S'pore refutes 'deeply offensive & uninformed' Economist article alleging that CPIB cannot be independent

The article misrepresents the process, Lim said.

Ilyda Chua | July 29, 2023, 02:58 PM

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Singapore's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Lim Thuan Kuan, has refuted a "serious charge" made in British magazine The Economist on Jul. 27.

The article, titled "A slew of scandals puts Singapore’s government on the back foot", claimed that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) cannot be independent as the agency reports to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

These claims, Lim said, "would strike many Singaporeans as deeply offensive and uninformed".

On Iswaran case

In a Jul. 28 letter to magazine editor Mark Doyle, Lim said that the column "misrepresents the process".

The article detailed the Ridout Road saga involving Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, as well as the corruption probe involving Minister for Transport S Iswaran.

On the latter, he wrote: "CPIB does not require the Prime Minister's permission for its investigations".

He added that the CPIB had sought PM Lee's concurrence before starting the investigation because it involved a Cabinet minister.

PM Lee had also given his consent within a day of receiving the report, Lim wrote.

He elaborated:

"No Prime Minister of Singapore has ever prevented the CPIB from investigating anyone.

But even if the Prime Minister does not consent to CPIB investigations, under the Constitution the Director of CPIB can still proceed with the investigations if he obtains the concurrence of the President."

This is a constitutional provision unique among Westminster-style democracies, he noted.

On Ridout Road saga

The column also pointed out that Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, who PM Lee tasked with a review of the Singapore Land Authority's policies and processes in complement to the Ridout Road investigation, "is both a friend of Mr Shanmugam’s and in the same branch of government".

On this, Lim stressed that it was PM Lee himself who asked the CPIB to investigate the matter.

He added that the Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh, accepted the CPIB's findings.

"Deeply offensive and uninformed"

"Would The Economist suggest the head of Scotland Yard (the British police) is not independent because he is appointed on the advice of the UK Home Secretary, in consultation with the Mayor of London?" he wrote.

He also pointed out that Singapore has consistently ranked highly on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

"In the latest 2022 CPI, Singapore was ranked fifth — behind only three Scandinavian countries and New Zealand, and ahead of every other Asian country.

"The UK was ranked 18."

Top photo from The Economist and Ecosoftt/Facebook