned colonial bungalows by two People’s Action Party (PAP) Ministers, Mr K Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan continues. This ongoing debate persists despite reviews from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, which cleared the two ministers of any allegations of wrongdoing or abuse of power and a lengthy debate, nearly six hours long, in Parliament last Monday.
Chiming into the discussion is Er Dr Lee Bee Wah, the former Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC), who was in the same GRC with Mr Shanmugam from 2011 to 2020.
Ms Lee defended K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, in a Facebook video. She expressed sympathy for Mr Shanmugam being investigated regarding the rental of the black-and-white bungalows.
“I saw Minister Shanmugam being unfairly criticized and investigated for the rental house issue, and it really saddened me,” she said in a recorded video published last Monday.
Speaking in Mandarin, Ms Lee expressed her dissatisfaction with opposition parties and those who spoke ill of Mr Shanmugam, attacking him viciously.
In 2020, Ms Lee announced her retirement from politics, abstaining from contesting the 2020 Singapore General Election after 14 years of being an MP.
Recalling her experience as a former colleague, Ms Lee stated that Mr Shanmugam, who is also the MP for Nee Soon GRC, is “a good person who is always willing to help,” and he never turned her down whenever she sought his assistance while facing difficulties in helping residents.
Lee Bee Wah: Mr Shanmugam ‘earned at least S$100 million lesser’ since entering politics
Emphasizing that Mr Shanmugam had made sacrifices to serve the people, Ms Lee highlighted that he was a successful lawyer earning a substantial income before becoming a minister.
“But in order to serve the people, since entering politics, he earned at least S$100 million lesser, and he did not make any grievances.”
“To help Singaporeans, he has served as an MP for 35 years and as a minister for 15 years, earning lesser for at least S$100 million. Can I ask: how many people can do this?”
Lee also mentioned that Mr Shanmugam grew up in a rented house and later lived in a three-room public housing flat. He entered politics to ensure that children from disadvantaged families have the opportunity to excel in Singapore, just like him.
The Ridoutgate issue ‘not worth the time to discuss in Parliament’, claims Ms Lee
Ms Lee even expressed her opinion that the issue was not worth the time of national leaders to discuss in Parliament.
“I am pleased that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) report stated that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) did nothing wrong.”
In fact, she stated, “I believe there was no need for any investigation, let alone bringing it to Parliament.”
“Why waste national resources? Why waste the time of our national leaders? Just because opposition party members make baseless accusations? ”
In conclusion, Ms Lee urged Singaporeans to “cherish our good minister and treasure the peace and prosperity of our nation” in the video.
It should be noted that the Ministerial Statements were made by the two Ministers, SM Teo and Second Minister for Law, Edwin Tong, in response to 23 oral questions and six written questions filed by various MPs from PAP and the opposition.
PM Lee said Law Minister could have done it a different way but he accepts the reasons given
The reviews of the rental of Ridout Road state properties by the two ministers, conducted by both Senior Minister (SM) Teo Chee Hean and the CPIB, were submitted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the Parliament on 28 June.
The reports reveal no evidence of corruption, criminal wrongdoing, abuse of power, or conflict of interest, effectively clearing the ministers of any untoward allegations.
During the 3 July parliamentary session, the Prime Minister expressed his unwavering confidence in Ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan following the investigation by CPIB and SM Teo, stating that as long as the rental process is conducted properly and all procedures are adhered to, there is no wrongdoing.
“Ministers in Singapore are paid a clean wage – realistic, competitive, but clean. Therefore, where ministers decide to live, whether they want to rent, whether they want to buy, these are personal choices,” PM Lee reading from his prepared script in response to the question from Ms Denise Phua, MP for Jalan Besar GRC.
The investigations were initiated following weeks of public speculation about the circumstances surrounding the rental of the bungalows at 26 and 31 Ridout Road by Home Affairs and Law Minister Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Balakrishnan.
Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party chief, Mr Pritam Singh, raised the issue of ministers requesting personal use information from civil servants in light of the revelation that Mr Shanmugam tasked the then-Deputy Secretary to produce a list of properties that the Singapore Land Authority manages which he oversees as Minister for Law.
Mr Singh said, “It is quite incongruous in the eyes of many for a minister to be asking a civil servant. Details which pertain to information for personal use. I think this is the crux of the issue and when people intersected with the ministerial code of conduct and let your letter of prudence, does the Prime Minister not agree that actually that is this is an issue that has been flagged out and that there is a better way to address a problem of a similar nature when it crops up?” said Mr Singh and queried if there could be a better way to handle similar situations in the future.”
In response, PM Lee noted that the issue of ministers instructing civil servants wasn’t public knowledge until it was disclosed in the report.
“My view is he (Mr Shanmugam) could have done it a different way. He could have done it this way. He has given the House the reasons why he did it this way.I think those are cogent reasons, which I accept.” said PM Lee.
Mr Shanmugam explained that he had asked the deputy secretary, a senior admin service officer so that the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) knew and there was total transparency.
At the conclusion of the nearly six-hour debate, SM Teo stressed the underlying issue of equity and fairness. He spoke on the importance of a clean government, upholding integrity among those in public service, and the PAP’s commitment to building an inclusive and progressive society.
“This is important so that we can build a system with a strong foundation, which will help to bring in good people to continue to serve in government, to take Singapore further forward,” said SM Teo.
Despite the Parliamentary debate and the clearance of the two Ministers’ names through CPIB’s investigation, there is still a strong demand among Singaporeans for transparency and a more comprehensive discussion surrounding the Ridoutgate saga.