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Why did PAP leaders keep mum about Iswaran’s arrest? What happened to being ‘upfront and transparent’ about the CPIB investigation?

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong assured us on Wednesday that the government and the People’s Action Party (PAP) would consistently exhibit transparency and accountability, even if the information could potentially be damaging or embarrassing.

“We will be upfront and transparent, and we will not sweep anything under the carpet, even if it could potentially be embarrassing or damaging to the PAP and the government,” DPM Wong said.

His statement followed the announcement by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) that Transport Minister S. Iswaran was aiding an investigation into an undisclosed case.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong affirmed that the investigation would involve interviews with Mr Iswaran, among others, after a briefing from CPIB Director Mr Denis Tang. The Prime Minister then gave the go-ahead for the investigation to proceed.

In his official response, PM Lee stated, “I gave my concurrence to Director CPIB on July 6, following which the formal investigation commenced on July 11.”

At a press gathering at the Ministry of Communications and Information, DPM Wong underscored the government’s unwavering commitment to public trust.

“We will maintain a tough, zero-tolerance stance against corruption. We will continue to uphold the stringent standards of honesty, integrity, and probity that Singaporeans expect of their political leaders,” he declared.

Then on Thursday (13 Jul), the Prime Minister’s Office stated in response to queries from local media that, as part of the investigation, Mr Iswaran is required to remain within the country, be cut off from official resources, and is prohibited from entering any government buildings during his leave.

A day later (14 Jul), Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) announced that its Managing Director, Mr Ong Beng Seng, had been summoned by the CPIB to assist in a high-profile investigation involving a cabinet minister.

HPL’s board of directors made the announcement on the Singapore Stock Exchange, stating that CPIB had requested information about Mr Ong’s interactions with Mr Iswaran.

While Mr Ong has received a notice of arrest and posted bail of S$100,000, HPL confirmed that no charges have been filed against him.

This announcement followed a flurry of viral rumours on private social media platforms regarding the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix, an event spearheaded by Mr Ong, which TOC had reported just the day before.

On the same day, in response to queries from local media, the CPIB revealed that Mr Iswaran and Mr Ong were already arrested on Tuesday (11 Jul).

Both Mr Iswaran and Mr Ong have since been released on bail, though the amount for Iswaran’s bail remains undisclosed by the CPIB.

Interestingly, in CPIB’s initial announcement on 12 July, there was no mention of Iswaran’s arrest; he was described as simply assisting the investigations.

Even on 13 July, the PMO did not disclose information about Mr Iswaran’s arrest or bail situation to the media.

It was only after HPL’s disclosure—necessitated by the rules of the Singapore Stock Exchange—that the public became aware of Mr Ong’s arrest and subsequently leading to queries from the media about whether Mr Iswaran was arrested.

This raises the question: how long would the Singaporean public have been left in the dark if HPL hadn’t announced Mr Ong’s arrest on Friday morning?

It appears that the PAP government is releasing information in a piecemeal fashion, only in response to details entering the public domain.

Is this what DPM Wong deems as being “upfront and transparent” to the Singaporean public?

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