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Political scientist highlights broad impacts of CPIB investigation into transport minister on PAP, underscores critical role of whistleblowers

SINGAPORE — The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) announced on Wednesday morning (Jul 12) that Transport Minister S Iswaran is currently assisting in an investigation related to a case uncovered by the anti-graft agency.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated that the formal investigation began on Tuesday and he had instructed Mr Iswaran to take a leave of absence until the completion of the investigation. CPIB has yet to disclose details of the probe.

Mr Iswaran, a veteran politician, has served the People’s Action Party (PAP) since the 1997 general election. Following the 2020 general election, Iswaran maintained his role as Minister in the Ministry of Communications and Information (Singapore). In a Cabinet reshuffle on May 15, 2021, Iswaran was appointed as Minister for Transport while continuing his appointment as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

These recent developments come in the wake of other controversies involving the PAP.

Last week, PAP Ministers defended the rentals of state-owned black and white colonial bungalows in a scandal that came to be known as the “Ridout issue”. Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan were subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing in reviews conducted by CPIB and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Furthermore, the Speaker of Parliament, Tan Chuan Jin, admitted to using inappropriate language in response to a speech by Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Associate Professor Jamus Lim in April this year.

In response to these political developments, political scientist Dr James Gomez provided an analysis. Speaking to TOC, Dr Gomez warned, “The impacts of these incidents, including the Ridout issue and the CPIB investigation, cannot be isolated to individuals. These have to be seen as having a broad impact on the PAP. The overall consequence will likely be felt at the polls.”

The General Election must be held by 23 November 2025. However, rumours suggest an early election might take place this year to capitalize on the 100th anniversary of Lee Kuan Yew’s birthday and to sidestep a potential recession and inflation, anticipated due to increased taxes next year.

While it remains too early to predict the specific impact on the polls, Dr Gomez anticipates that the ensuing weeks and months will reveal the extent of the scandals and their repercussions.

“This is a complex situation that will continue to evolve,” Gomez said. “The full consequences will only become clear as more information is revealed and events unfold.”

The political scientist also underscored the pivotal role of whistleblowers in these circumstances. “We might hear of more leaks. Without whistleblowers, information that the general public does not have access to will not surface,” he explained.

However, he stressed the importance of amplification of this information to avoid its suppression.

As Singapore braces for damage control efforts from all fronts, Dr Gomez pointed out that apart from central political damage control, the strategy by the ruling party would likely involve the marshalling of “commentaries” amplified by the mainstream media and echoed endlessly by online trolls.

The narrative being pushed, according to him, would aim to isolate these incidents to individuals, asserting that their consequences do not extend beyond that.

Dr Gomez, however, cast doubts over the acceptance of this narrative by the public and external observers. ”

It’s a simplistic interpretation of complex political dynamics,” he suggested. “I don’t think the public and external observers will agree so easily.”

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