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More charges against Iswaran, Singapore scolds the Israeli embassy

This week: More charges against former transport minister S Iswaran, the Israeli embassy upsets the Singapore government, and Teo Chee Hean says civil servants should speak up and disagree with ministers if they have to.

I sent out a new issue of Altering States this past week. There’ll be more coming, but I’m trying to space them out so I don’t send everything out in a spurt and then go quiet for ages.


Now that he’s back from his trip to Australia—where he got sick and had to extend his stay—former transport minister S Iswaran has been whacked with more charges. Eight more charges were laid at his door this past week, this time for accepting gifts from Lum Kok Seng, managing director of Lum Chang Holdings, which has subsidiaries in property development and construction. Lum was given a Public Service Medal in 2010 for his work as patron of the Ayer Rajah–West Coast Citizens’ Consultative Committee, which is in the GRC that Iswaran was an MP for until his resignation. The construction arm of Lum’s company has taken on big infrastructure projects, including on MRT stations—putting their interests squarely within Iswaran’s remit when he was minister for transport.

If you thought musical tickets were kind of embarrassing, wait till you see the list of things Iswaran is accused of having accepted from Lum. They include bottles of wine and whisky that are pricey, but not as expensive as I would have expected for booze (allegedly) used as dodgy gifts for a millionaire. (I’m no drinker person, but where are the $20,000 bottles?) Also in the list is a TaylorMade golf driver—which I this week learnt is a club and not the dude that drives the cart—plus some more golf clubs (why rich people must be liddis, I see it in the k dramas also), and the most expensive one of all, a Brompton bike that cost almost $8,000.

I’m not saying that I constructed a mental image of Iswaran and Lum playing polo using golf clubs and Brompton bikes instead of mallets and horses. I’m just saying that, if I knew how to draw, this would be an idea.

Also in (alleged) corruption this week: two former employees of Sembcorp Marine were charged on Thursday with bribing officials in Brazil. Between 2009 and 2014, they are alleged to have given US$44 million via a Brazilian middleman. Sembcorp Marine doesn’t exist anymore; it morphed into Seatrium after a merger with Keppel Offshore & Marine in 2023.


The Israeli embassy in Singapore has pissed the local authorities off. The embassy had shared a post on their Facebook page that said: “Israel is mentioned 43 times in the Quran. On the other hand, Palestine is not mentioned even once. Each and every archeological evidence—maps, documents, coins, link the land of Israel to the Jewish people as the indigenous people of the land.” 😡 This made K Shanmugam, minister for home affairs and law, “very upset” when he saw it. The Ministry of Home Affairs then told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to tell the Israel embassy to cut that shit out, on the grounds that the post could disturb Singapore’s peace and harmony.

The embassy has said that the post had not been authorised and that the “relevant person” has been punished. Sure, if they say so. It does sound like the sort of thing a lot of Israeli government officials have no problem saying out loud, though… but in the bigger scheme of things a more important development than Facebook posts is that the UN Security Council has demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, with unconditional release of all hostages.

Got some more…

🙃 Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean told assembled civil servants at the annual Administrative Service dinner that they need to have the courage to speak up and disagree with ministers when needed. Leo Yip, head of the civil service, also said that civil servants need to “bring power to truth” on top of speaking truth to power. Sure, no one’s ever suffered any consequences from trying to do that in Singapore, whether in the civil service or elsewhere 🫠 🫠 🫠 It’s not like books on advocacy and dissent in Singapore are published with titles like We Are Not the Enemy… oh wait

👷🏾 A construction worker who got injured when he was flung against the canopy of the lorry he’d been transported in has been allowed to reinstate his case against his former employer. He was injured in 2019 and was sent back to India in early 2021. He’s still receiving medical treatment and hasn’t been able to find permanent work, putting not just him but also his entire family in a tight spot. In November 2022, a court found that the company was 95% liable, and steps were initiated to get interim payment, only things stalled until the case was automatically discontinued in November 2023.

🚢 A giant cargo ship, registered in Singapore, crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore and brought the whole thing crashing down into the water. The Marine and Port Authority of Singapore will be carrying out an investigation.

I've been vibing to this song since its release, so thought I'd share it with you!

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