SINGAPORE: On 8 September, Hazel Poa, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) representing the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), 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.
The motion is expected to be debated in Parliament on 19 September.
Hazel Poa, who also serves as PSP’s Vice-Chairman, earlier explained that 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.
In addition, Ms Poa also introduces a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act 1962, which seeks to provide Parliament with the power to back-pay the MP allowance that was withheld from an MP who has been suspended from the service of Parliament.
The Parliament will vote on whether to give leave for the NCMP to introduce the Bill for First Reading. Following this, the bill can be thoroughly debated during the Second Reading, which is expected to take place in October.
In response to Ms Poa’s motion, Indranee Rajah, Leader of the House, has also submitted a separate motion, calling on the House to resolve to consider the matter concerning Minister S Iswaran once the outcome of the ongoing investigations against him becomes known.
On Monday (18 Sept), Lim Tean, the leader of the alternative party Peoples Voice (PV), took to Facebook to express his strong disapproval of Ms Indranee’s decision to submit a separate motion in response to Ms Poa’s motion.
Ms Indranee’s motion suggests that Parliament should only consider suspending Minister Iswaran’s S$192,500 MP pay when the outcome of the ongoing investigations against him is known.
Lim Tean posed a pointed question: “Do you think if you are being investigated by the CPIB or you have been charged and you have been suspended by your employer, you will continue getting your pay?”
He cited an example from his current caseload, where he is representing an individual who was employed by a ministry. This individual was arrested and charged by the CPIB, leading to his suspension without pay.
“No pay. So why is Iswaran so special to merit special treatment? Both of them are public servants, aren’t they?” Lim Tean asked.
He went on to argue that even in the private sector, the same rules should apply.
Lim Tean expressed his disappointment, criticizing what he sees as another example of the PAP having one set of rules for its members and favored individuals, while applying another set of rules to ordinary citizens.
“I think it is ridiculous, especially when it was a choice of the PAP themselves, to tell Iswaran that he was not to conduct any activities as an MP.”
In addition to being an MP, Mr Iswaran continues to serve as a minister, albeit on a leave of absence, and he continues to receive a salary of S$8,500.
Lim Tean asserted that Mr Iswaran is currently receiving a total of S$24,500 per month, including his S$16,000 monthly MP pay, and the S$8,500 ministerial pay.
He emphasized that this is taxpayers’ money and far exceeds the annual earnings of many Singaporeans.
“I think the bigger question is this, should we be paying someone this sum of money when he’s doing absolutely nothing? When he can well afford not to be taking this type of money when he’s clearing his name.”
Iswaran’s MP pay unaffected: Parliamentary motion required for suspension
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.
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.
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