Letter to the PM’s Press Secretary Dated 4 July 2015
18A Smith Street Singapore 058932
4 July 2015
We are greatly concerned over the potential implications for conflict and co- mingling of resources and funding and potential for possible breach of the Ministerial Code as a result of the Prime Minister taking legal action in his personal capacity. In an effort to seek clarification, we therefore respectfully request answers to the following questions.
We look forward to a response that reassures us that there has been no such co-mingling or conversely that where co-mingling has occurred, a clear accounting of how the taxpayer will be reimbursed:
- How much time has the Official Press Secretary -a civil servant whose salary is also taxpayer funded –spent in meeting journalists, researching, composing and writing letters on behalf of Mr Lee Hsien Loong as a private individual (in other words defending a private action that he willingly chose to take) to foreign newspapers such as the Economist? In other words what time has been spent defending his position over his personal lawsuit? What economic value would you put on this or if it is not possible to assign a dollar value how many (wo)man-hours have been expended so far?
- Did the PMO bill Mr Lee Hsien Loong personally for the total cost of using the Official Press Secretary on his private business?
- Did Mr Lee Hsien Loong pay the cost of other resources used to assist him in his suit against Roy Ngerng?
- State Media photos show Mr Lee Hsien Loong arriving at court in a chauffeured limousine. Did Mr LHL use his own car or an official car to transport him to the hearing when he gave evidence in his personal capacity at that hearing for a legal action he chose to initiate?
- If it was an official car, did he pay for the use of the car, the driver, the petrol?
- Who paid for the cost of his bodyguards or any special police escort to accompany Mr Lee Hsien Loong to the hearing?
- Was any extra security in place and who paid for that?
- Did Mr Lee Hsien Loong take official or unpaid leave for the day he spent in court fighting his private matter or does he expect taxpayers to finance it?
- Mr Lee Hsien Loong is paid at least $2.4 million p.a. out of state funds as PM to run the country and for his MP duties. How much of his own working time has been spent on his private lawsuit against Roy Ngerng? Again can you assign a dollar value to this and will he be refunding the taxpayer? For avoidance of doubt we refer here to Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s time not to his staff‘s time which is dealt with in question 1
- We are further disturbed by his admission in court under cross-examination by Roy Ngerng that he had been watching him for some time “making more and more outrageous allegations about the CPF, stopping short of accusing him of doing bad things personally, but coming closer and closer to saying that.” Please clarify how much time, for some time is, in real terms. Mr Ngerng for example, started blogging in 2012. How much of his working time would you estimate has been spent in “watching” what bloggers are saying or might be about to say? Does he watch these bloggers on official machinery? Do you consider that he can monitor all these bloggers over a period of time and still run the country efficiently? Would you say this is the best use of taxpayers’ money?
- Maybe he does not watch the bloggers personally. Does he in fact watch them personally or does he have private or state funded staff watch them for him? Have you set up a special unit within the PMO to monitor bloggers and social media including Mr Ngerng for comments that he does not like personally or that he considers defamatory of him in his personal capacity? Is this being paid for out of State funds? (Note that even though we do not condone it in general, we are not concerned here with the use of state funds, staff and resources to defend the PM as PM or the Government’s record but that this legal case is being fought by Mr Lee Hsien Loong as a private individual and furthermore this is an action he consciously chose to initiate in his personal capacity whilst simultaneously holding the office of PM, head of GIC and so on and so forth.)
- You are presumably aware that Tan Tock Seng Hospital dismissed Mr Ngerng for among other things, misusing hospital resources. Similarly NUS sacked Chee Soon Juan in the early 1990s for using office stamps for a personal letter. Would you not agree that if state resources have been used for Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s personal interests such as this lawsuit against Roy Ngerng, then this could also be viewed as the same misappropriation? If you are required to expend resources defending the Office of Prime Minister as a result or reputational damage incurred by Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s private actions and decisions then is that not also state funding that could have and should have been avoided. At the very least would you not consider that you are giving the taxpayer poor value for the salary they provide Mr Lee Hsien Loong?
We are also concerned that by making this decision to initiate legal action in his personal capacity, in the High Court no less against an unemployed blogger with such a huge disparity between them in power, wealth, income, and influence Mr Lee Hsien Loong has risked reputational damage to the office of the Prime Minister and the image of Singapore as an emerging democracy. For the record we believe that Mr Lee Hsien Loong could have avoided any such risk implications and potential for conflict by stepping down for the duration of the case that he wished to pursue as an individual.
Kenneth Jeyaretnam Secretary General