DPM Lawrence Wong's Doorstop Interview on the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) Investigation (Jan 2024)

PM Lawrence Wong | 18 January 2024

Transcript of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong’s doorstop interview on the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) Investigation on 18 January 2024.


DPM Lawrence Wong: As all of you are aware, the investigations on Mr Iswaran were initiated by the CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau). And since then, the Government has been pursuing the matter decisively and proactively. The CPIB has completed its investigations. The Public Prosecutor assessed the findings independently and this morning they decided to proceed with charges against Mr Iswaran. There are 27 charges in total – two charges of corruption, 24 charges of receiving gifts as a public servant, and one charge of obstruction of the course of justice. Mr Iswaran has resigned as a Minister and MP and a member of the PAP, and the Prime Minister has accepted his resignation. Chee Hong Tat will be appointed Transport Minister. Grace Fu will be appointed Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations. We are disappointed by what has happened. We are saddened and disappointed that Iswaran has to leave politics under these circumstances. But the PAP’s stance on corruption is non-negotiable. This is part of our DNA. There can be no compromise, no relaxation, no fudging of this, no matter the political price. The PAP government will continue to do everything we can to uphold the highest standards of integrity, incorruptibility, and propriety. That is how we maintain the trust that Singaporeans have placed in us.

The Straits Times: Given that Mr Iswaran has indicated that he will claim trial, are you concerned about how this will affect your leadership transition, as well as the timeline for the GE (General Election). As well as the level of trust amongst Singaporeans in the 4G leadership, and within the party of course.

DPM Wong: Mr Iswaran has claimed trial, so the courts will make the decision and justice will prevail, I am sure, through the process. This is how our system works. As far as (leadership) succession is concerned, there will be no impact. We have announced that the leadership transition will take place before the next General Election and before the party conference this year. This plan remains on track. Will this incident have an impact on the party and party morale? I have no doubt that it will, but we cannot allow this political hit to compromise our zero-tolerance stance against corruption. And that is why the party, the government, will continue to do the right thing and do everything we can to keep our system corruption-free. I believe Singaporeans expect no less from us.

Channel NewsAsia: How will the Government be looking to tighten the process through which the Ministers might receive or reject certain gifts that they might be offered?

DPM Wong: There is a Code of Conduct which sets out the principles and rules in which Ministers should act, and their personal affairs. The key principles underpinning the Code are clear; they are sound; they are valid. For example, on gifts, Ministers should not receive gifts that place them under obligation in a conflict-of-interest position. That is stated in the Code of Conduct. Of course, the Code of Conduct is not static. It has been in place since 1954 and it continues to be updated. And we will continue to review and update the Code, taking into account the experiences and learnings from this incident. But I should also say when we look at our system in Singapore, it is a system where we do our best to try and prevent and deter corruption. It does not mean that there will be no corruption; it does not mean that there will be no incidents; from time to time cases do emerge, as we have seen in past years. But that is why CPIB is also a key part of the system. And they will investigate any incident thoroughly and when necessary, take action as they have done in this case.

CNA: Mr Iswaran was anchor Minister for West Coast GRC in the previous election. With his departure from the PAP, will this affect the party stance on when to call for the next General Election?

DPM Wong: He was anchor Minister for the West Coast GRC. Minister Desmond and the elected MPs in West Coast GRC are now taking care of residents in West Coast Division, as they have been doing since Mr Iswaran's leave of absence. As for the timing of elections, I have already said, 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. Meanwhile, the focus for us is to continue and press on with the work of government – because the work of government must continue. And we will continue to redouble our efforts to improve the lives of Singaporeans. When the GE comes, the PAP will present our report card to Singaporeans, and we will do our best to earn the confidence and trust of Singaporeans.

Lianhe Zaobao: We understand that some civil servants are a little bit unhappy or maybe sad that the incident has cast doubt on the Civil Service; on their good work. How has the incident actually impacted the Civil Service’s morale? Also, we separately heard that when the incident first saw light, there were some saying that some civil servants were aware of Mr Iswaran’s behaviour. If there indeed is such a case of someone knowing the incident but not reporting, would there be a follow-up on this?

DPM Wong: CPIB pursued this matter on its own accord. This was what the Prime Minister had explained earlier in Parliament. There was no tip-off; there was no whistleblower. It was CPIB that uncovered the matter, reported it up; the Prime Minister agreed for the investigation to proceed. And CPIB has done a thorough investigation – they have left no stone unturned, they have dug deep and wide, and they have presented their full investigations to the AGC (Attorney-General’s Chambers). The AGC has decided to press charges against Mr Iswaran. But the AGC has also explained that it will look at the investigations against Mr Iswaran first before deciding whether or not there will be other decisions to be taken against others who are involved in this matter. So, the matter is still not closed. It is still in progress. As for the impact on the Civil Service, I am sure there will be many civil servants who are disappointed, shocked, saddened by what has happened, including those who have worked closely with Mr Iswaran all these years. 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. That determination is clear, and we will not compromise on our zero-tolerance stance against corruption. That (i.e. our zero-tolerance stance against corruption) will ensure that Singapore remains special; that will ensure that Singapore can continue to move forward with confidence in the future.

Governance , Law