PM Lee Hsien Loong: Full confidence in ministers Shanmugam, Balakrishnan

Parliament discussion on rentals of Ridout Road properties a demonstration of government's determination to uphold standards

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he retains full confidence in ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan, following investigations into their rentals of black-and-white bungalows along Ridout Road.

PM Lee added during his address Parliament on Monday (3 July) that there is nothing wrong with the two ministers renting the bungalows from Singapore Land Authority (SLA), provided that all procedures are properly followed.

His remarks came after probes by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean found no criminal wrongdoing or improper conduct by Law and Home Affairs Minister Shanmugam as well as Foreign Minister Balakrishnan.

"As PM, my duty is not just to be satisfied that legally there was no wrongdoing, but whether, quite apart from the law, there was any other kind of misconduct or impropriety," PM Lee said.

"Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan have done nothing wrong and they retain my full confidence. But this accounting in Parliament is not just to resolve the issue of the rentals on black-and-white properties in Ridout Road. important as that is, it's also a demonstration of how the PAP is determined to uphold the standards which it has set itself from the beginning in 1959."

Commitment to Singaporeans on government standards

PM Lee stated in Parliament that ministers in Singapore are paid a clean wage - they do not get perks, and so there are no official house to live in.

"You get a salary, it’s for you to judge what you need it for. Therefore, where ministers decide to live, whether they want to rent, whether they want to buy, these are personal choices," he explained.

When he first heard that Shanmugam and Balakrishnan had rented the Ridout Road bungalows, his assessment was that he did not believe there was wrongdoing.

However, with the issue attracting public interest after being highlighted by opposition politician and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam, PM Lee decided that it would be best to task the CPIB to establish definitively if there was any corruption or wrongdoing.

Apart from the legal question of whether there was criminal conduct, PM Lee also appointed SM Teo to conduct a broader review, including on SLA’s processes, whether there was preferential treatment enjoyed by the ministers, and whether any privileged information was disclosed to them.

He added that Monday's Parliamentary discussions - which took nearly six hours - is his commitment to Singaporeans that the government will not tolerate any compromise or departure from its standards of honesty, integrity and incorruptibility.

"Whichever way the facts fall, it will be taken to the logical conclusion. This is the foundation not just for the people's trust in the PAP government, but also for the integrity and good functioning of our political system," he said.

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