Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong addressed the recent corruption case involving former Transport Minister S Iswaran and its impact on the People’s Action Party (PAP), emphasizing that the leadership transition within the party will proceed as planned.
Speaking on the matter, Mr Wong stated, “The PAP stance on corruption is non-negotiable, this is part of our DNA. There can be no compromise, no relaxation, no fudging on this, no matter the political price.”
He acknowledged the disappointment and morale impact within PAP but confirmed the succession timeline remains unchanged.
Iswaran, facing multiple charges, including corruption and obtaining valuables as a public servant, pleaded not guilty to all 27 charges. The charges relate to his interactions with Singapore Grand Prix rights owner, Ong Beng Seng. Iswaran is accused of corruptly receiving valuables worth over S$384,000 (US$285,000) from Ong between 2015 and 2022, leading to his resignation from government positions last Tuesday.
Iswaran resigned from his positions in government on Tuesday. He is accused of corruptly receiving “valuable things” worth more than S$384,000 (US$285,000) from Ong between 2015 and 2022.
He is separately accused of obtaining about S$218,000 worth of valuable items in his capacity as a minister who also dealt with Mr Ong and his company in his role as chairman of the F1 Steering Committee, and more than S$166,000 (US$123,500) worth of flights, hotel stays, and tickets to shows, football matches, and various editions of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix. in exchange for advancing the billionaire’s business interests.
Despite these developments, Mr Wong reassured the public, “However, it will not affect the succession timeline, and the leadership transition will take place before the next General Election and before the next PAP party conference in November this year. This plan remains on track.”
Following Iswaran’s exit from PAP and his anchor minister role in West Coast GRC, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and other MPs will continue to oversee the residents there, said the Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Wong also addressed the timing of future elections, stating, “As for the timing of elections … (the) leadership transition happens before the general election. So as and when that happens, we will think about when the elections have to take place thereafter.”
On tightening gift-receiving protocols for political office holders, Mr Wong referred to the existing code of conduct for ministers, noting, “The key principles underpinning the code are clear, they are sound, they are valid.” He admitted that while the system aims to prevent and deter corruption, it is not foolproof.
Mr Wong also acknowledged the civil servants’ reactions to Iswaran’s case, saying, “But I hope the civil servants will also see that what has transpired is the determination of the PAP government to keep our system free from corruption.”
Mr Wong’s comment on leadership transition comes at the backdrop of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 2018 announcement of new roles for Singapore’s 4G leaders, including Iswaran’s appointment as Minister for Communications and Information, and his role in Trade Relations at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
After the 2020 general election, Iswaran remained as Minister in the Ministry of Communications and Information. Following a Cabinet reshuffle on 15 May 2021, he became Minister for Transport while retaining his role as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.
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