Iswaran interdicted with reduced monthly salary of S$8,500 until further notice: PM Lee

The prime minister also highlighted that CPIB pursued the lead on S Iswaran on their own volition.

Matthias Ang | August 02, 2023, 01:38 PM

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Transport Minister S Iswaran has been interdicted from duty after being brought in by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) for investigations, with a reduced monthly pay of S$8,500 until further notice, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed in Parliament on Aug. 2.

He added that such incidents involving a minister being investigated by the CPIB are rare, and there is no rule or precedent on how to effect an interdiction on a political office holder.

PM Lee explained that he used the current civil service as a reference point.

"The specific details in Minister Iswaran’s case follow generally how the civil service would deal with a senior officer in a similar situation," he said.

PM Lee clarified that this was his decision as prime minister as the political contexts for a minister and a civil servant being investigated and interdicted are different.

PM Lee: CPIB pursued lead on their own volition

PM Lee was responding to multiple questions posed by Members of Parliament (MPs) about CPIB's investigation into the matter, whether such investigations require the prime minister's concurrence and the timeline of the investigation.

Reiterating the case's timeline, PM Lee said CPIB came across some information concerning Iswaran which merited investigation while investigating a separate matter.

PM Lee said he was then alerted by CPIB on May 29 and they pursued this lead further of their own volition.

On Jul. 5, the CPIB director briefed the prime minister about the findings he had at that point.

PM Lee added:

"He told me that CPIB would need to interview Minister Iswaran to take the investigation further, and sought my concurrence to open a formal investigation. I gave my concurrence the next day, Jul. 6."

Iswaran was subsequently brought in by CPIB on Jul. 11 and then released on bail.

"I instructed him to take leave of absence until the investigations were completed," PM Lee said.

Case will be taken to its logical conclusion

PM Lee further highlighted that investigations are ongoing and that he cannot provide more details on the case to not prejudice the investigation.

"I ask Members of this House and the public to refrain from speculation and conjecture. We must allow CPIB to do its work, to investigate the matter fully, thoroughly and independently," he added.

Once the investigation is completed, CPIB will submit its findings to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, which will decide what to do with them, he said.

"Whichever way the facts come out, the case will be taken to its logical conclusion. That has always been our way," PM Lee added.

Issues will be dealt with "properly and transparently"

The prime minister said that when such issues emerge, they will be dealt with "properly and transparently."

In the case of the Ridout Road rentals, when allegations of preferential treatment surfaced, the two ministers involved were thoroughly investigated, including by CPIB, and eventually fully exonerated, he noted.

"The investigation reports were tabled in Parliament, and we had a long session answering MPs’ questions in this House," he added.

In addition, when CPIB discovered on its own that it had reason to arrest and interview a minister, it opened a formal investigation.

"Nobody tipped them off," PM Lee said.

"There had been no public scandal. CPIB came across something that needed investigating, and proceeded to do their job."

Singapore has dealt with past corruption cases transparently

The prime minister also referenced corruption cases involving political office holders in the past, such as Tan Kia Gan in 1966, Wee Toon Boon in 1975, Phey Yew Kok, then-president of NTUC, who was also an MP in 1979, and Teh Cheang Wan in 1986.

PM Lee concluded:

"All these cases were handled by Mr Lee Kuan Yew who was then Prime Minister – thoroughly, transparently, and applying the full force of the law. That is still how the PAP Government deals with such cases.

It has not changed under my charge; and it won’t under my successor either."

@mothershipsg "He has not been convicted. A presumption of innocence applies. He's innocent until proven guilty." #sgpariliament #sgnews #tiktoksg ♬ original sound - Mothership

Top photos via S Iswaran LinkedIn & Google Maps