No need for any 'further considerations' of steps to be taken against Iswaran by Parliament: Indranee Rajah

She explained that in the current circumstances the "specific issues" regarding Iswaran had been addressed.

Hannah Martens | February 05, 2024, 04:22 PM


WhatsappThere is no need for any "further consideration" of steps to be taken against former transport minister S Iswaran by Parliament, said Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, in parliament on Feb. 5, 2024.

She pointed out that Iswaran was investigated, charged in court, resigned from the cabinet and as a Member of Parliament (MP) and would voluntarily return all salary and allowances he had received since the commencement of the investigations.

Indranee was responding to questions from MPs on whether the government would be taking further actions against the former transport minister.

Issues regarding Iswaran have been addressed: Indranee

Transport minister Iswaran was charged with corruption on Jan. 18, 2024, following a quiet investigation in May 2023 into Iswaran after coming across information on him in another investigation.

He faces a total of 27 charges and allegedly received over 170 tickets to football matches, F1 Grand Prix, and shows. The total amount for those items was alleged to be S$384,340.98 over seven years between November 2015 and September 2022.

Iswaran resigned as a Cabinet minister, member of the People's Action Party (PAP) and MP for West Coast GRC.

MP Henry Kwek asked if it is necessary to consider the matter further, as Parliament had agreed in a September 2023 parliamentary session to do so after the completion of investigations.

Indranee explained that "in these circumstances, " the "specific issues" regarding Iswaran had been addressed, and hence, there was no need for "further consideration" of the steps to be taken against him.

Everyone should be given due process

On whether there is a need to change the current framework with regard to an MP under investigation for an offence, Indranee said, "It would not, as a matter of principle, be correct to suspend an MP simply because he or she is under investigation".

"To do so would be effectively prejudging that the MP has committed wrongdoing even before details of the investigation are known," she added.

If the MP were subsequently not charged or were charged but found innocent, they would have wrongly punished him in their "haste to presume guilt or wrongdoing".

"Everyone who is alleged to have committed a wrongdoing, including MPs, should be given due process."

Leave of absence does not imply any wrongdoing

On whether MPs on leave should have their allowance withheld, Indranee pointed out the importance of the differences between leave and suspension.

She stated that a leave of absence does not imply any wrongdoing as it does not function as a penalty.

This is unlike a suspension, which operates as a sanction or penalty.

She also added that MPs may apply for leave of absence for various reasons, such as illnesses, overseas travel, or "other exigencies. "

In addition, a leave of absence is not a matter for Parliament to consider, she said, unlike suspension.

She explained that MPs can apply for leave of absence on their own accord or be required by their party to take one.

Indranee noted that as leave of absence is not an indication of wrongdoing or a sanction, it would not be correct, as a general rule, to withhold the MPs' allowance while they are on leave of absence, as it would be prejudging the issue.

If the MP is placed on leave of absence and is subsequently charged or convicted, their party is responsible for ensuring that the MP pays back the allowance received during that period "if that is the right thing to do in the circumstances".

In Iswaran's case, he volunteered to pay back his allowance after he resigned and before his trial.

"Each case will depend on the facts and circumstances, and on what is the right and fair thing to do in each situation."

We should wait for the court proceedings to conclude: Indranee

MP Yip Hon Weng asked if the government considers it necessary to appoint an inquiry committee to investigate the former minister's case, with "the paramount objective of affirming the government’s stance of keeping the system free of corruption".

In response, Indranee said, "The purpose of a Committee of Inquiry is to investigate something with a view to finding out how it happened".

In the case of Iswaran, the CPIB has investigated the matter and based on the investigations, the Attorney-General Chambers has brought criminal charges against him.

"Determination of criminal offences is a matter for the court, which is currently dealing with the case.

We should wait for the court proceedings to conclude before deciding if anything else need to be done."