Transcript of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong’s Doorstop Interview on the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau Investigation (CPIB) Investigation on 12 July 2023.
DPM Lawrence Wong: You have all read the news about the CPIB investigation, so let me provide you with some brief context. In fact, CPIB had been undertaking an unrelated investigation on a separate matter earlier. They updated the Prime Minister on this investigation in May. I was also kept in the loop then and so I am familiar with the background. CPIB took some time to delve into the matter and they updated their findings to the Prime Minister last week on 5 July. And at that time, they said they needed to interview Minister Iswaran as part of further investigations. Within a day, the Prime Minister gave his concurrence to the Director of CPIB to open formal investigations, and [the formal investigations] started yesterday.
I know Singaporeans are concerned and have many questions about this case. I am unable to provide more information than what I have just said because the CPIB investigations are ongoing. So I ask everyone that we allow the investigation to take its course and refrain from any further speculation at this juncture. But what I would say is that this is concrete proof of how we do things in Singapore and how our system works. We have always upheld a clean and incorrupt system of government, and our track record on this over the decades is clear and evident to all. This is the foundation of the people's trust in the PAP Government. The Prime Minister and I are fully committed to keeping and preserving this trust. So we will maintain a tough zero-tolerance stance against corruption; we will continue to uphold stringent standards of honesty, integrity and probity that Singaporeans expect of their political leaders; and we will investigate all cases that come up, and whichever way the facts eventually fall, they will be taken to their logical conclusion. We will be upfront and transparent, and we will not sweep anything under the carpet even if it is potentially embarrassing or damaging to the PAP and to the Government. This is how the PAP Government has worked and will continue to operate. So I seek everyone's patience and understanding, let us allow CPIB to do its work; they will do so thoroughly, independently and provide its findings in due course.
The Straits Times: DPM, I am Natasha from the Straits Times. Could you explain the difference in the treatment of CPIB investigations in the recent Ridout case versus this one? I mean, there are two things in particular. Why was Minister Iswaran asked to take leave? And why was the investigation being made public at this point?
DPM Wong: I can understand why questions are asked about Ridout and this case, because this case was announced right after the debate about Ridout in Parliament. But the two cases are very different and let me explain why.
For the Ridout case, there were questions raised in public, including various allegations online about the two Ministers. SLA had already put out a statement shortly after that to say that the transactions complied with all the procedures, but still questions were raised, including questions in Parliament. And the two Ministers themselves wanted and asked for an independent review of the matter. The Prime Minister agreed and asked CPIB to investigate. And the investigations eventually concluded that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Ministers, there was no corruption, the findings were published and there was a full accounting of the matter in Parliament.
This case is different. This case is completely driven by CPIB from the beginning. There was no public complaint. It was CPIB that discovered the matter through their initial findings and investigations, and they felt that there was a need to interview Minister Iswaran as part of further investigations. So they raised the matter with the Prime Minister, and as I mentioned just now, within a day he concurred and agreed for formal investigations to proceed. That is why the Prime Minister asked Minister Iswaran to take a leave of absence, and we have appointed SMS Chee Hong Tat to be Acting Minister to ensure that the work and operations of MOT can continue.
Channel NewsAsia: How long are we expecting to see this investigation run for and when can we expect to see some findings? Also, in the meantime, what does this mean for Minister Iswaran's position both as a PAP MP and also as part of the 4G leadership?
DPM Wong: The investigations will take its course. We should give CPIB all the time it needs to do a full and thorough investigation. In the case of Ridout, they were able to complete their investigations within a matter of weeks. I do not know how long CPIB will require, but I can assure everyone that CPIB will do a full, thorough and independent investigation on this case, and in due course, when they are ready, they will put out all their findings.
As to Minister Iswaran's position, as I mentioned just now, he has taken a leave of absence which means he will not be in a position to undertake his ministerial responsibilities. At the same time, it will be difficult for him also to undertake many of his MP duties. So the other MPs from West Coast GRC will cover his MP responsibilities, and I believe they will be putting up more details on this very shortly, later this evening.
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