SINGAPORE: After a piece of information about a notable change in the professional record of Akilan Shanmugaratnam, the son of presidential candidate Tharman Shanmugaratnam buzzed online, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Public Service Division (PSC) Secretariat has issued a statement to address the matter.
The latest statement mentioned that Akilan has been a part of MOF since June 2022. Currently, he is engaged in shaping education and manpower policies within the social programmes directorate.
The Singapore Government Directory website has been updated to reflect Akilan’s new job role.
The statement also emphasized that there exists “no conflict of interest” between Akilan’s current position and his father’s presidential candidacy.
“Akilan was previously working in the Reserves and Investment Directorate at MOF. No conflict of interest occurred in his previous work at the Directorate, ” the statement wrote.
“The decision was made in July to rotate him and preempt any possible potential for conflict of interest situations in the presidential election. Akilan was treated like all other Overseas Merit Scholars, according to prevailing policies.”
Addressing the media shortly after the MOF’s statement released on Wednesday, Mr Tharman, a former senior minister of the People’s Action Party (PAP), emphasized that the statement should be accepted “at face value” and “there’s nothing for me to answer”.
According to the Straits Times, he was asked about his thoughts on the statement, as well as online suggestions that Mr Akilan’s job description was changed hastily on Wednesday after it received public attention.
“These are stray bullets, ” he said, “Are you suggesting that MOF and the PSC were inventing facts? Can’t be, right? So I think it speaks for itself. ”
“If you have further questions, please ask MOF and PSC, not myself. I think it’s a very serious matter if you’re going to invent facts,” replied Mr Tharman, who was the Minister for Finance from 2007 to 2015.
When questioned about whether he had disclosed his relationship with his son to the Elections Department, Mr Tharman responded with a query, “For what purpose? How about my daughter and my mother and my sister or anyone like that? ”
“There has to be some conflict of interest. So if there’s no conflict of interest, it’s a simple matter. This is an utterly straightforward issue… that’s all there is to it. It is a non-story. A complete non-story, that’s all.”
Mr Tharman’s Facebook statement calls online allegation as “false and baseless”
Furthermore, a statement was posted on Mr. Tharman’s official Facebook page regards these as “rumours” circulating on online platforms about Mr Tharman’s children, dismissing them as “false and baseless”.
The statement clarified that none of Mr Tharman’s children are involved in business endeavours, let alone having received any form of government backing for such activities.
Additionally, they debunked the assertion that his children attended the Singapore American School, confirming instead that they went to local schools.
“We have always called for a contest based on facts and track records of the candidates. Such rumours are unfortunate and bring disrepute to the process,” the statement wrote.
Mr Akilan’s scholarship journey aligns with prevailing policies, said MOF
Some of the posts on social media also questioned the rationale behind Mr Akilan’s temporary exemption from full-time national service (NS).
In response, both the MOF and the PSC Secretariat clarified that Mr Akilan received the same treatment as other recipients of the Overseas Merit Scholarship, adhering to prevailing policies.
“Akilan disrupted from his NS in 2011, resumed his NS duties in 2015 and finished his NS obligations, like his other PSC scholarship peers who had disrupted,” they said.
It is likely that, like PAP MP Tin Pei Ling at her employment in Grab, Akilan is so talented that a change of appointment and job scope can be done with a snap of a finger.
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