SINGAPORE: Hazel Poa, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) representing the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), has submitted a motion to suspend Singapore’s Transport Minister, S Iswaran, from his parliamentary duties for the remainder of the current session of the 14th Parliament.
In a recent Facebook post, Hazel Poa, who also serves as PSP’s Vice-Chairman, announced that on Thursday (7 Sept), she filed the aforementioned motion to suspend Mr. Iswaran.
The purpose is to halt his receipt of the MP allowance, which amounts to S$192,500 annually, during the ongoing investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), during which he is not carrying out official duties.
According to her, the motion will be subject to parliamentary debate on or after 19 September 2023.
Additionally, she disclosed her intention to introduce a Private Member’s Bill during the next parliamentary session.
She said the bill aims to ensure that Parliament has the power to back-pay Minister Iswaran via a Motion of Parliament should he subsequently be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Arrests of Transport Minister and Billionaire Ong Beng Seng spark intrigue in ongoing CPIB investigation
On 14 July, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) disclosed that both Transport Minister S. Iswaran and prominent billionaire businessman Ong Beng Seng were arrested on 11 July.
They are currently cooperating with the authorities in connection with a case that the CPIB had discovered. However, specific details regarding the nature of the probe were not provided by the CPIB.
On 2 August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Parliament that Mr Iswaran’s monthly salary has been reduced to S$8,500 until further notice as he was relieved of his ministerial duties.
PM Lee revealed that the reduction in Iswaran’s pay aligns with the current civil service practice for such rare incidents involving ministers, as there is no established rule or precedent on how to execute an interdiction on a political office holder.
“The specific details in Minister Iswaran’s case generally align with how the civil service would deal with a senior officer in a similar situation. However, this was my decision as PM, because the political contexts for a minister and a civil servant being investigated and interdicted are different,” he explained.
Iswaran’s MP pay unaffected: Parliamentary motion required for suspension
Notably, ministerial salaries have not seen adjustments since 2012.
At present, the benchmark ministerial monthly salary is set at S$55,000, equating to an annual income of S$1,100,000. Of this sum, S$715,000 is fixed, while the remaining portion is variable.
In response to queries from Dennis Tan, Workers’ Party MP for Hougang SMC, PM Lee reveals that while the ministerial salary for Iswaran was cut to S$8,500, his MP pay remains untouched, as the allowance is not at the discretion of the prime minister, unlike the ministerial salary.
To stop the allowance, Parliament would have to move a motion to suspend the MP from its service.
“An MP’s allowance will be withheld once the MP is suspended from the service of Parliament… A motion would have to be moved in Parliament to suspend the Member from the service of Parliament. His or her allowance would be withheld thereafter,” PM Lee said.
According to the Public Service Division (PSD), the annual allowance for Members of Parliament (MPs) stands at S$192,500 or about S$16,000 monthly.
PM Lee instructed Minister Iswaran to take a leave of absence pending the completion of the investigation. The minister will remain in Singapore during this period and will be denied access to any official resources and government buildings.
During his absence, other Members of Parliament from his West Coast constituency will also take up his MP duties at West Coast GRC.
While the investigation is ongoing, PM Lee cautioned against speculation and conjecture. He underscored the importance of allowing the CPIB to conduct the investigation fully, thoroughly, and independently.