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Netizens demand review of high ministerial salaries post Iswaran’s graft charges

Online community voices waning trust in “competitive ministerial pay” after Iswaran’s court charges. Demands for a thorough review of high ministerial salaries intensify in the discourse.

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On Thursday (18 January), former Transport Minister S Iswaran was charged in the State Courts with  27 offences, including corruption, receiving gratification as a public servant and obstructing justice.

The 61-year-old entered a plea of not guilty to all charges linked to his interactions with property tycoon Ong Beng Seng.

He had also tendered his resignation from Parliament and the People’s Action Party (PAP) on Tuesday.

The court heard that the charges included two counts of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 24 counts related to receiving items from individuals with whom he had business dealings in his capacity as a public servant, and one charge for obstructing the course of justice under the Penal Code.

According to charge sheets, between 2015 and 2022, Iswaran received “valuable things” exceeding S$384,000 (US$285,000) from Ong, the man who brought Formula One to Singapore.

These included tickets to shows, football matches, and multiple editions of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix.

S Iswaran pledges to clear name in face of allegations

Mr Iswaran is defended by his lawyers, including Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Mr Navin Thevar, Ms Sheiffa Safi Shirbeeni and Mr Rajvinder Singh from Davinder Singh Chambers.

He expressed his focus on clearing his name in a statement published on his Facebook account on Thursday. He pledged to return all salary and allowances received since the start of the CPIB’s investigations in July 2023.

Iswaran explained that returning the funds was a decision made by him and his family based on their belief in doing what is morally right.

“We cannot in all good conscience keep the monies when I was unable, on account of the investigations, to discharge my duties as a Minister and Member of Parliament in that period. ”

The pre-trial conference for Iswaran’s case is scheduled for 1 March and he is currently released on S$800,000 bail.

Netizens express ‘trust shaken’ as PAP Minister faces corruption charges in court

This case marks a historical first in Singapore, the first instance of a minister being charged with a criminal offence while in office.

Examining comments across Singaporean state media’s social media platforms, it becomes evident that the online community is grappling with a loss of trust in the perceived integrity of Singapore’s well-compensated Ministers, a group traditionally entrusted with averting corruption.

Calls for a comprehensive review of the current high ministerial salaries have gained momentum within these discussions.

Besides harsh punishment and a zero-tolerance toward corruption, the Singapore government has repeatedly justified its policy of awarding high wages to civil servants as a way to both prevent government corruption and attract talent from the private sector.

This high-wage structure was introduced in the early to mid-1990s where civil service salaries are pegged to the private sector.

The founding father Lee Kuan Yew even argued that competitive wages were crucial to retaining talented bureaucrats, as the private sector would otherwise lure them away.

Singapore’s political salaries are among the highest globally, with the Prime Minister reportedly earning US$1.6 million annually.

In the recent case of the PAP minister being charged with corruption charges, some Singaporeans have voiced apprehension regarding “trust shaken” to a system and principles that had hitherto been regarded as effective.

A notable comment in these discussions highlighted the stark contrast between the $384,000 worth of gifts, seemingly insignificant to a minister with a million-dollar salary.

“but for those who earn $1,800/month in e.g. F&B industry, or ComfortDelGro’s taxi drivers pilot salary scheme, it’s over 17 years worth of salary, ” the comment wrote.

Some have posited that the once-prominent narrative of “million-dollar salaries ensuring no corruption” might now be approaching its conclusion, given the recent scandal.

Calls for reevaluation arise amidst the ineffectiveness of high ministerial salaries in preventing controversies

There is also a prevailing suggestion that the failure of high ministerial salaries to prevent such controversies prompts a reevaluation of their effectiveness.

A netizen said The fact that PAP ministers are among the highest-paid in the world is not only well-known but increasingly a point of contention.

“The pervasive issue of greed appears unabated despite these substantial compensations, ” the netizen remarked.

Consequently, he demands the consideration of a significant salary reduction for all PAP ministers, suggesting that it is time to align their remuneration with the expectations of public service and the fiscal responsibility owed to our nation’s citizens.

“We must enforce financial moderation and ensure the values of our leadership align with the public interest they serve.”

“Action must be taken, and wish to see a proposal for salary adjustments in the immediate future.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, another comment argued that the recent case serves as evidence against the PAP’s belief that highly paid MPs will inherently be incorruptible.

“Stop squeezing the public with high inflation. Just slash the MPs’ pay,” he emphasized.

He further urged the opposition in Parliament to scrutinize the incumbent government, ensuring they are on the right track.

Netizens’ comments reflect diminished confidence in trusting the PAP Party

Following Iswaran’s resignation, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong assured in an interview that the PAP’s stance on corruption is “non-negotiable and part of its DNA.”

He emphasized that the government would persist in upholding the highest standards of integrity, incorruptibility, and propriety.

Observing the online comments on the Straits Times’ Facebook post, some netizens express concern that trust is something that requires time to build.

The recent scandals involving former Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, Iswaran, the Ridout Road bungalow saga, and the like have indeed diminished confidence in trusting the PAP party, as PAP kept insisting that its ministers serve with integrity and honesty.

A comment noted, “Well.. time can’t lie, truth will prevail. It is only a matter of time. Actions speaks louder than words. “

The netizen expressed that people will closely observe how and what the PAP will do to convince the public during the upcoming election.

Another comment response, highlighted that trust is akin to a delicate currency, requiring time to earn and easily becoming fragile in the face of controversies.

“The recent events have stirred skepticism, and actions will undoubtedly speak louder than words in rebuilding confidence.”

The upcoming election is viewed as a pivotal moment, offering an opportunity for the people to evaluate how the PAP addresses these concerns and reaffirms its commitment to integrity and honesty.

Another comment pointed out that proof alone does not create trust, as trust is a crucial factor between parties or members and cannot be easily developed within a month.

The comment expressed the sentiment that trust has eroded among members of parliament and ministers in Singapore.

Singapore Govt defers 2023 political salary review

Recently, the Singapore Government has announced a deferral in the review of political salaries that was due in 2023.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who also oversees Public Services, addressed this development in response to Parliamentary questions filed by Members of Parliament.

Minister Chan Chun Sing, representing the Prime Minister, stated: “The recommendations from the last political salaries review were announced in 2018. “

“The salary review Committee recommended a review of the political salaries framework about every five years, or when necessary. The Government did not make any changes to political salaries following the 2018 review as the salary structure remained valid and there were economic uncertainties in the previous few years.”

Mr Chan added, “A review of the political salaries was due in 2023. However, the Government decided to defer the review as we have other pressing issues to deal with.’

“In 2023, the global geopolitical situation has become more uncertain, with conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, and continuing heightened geopolitical contestation. On the economic front, significant uncertainties and downside risks in the global economy remain, impacting our local economy and our wages and inflation outlooks.”

Given the mentioned circumstances, Mr Chan announced that the Singapore government has decided to focus on dealing with these key challenges at hand and defer the review of political salaries for now.

“The Government will review the political salaries framework and benchmark in due course to ensure that they remain relevant and up to date.”

Earlier in January last year, in response to a question by Ms Poa, Minister Chan had confirmed the government’s intention to review political salaries for 2023.

This development is a continuation of the discourse on political salaries in Singapore, which gained significant attention following the 2012 White Paper on ministerial salaries.

This paper was introduced after the 2011 General Election, which saw a decrease in support for the incumbent PAP government and the party losing Aljunied GRC to the Workers’ Party.

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Clear your name for what? You’ve been caught with your pants down so time to face the music. Besides, how you afford all those top liars to defend you?

If he is innocent, did he need to resign or return his obscene salaries? If he had a conscience – then is he saying black is indeed whiter than white, and darkness is indeed light? Since he is clearly contesting the charges and claiming innocence, then the corresponding court penalties must be much much higher, for wasting taxpayers monies and court resources. Only Davinder is laughing all the way to the bank!

Will it be accurate to say this ministerial corruption is likely just the tip of the gigantic iceberg? Scary sial. Vote wisely to prevent another iswaran.

In the next ministerial humongously obscene salaries review, don’t be surprised if ah chan were to announce: “In view of the recent spade of corruption and grey zones issues and sexual scandals directly involving the pap regime, the cabinet now decided on tripling down the current salaries of all ministers and mps. This minuscle increase represents less than 2% of Singapore’s national gdp and will go a long way in tripling our assurance that our poor, underpaid ministers don’t become corrupt anymore. If need be, we can even more than quadruple their current salaries for added assurance. We will also… Read more »

Review done!
Their world’s highest salaries will be increased for sure.
Vote wisely if U don’t want it to happen.

just like high COE did not unjam the roads(because FTs and malaysian cars), millionaire/billionaire minitruthers did not stop corruption. is all wayang to justify poor cost effectiveness.

It’s not a historic first. 1986 have one minister also

Trust can be Regained oso … Yah sure, ask those cheated by their hubby with affair or kena scam. Trust can be Regained anot. It will take a LOT of Action to regain lost Trust BUT they aren’t showing any actions … They prefer to purge those Not in their Empires …

KNN

Don’t know what is Veto

Ask for Demand .

Yes, we can at next GE

I supposed this case showed that a high salaried minister do not mean this person will not corrupt. It is just that he is caught red handed, we can never be certain if there are others.

TAKE A CLOSER EXAMINATION :

when Isw mentioned RETURN his Salary “made in CLOSE CONSULTATIONS with his Familee… Morally NOT right.”

Why is THIS STATEMENT Neccssary TO EMPHASISE, esp Politically Protocol – a PAP Administration COERCION in disguise???

Be careful for what you wish for. Knowing PAP’s illogical decision making, they’ll probably raise their salaries to tens of millions a year after a review because $1m+ was not enough to prevent corruption.

Galaxy’s highest salary is not due to PAP ability, or to prevent corruption, it is to buy loyalty. It is also very expensive to pay people to guard so many closets of skeletons.

It is proven time and again.

LKY: “If you want to earn big money in civil service, you’ve come to the wrong place. The exit is just over there…”

I suggest SGov comes out another new law stating death sentencing for civil servants who caught for corruption, bribery and etc.

We must have that ironfist to govern this little country so that she will shine even brighter into the future.

Their salaries aren’t just high, … they’re grotesquely and grossly exaggerated, … and entirely out of sync within planet earth !!!

Whatever bs reasons they’ve provided, for justifying (if justifying can ever be the correct term), … their scale and rates, they’ve never ever been worth that, … not even for a fleeting unguarded moment since it’s inception and introduction !!!

Obviously, the INDICTMENT of Iswaran has put a HALT, a HUGE DENT to PAP review (INCREASE) of their OWN HIGH salaries. This was OMITTED from Chans reply for reasons of delay.

How MUCH is the average SG tax payer paying for Edwin Tong to go MC?
How much is the Sheegaporean tax payer footing the ‘supplementary subsidised bills’ of the B & W Ridout rentals, for months, for years – the amounts of which by RIGHT forgone by SLA, SHOULD be used to Help the Poor, the Needy.

Is the SLA working for the PAP or for Singapore since it’s a Govt service NOT a PAP service?

The PAP is a GIANT PREDATOR – milk $G Re$erve$ to pay themselves SKY HIGH $ALARIES in the name of moral anti CORRUPTION – is it true? Or PAP ORIGIN lies?

Paying less than necessarily high salaries attract the wrong people – look at the F & B sectors just as example, tho not full rep of whole economy, how many are FTrash whose home countries money is so much smaller than S$? They sacrificed relationships, time et al to work here. For what? For money, gold? Or they love the BLOODY PAP so much? Or they love to CONTRIBUTE to the growth of SG? Which ideal come first? Yes they do love their jobs, no denial. BUT FUNDAMENTALLY which is FIRST? Tell them if they love PAP and SG, try… Read more »

One of the reasons given was that HIGH SALARY will not make the MiniSTIRs corrupt. How wrong can goh kayu be? Look at Iswaran for facing charges of corruption! look at ms Vivian n shame for the controversy of the RIDEOUT bungalows despite BIG SALARIES. ALL these million dollar salaries must be returned to the coffers as they are tax money and belong to the people. By giving BIG salaries, YOU are attracting the WRONG people into government. They do not have the HEART to serve when they increase gst any old how, look at the poor…..We don’t think they… Read more »

Ask the Li Hong Yi with his parking apps to take the Iswaran Transport Portfolio NOW. Dun Need to Pretend and wait for the Future. Best chance to appear and take over NOW …

Is this why CCS announced a delay in Ministerial salaries? It is not the salary amount but the capability and experience of Ministers. Is there anyone of market value of one million in the PAP? I am thinking JL, CCS,DL,CHT,IR etc

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