Skip to content

The lesson we should learn from the PAP’s terrible (so far) July

Ridout Road, Tan Chuan-jin's hot mic, Iswaran's leave of absence... the PAP is just a regular messy political party after all. The problem is that our political system leaves us stuck with them (for now).

This is a special issue only emailed to Milo Peng Funders. If you were forwarded this link, please consider becoming a Milo Peng Funder too!

This is not turning out to be a very good month for the People’s Action Party.

First there was the Ridout Road saga, which was finally addressed in Parliament at the beginning of July. Both K Shanmugam, the law and home affairs minister, and Vivian Balakrishnan, the minister for foreign affairs, have been cleared of any wrongdoing, but the “independent review” left much to be desired, particularly in terms of that “independent” claim. Also unsatisfactory for many Singaporeans was the claim that the rental of the black-and-white houses didn’t breach the code of conduct for ministers, even though the code is very clear about how ministers should avoid transactions that might even carry the perception of conflict of interest. Given how much uproar there’s been, I think it’s safe to say that the perception of conflict is very much present, so it’s no surprise that people have found the ministerial statements and reviews wanting. The PAP might want to consider the Ridout matter closed, but it’s left a stain that’s not going to wash out too quickly.

Then we had Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-jin’s hot mic moment, where he muttered “fucking populist” in response to Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim’s speech arguing for an officially defined poverty line and that we should be doing more for low-income Singaporeans whose household incomes have been hammered during the pandemic. Tan apologised for using “unparliamentary language” to voice his “private thoughts”, and said that he’d called Lim to apologise (which Lim confirmed), but there are still calls for him to step down from his position as Speaker, since he’s clearly demonstrated a failure to live up to the neutrality and fairness expected for the role. The PAP’s penchant for whacking their political opponents over any minor or perceived infraction has also come back to bite them, as Singaporeans question the difference in reaction between this and Leader of the House Indranee Rajah’s file-slamming rush to scold Progress Singapore Party’s NCMP Leong Mun Wai about parliamentary behaviour.

About 24 hours after that, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong published a statement saying that he’d put transport minister S Iswaran on a leave of absence amid an investigation by the Corruption Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong later said that Iswaran’s case was “completely driven by CPIB from the beginning”, where CPIB had been looking into a different investigation when they found something—we don’t know what—that prompted them to seek Lee’s agreement to interview Iswaran. There’s no information on what the investigation is actually about, but whatever it is, it’s big enough that a minister has to go on leave of absence to the point where he can’t even carry out his MP duties.

This content is for Paid Members


Already have an account? Log in