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Singapore 2023 review: PAP tangled in scandals after scandals as citizens navigate escalating cost of living crisis

As Singapore wraps up 2023 amid a resurgence of COVID-19 towards the year’s end, the city-state is poised for the new year, anticipating the imminent implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike set to commence on 1 January 2024.

Reflecting on the year gone by, it’s unmistakably a year fraught with multiple scandals for the ruling party People’s Action Party (PAP), which has governed the country for over half a century since the era of the late founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

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As Singapore wraps up 2023 amid a resurgence of COVID-19 towards the year’s end, the city-state is poised for the new year, anticipating the imminent implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike to 9% set to commence on 1 January 2024.

Reflecting on the year gone by, it’s unmistakably a year fraught with multiple scandals for the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP), which has governed the country for over half a century since the era of the late founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Outcry as six former KOM executives only given stern warnings in bribery scandal

In January, six former Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) senior staff received stern warnings from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) regarding alleged bribe payments to Brazilian officials but weren’t prosecuted, evoking public outcry.

Minister Indranee Rajah, in a February Parliament session, defended that CPIB “had done it best” amid a challenging investigation.  She highlighted the lack of evidence hindering prosecution, attributing the challenge to CPIB’s exhaustive inquiry exacerbated by the absence of key witnesses located abroad.

She added that both the CPIB and Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had done a careful and thorough review of the documents, including the deferred prosecution agreements and plea bargains, “and the public prosecutor has advised that those are insufficient to meet the burden of proof”.

The Singapore Government has chosen not to name the six who were issued stern warnings over the offences. However, the plea agreement and media reports have already identified who these six individuals might be.

PAP MPs’ “overboarding” practice sparked concern over conflict of interest

In February, PAP MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling’s appointment at Grab sparked criticism over potential conflicts of interest due to her role as an MP.

This prompted Grab “u-turned” on its decision, shifting her to a corporate development role.

TOC also reported that Ms Tin was the Chief Executive Officer of a non-profit entity “Business China” from 2018 to January 2023.

Before Ms Tin, several PAP members—such as Low Yenling, Josephine Teo, and Sun Xueling—also served as the entity’s CEO. PM Lee currently holds the position of patron, and the entity’s advisors include PAP ministers.

According to the organization’s 2021 financial statement,  ‘key management personnel,’ including the CEO, likely receive an annual remuneration between S$200,000 to S$300,000.

Given these appointments, it is not surprising that Singaporeans may question the potential conflicts of interest involved, as political leaders within the ruling party are already tasked with multiple roles while still serving their constituents.

Record high over S$16k rent at Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar

In April, The high rental costs of the Ramadan bazaar held at Geylang Serai sparked controversy and drew criticism from both stallholders, with rent ranging from S$16,000 to S$19,000 for one unit.

Kf Seetoh of Makansutra even remarked that it’s “the world’s most expensive pasar malam stall”.

However, the contracted organizer defends itself by saying that its stalls are “within market rental rates.”

The main organiser of the bazaar was Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) under People’s Association (PA), and it tendered out the organisation of the bazaar last year to the consortium via a GeBiz tender at an award value of S$2.26 million.

Although WGS was listed as the organising authority for the bazaar, the winning tenderer was responsible for running most of the event and paying the tendered amount to the grassroots organization.

On 25 April, responding to WP MP’s queries, Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, explained that a notable portion of the tender was allocated for lighting, organization, and programming to attract visitors. This aimed to ensure the event aligned with PA and WGS’s festive objectives.

Scepticism has arisen regarding the substantial tender collected by the PA and its impact on increasing pressure on vendors and the public.

Ridout Road Saga

In May, Reform Party Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam exposed the residency issue of Ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan at No 26 and No 31 Ridout Road, drawing attention to potential conflicts of interest due to Shanmugam’s role as Minister of Law influencing the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

This sparked demands for a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the matter.

Despite public anticipation, PM Lee initiated an independent review led by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and CPIB into the Ridout Road situation.

This inquiry cleared any misconduct in the rental of Ridout Road properties before a parliamentary debate in July.

PM Lee later in the House firmly expressed his unwavering confidence in Ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan, stating that as long as the rental process is conducted properly and all procedures are adhered to, there is no wrongdoing.

“Ministers in Singapore are paid a clean wage – realistic, competitive, but clean. Therefore, where ministers decide to live, whether they want to rent, whether they want to buy, these are personal choices,” PM Lee said at the time.

SM Teo stressed the underlying issue of equity and fairness. He spoke on the importance of a clean government, upholding integrity among those in public service, and the PAP’s commitment to building an inclusive and progressive society.

Singapore court ruled in favour of Ministers’ defamation suits against LHY over Ridout Road remarks

Following close after the Ridout Road saga, Minister Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan filed defamation suits against Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) for a Facebook post that he had made in regards to the saga, accusing him of hinting at their potential corrupt actions in a Facebook post dated 23 July.

They contended that LHY implied they had received preferential treatment from the SLA, citing unauthorized tree felling and government-funded renovations at 26 and 31 Ridout Road.

In mid-September, the two ministers served legal papers to LHY who currently residing in UK through Facebook Messenger.

Despite LHY’s challenge to pursue legal action in a UK court, the ministers stressed their prominent roles in Singapore and highlighted the relevance of the allegedly defamatory statements to events in the country.

On 27 November, the Singapore court ruled in favour of the two ministers, concurring with the claimants’ interpretation of the contentious statements in LHY’s Facebook post, inferring that the claimants acted corruptly for personal gain.

Consequently, the judge also granted the injunction order sought by the claimants, restraining LHY from disseminating the alleged defamatory statements.

LHY, who has been firm in his stance from the beginning, maintained that his original words imply neither corruption nor personal gain.

The son of the late Lee Kuan Yew voiced his frustration at the two ministers for demanding what he views as a “misleading apology.”

Three MPs from PAP and WP resigned over extramarital affairs

On 17 July, Singapore’s political landscape was rocked when PM Lee announced the resignations of Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and MP Cheng Li Hui from Parliament and the PAP due to their inappropriate relationship.

PM Lee, who is also PAP Secretary-General, revealed his awareness of their relationship after the 2020 general election, highlighting that despite advice to end it, both continued their involvement.

Just hours before the press conference that disclosed the resignations of the two PAP MPs, an undated video hinting at an inappropriate relationship surfaced online. The video involved WP MP Leon Perera and Nicole Seah, the WP’s Youth Wing President, both of whom are married.

Two days later, both WP members resigned from their party positions following confirmation of their affair by party chief Pritam Singh.

Mr Singh noted the initial reluctance of the former members to be forthcoming when confronted about the allegations. Upon further questioning by the party, in light of the video, they confessed to the affair, claiming it had ended some time ago.

 

Transport Minister Iswaran under ongoing CPIB investigation

Amidst turmoil for the PAP, Singapore’s Transport Minister S. Iswaran faced an ongoing CPIB investigation.

In mid-July, CPIB confirmed Iswaran’s arrest on July 11 alongside billionaire businessman Ong Beng Seng in connection with a corruption probe.

Both individuals were released on bail, and Iswaran, with his passport confiscated, was directed to take a leave of absence pending the investigation conclusion.

During a Parliament session on 2 August, PM Lee disclosed that CPIB discovered information about Iswaran warranting further investigation, first notifying him on 29 May.

On 5 July, CPIB’s Director briefed the Prime Minister, stressing the necessity for a formal interview with Iswaran to progress the inquiry. PM Lee sanctioned this on 6 July. Consequently, Iswaran was brought in by CPIB on 11 July and later released on bail.

Minister Iswaran is expected to remain in Singapore amidst the investigation and will be denied access to any official resources and government buildings.

No update on the investigations has been released since the Parliament session in August.

Death of police officer who penned a suicide note alleging workplace bullying and discrimination

In July, Singaporeans mourned the tragic death of police officer Sgt Uvaraja S/0 Gopal.

He was found deceased after posting an extended farewell message on Facebook, revealing the challenges he faced within his workplace at Ang Mo Kio North Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC).

His distressing account painted a grim picture of a toxic workplace culture characterized by favouritism, discrimination, and bullying. He described instances of being sidelined despite his strong performance and being loaded with the team’s work while receiving little recognition.

Sgt Uvaraja alleged repeated sabotage of his career progression by a superior, as well as mismanagement of his performance evaluations.

He highlighted his cooperation with the CPIB to report officers smoking vapes illegally in the office, and his whistleblowing efforts were met with increased hostility and isolation within his department.

The Facebook post has been taken down for unknown reasons.

Following Sgt Uvaraja’s tragic passing, the SPF issued a statement expressing deep sadness and extending condolences to his family.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, directed the SPF to conduct a thorough investigation, emphasizing that all officers should be treated fairly.

As the year draws to a close, the authorities have yet to disclose updates regarding the investigation of these allegations.

Singaporeans struggle with escalating cost of living

In 2023, Singaporeans experienced mounting hardships as policies drove everyday expenses higher.

Escalating grocery prices, million-dollar HDB flats, and COE premiums exceeding S$100k set records, reinforcing Singapore’s tag as one of the world’s most expensive cities, surpassing even New York.

On 7 November, Singapore’s Workers’ Party presented a motion, pressing for structural changes to alleviate citizens’ financial burdens. They urged the government to curtail living costs for Singaporeans and their families.

However, the ruling party proposed modifications to the WP’s motion, which the WP strongly opposed, stating it diminishes the government’s responsibility in addressing citizens’ burdens.

Despite the efforts of the Workers’ Party and the support of the Progress Singapore Party, the motion was eventually amended with the approval of the PAP-majority Parliament.

Court orders town councils in AHTC case to pay S$388,800 in costs and disbursements to WP leaders and defendants

In a landmark ruling on the prolonged AHTC civil suit, the Court of Appeal on 29 November mandated the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Sengkang Town Council (SKTC) to pay approximately S$388,800 (US$292,000) for the appeals’ costs and disbursements.

These suits targeted eight defendants, including WP leaders Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Low Thia Khiang, and Mr Singh, along with their former managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), and four other former town councillors or employees.

The court acknowledged the WP town councillors’ substantial success in their appeals. Specifically, they were deemed to have acted in good faith when hiring FMSS as AHTC’s managing agent without an open tender.

Moreover, the court ruled that Mr Singh could not be held liable for negligence in AHTC’s payment procedures since he was not allowed to defend himself against the claim.

Rejecting AHTC’s contention that it was the successful party in the appeals due to some WP leaders’ alleged gross negligence, the court denied its entitlement to costs.

The 29 Nov ruling follows prior judgments in July 2023 and November 2022. In these judgments, the apex court overturned various High Court findings but confirmed that senior WP leaders bore liability to AHTC and SKTC for negligence in specific instances.

The Court of Appeal has earlier ruled the year before that the WP leaders had acted in good faith when they awarded the contracts to their managing agent without an open tender.

First impositions of Declared Online Locations under POFMA

In 2023, Singapore witnessed the inaugural enforcement of Declared Online Locations (DOLs) under POFMA, impacting TOC and Kenneth Jeyaratnam, marking a stringent regulatory shift.

Affected entities include Jeyaretnam’s website, The Ricebowl Singapore (TRS), and his profiles on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and ‘X’ (previously Twitter).

Beginning 12 December for two years, these platforms must display notices about their DOL status, cautioning users about Mr Jeyaretnam’s alleged history of disseminating false information as the secretary-general of the Reform Party.

The Online Citizen Asia (TOC) has also been subjected to similar measures, with its website and social media accounts declared DOLs from 22 July 2023 to 21 July 2025.

POFMA enables declaring a platform as a DOL if it disseminates three or more distinct false statements within six months.

Operators of DOLs are forbidden from deriving any benefits from these platforms, with severe penalties up to S$40,000 fines or imprisonment for individuals, and S$500,000 fines for companies.

Non-compliance may prompt the government to instruct internet intermediaries to block access to a DOL, resulting in daily fines of up to S$20,000, capped at S$500,000 for defiance.

10 Fujian-origin foreigners arrested in S$2.8 billion money laundering case

On 15 August, Singaporean authorities conducted a comprehensive island-wide operation resulting in the apprehension of 10 Fujian-origin individuals suspected of involvement in money laundering and forgery.

This landmark case has reverberated across the city-state as authorities seized a vast array of assets, including 152 properties and 62 vehicles, collectively estimated at over S$2.8 billion.

The accused individuals had amassed substantial wealth, not only investing in existing companies but also founding their ventures, fostering diverse networks within the country.

Furthermore, these individuals were involved in local charitable activities and led lavish lifestyles, contributing donations to causes like the President’s Challenge and ComChest.

It’s worth noting that Chinese authorities wanted some of the arrested for alleged illicit activities, including online gambling and scamming in recent years.

This scandal contrasted sharply with Singapore’s lauded robust regulatory frameworks, raising concerns among Singaporeans about how these individuals easily established a shell company in Singapore, seeking a perceived “safer haven” within the country’s borders.

Tharman elected as Singapore’s President

Former PAP senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was inaugurated as Singapore’s ninth President on 14 September after securing a resounding victory in the 1 September Presidential Election with 70.41% of the vote.

He triumphed over contenders Mr Ng Kok Song, the former GIC investment chief, and Mr Tan Kin Lian, the former NTUC Income chief.

Before assuming the presidency, he held prestigious positions on the global stage, including chairmanship of the G30’s board of trustees, co-chairing the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, membership on the advisory board for the UN Human Development Report, and active involvement with the World Economic Forum’s board of trustees.

On 22 November, the Parliament, dominated by PAP with a supermajority, passed the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No. 3) Bill, which establishes a framework allowing the Singapore President to take on foreign and international roles privately, provided the Cabinet advises that it aligns with national interests.

This means that Mr Tharman could retain his positions in his private capacity without resigning, despite his affiliations with foreign entities.

While Singapore celebrates having an internationally recognized President, criticisms have surfaced questioning the legality of amending the constitution to accommodate these roles, particularly as Mr Tharman already held these appointments before his swearing-in as President.

The backdated bill to 14 Sept, Tharman’s inauguration, raised concerns among WP MPs about the retroactive application and potential effects on the rule of law’s stability.

PM Lee announces plan to step down in favour of DPM Lawrence Wong

In 2023, anticipation for an early General Election following the 100th birthday of LKY did not materialize, yet speculation persists for an early poll in 2024.

On 20 August, PM Lee revealed intentions to step down in favour of Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, potentially around the PAP’s 70th anniversary on 21 November 2024, although an exact timeline was not disclosed.

Previously expressing his wish “to step down before his 70th birthday in February 2022,” the unexpected challenges of the pandemic disrupted Lee’s plans.

Despite the absence of a clear timeline, PM Lee’s announcement suggests a likelihood of the General Election occurring next year, possibly before the party’s anniversary in November.

In response to the PAP’s dominant 2/3 majority in Parliament, Singapore’s political landscape has witnessed increased manoeuvring,  intensifying grassroots outreach efforts, and witnessing alternative parties forming political alliances — both formal and informal — to contest in the upcoming GE.

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CCPAP BROTHERS-IN-ARMS

North Sina👲🏻land🦗中元蝗國
Headed by 1953-born serpentine🐍😈
🫡Comrade ‘LEE’ Kin Peng🧸WINNXI da POO❤️💩

South Singha👲🏽stan aka LeePubleeic of StinkyPOO💩❤️ra & malu lah stinking poor langs👵🏻📦👴🏻
Dictated by 1952-born older brother🫡Comrade ‘XI’ Xianlong aka 死🦠險🪱蟲 aka maDamsel🪰fly aka Pink👚🫃🏻Dragon👩🏻‍🍳🦗Fried who ironically witness his last CNY celebration as well as final birth⚰️cycle to, at long😮‍💨loong🤑lust, end on 2/10🥳RIP🪦RIP🙌🏻Ching Ho真好Ching Ho👏🏻好HOchingLAY咧👍🏻✌🏻🎉🥂🍾🎊

CCPAP BROTHERS-IN-ARMS

North Sina👲🏻land🦗中元蝗國
Headed by 1953-born serpentine🐍😈
🫡Comrade ‘LEE’ Kin Peng🧸WINNXI da POO❤️💩

South Singha👲🏽stan aka LeePubleeic of StinkyPOO💩❤️ra & malu lah stinking poor langs👵🏻📦👴🏻
Dictated by 1952-born older brother🫡Comrade ‘XI’ Xianlong aka 死🦠險🪱蟲 aka maDamsel🪰fly aka Pink👚🫃🏻Dragon👩🏻‍🍳🦗Fried who ironically witness his last CNY celebration as well as final birth⚰️cycle to, at long😮‍💨loong🤑lust, end on 2/10🥳RIP🪦RIP🙌🏻👏🏻好HOchingLAY咧👍🏻✌🏻🎉🥂🍾🎊

70% agree to be scammed, lied to and accept the Conflict of Interest of the PAP who will continue to white wash the wrongs in 2024. They have boldly implemented Laws in Parliament to use POFMA, FICA etc to zip the people’s mouth. Never an apology given by the high and mighty and the arrogance will only increase. When our children misbehave, we correct them and nip it in the bud but we have not done this at State level by using our vote.

thanks to the imports.

Say no more to price increase, say no more to GST increase.

Boot them out next election. Use your rubber stamp wisely.

How about BIG MONEY SCANDALS
1. MAS $30 Billions bombed.
2. Temasek FTX $X Billions Torpedoed.

Where all these Millionaire’s balls. Even if they are that tiny, they SHOULD MAGNIFY to show the public it’s MAGNIFIED sizes.

I am still WAITING for Old Lee to EXPLODE from his grave – he claimed whenever stg not right. Isn’t these ARE ALL THE SOMETHING NOT RIGHTS?

Scandal after scandal, failure after failure, kelong after kelong. Notice how the white monkeys don’t dare to mention “Uncompromising integrity” anymore. Instead seems to have been replaced with “No Blaming Culture”. How convenient, hor.

Don’t bull about Escalating cost lah .

60s Happily ever after .

Regardless of how many scandals see the light of day. It seems that the 70% have their eyes firmly sealed shut and their ears plugged with wool. Indifference has won, they are too concerned with their lives to see the bigger picture.

I do hope that things will change, eventually. But will things only change when it is too late I wonder.

Just 2 words – Bad governing.
上梁不正,下梁歪。
Social problems one by one. Road accidents, drink-driving, murders, money-laundering, corruption, bribery, molestation, rape, robbery, fighting, riot, ill-treatment, scams and more.
liang popo must have that iron fist to mend this already broken Singapore core and society.

C’mon, … RidOut wouldn’t have been the standout scandal had it not been for KJ who exposed it, and for that, he is paying the price for it now !!! Anyone with at least, a brain cell will know only too well, that Snakey and Bala’s exoneration by the PM and it’s cohorts in parliament, … was but a formality when the regime’s “in house” processes began !!! Of bloody cos, they’re paid a “clean” wage, … it’s from the public coffers. It’s best to leave the laundering to the FuJian gang and their likes !!! Lest we forget, KOM… Read more »

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