August 3, 2023: On Wednesday, Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong vowed to keep “zero patience” toward any misconduct by state officials.
His remarks came after a wave of political scandals rocked the Southeast Asian nation in recent weeks, tarnishing the pristine image that underpins its standing as a global financial center.
“The founding generation made up Singapore and entrusted it to our generation in good shape,” Lee said in a parliamentary address Wednesday. “It is incumbent on us to protect and uphold this system, to keep it incorruptible and clean, and maintain high standards of propriety.”
Transport Minister S. Iswaran was arrested last month, alongside property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, about a probe by Singapore’s anti-graft agency, marking the first time a cabinet official has been involved in corruption in nearly four decades.
Days later, the former House Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin resigned after failing to end an extra-marital affair with Cheng Li Hui, a female member of parliament from the ruling People’s Action Party.
These incidents were preceded by an investigation into two other cabinet ministers about their rentals of state-owned colonial bungalows, which eventually exonerated Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan of any wrongdoing.
Lee said actions after these humiliations showed two aspects of how his PAP government works.
“One, when there is a suspicion or allegation of wrongdoing in the discharge of official duties, especially possible corruption, there is zero tolerance,” he said in the first parliamentary session after these events.
“Two, when people slip in their personal lives, the PAP will look at the facts of each case carefully and negotiate with the matter as humanely and sensitively as possible, according to the principles the Party has established,” Lee added.