Nadim Zahawi’s Resignation Contrasts with the Lack of Accountability at the Heart of LHL’s Rotten Government
In his infamous condolence letter , in which he sought to reinforce the PAP’s fake narrative and web of lies and disinformation about JBJ, LHL said that my father sought by all means to demolish the PAP and our system of government. If by “our system of government” LHL meant the lack of accountability and the freedom to enrich themselves and their families and shield state resources including the Budget and the reserves from scrutiny, so aptly described by former PM Goh as “ownself check ownself”, then JBJ was guilty as charged. He was not prepared to be a “constructive” opposition, as defined by LHL, when “constructive” is a euphemism for giving the Government a free pass to do whatever it wanted. and for not questioning too closely the actions of its leaders. The price for doing so was of course sustained persecution enabled by one man’s control of the judiciary and AG with the end result of JBJ being driven into bankruptcy, left homeless and prevented from standing for Parliament. The current Parliamentary Opposition, led by the Workers Party, have taken note and seek at all times to not stray too far from the PAP’s OB markers.
This has been strikingly illuminated today by the sacking today of Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi by the UK PM Rishi Sunak after Sunak’s own Ethics Adviser said that Zahawi had broken the Ministerial Code by not informing the Cabinet about the conflict of interest prior to his appointment as Chancellor in that he was being investigated by the tax authority, HMRC. After becoming Chancellor (the equivalent of Finance Minister in Singapore) and to whom HMRC reports, Zahawi negotiated a settlement over tax due on money that he had put in an offshore trust and he agreed to pay the tax owed plus a penalty. He claimed it was an innocent mistake but after weeks of pressure from the Opposition he has now been sacked as Chairman.
Contrast this with Singapore where in 1995, in what is known as the Nassim Jade scandal, both LHL, Deputy PM at the time, and his dad, Senior Minister, received steep discounts on the purchase of two properties each in Nassim Jade. not available to the general public nor to shareholders of the property company Hotel Properties Limited who should have voted on the discounts. In a clear illustration of where real power lay, PM Goh Chok Tong appointed Finance Minister Richard Hu and Deputy MD of MAS, Koh Beng Seng, to investigate but declined to involve the CPIB or CAD. Subsequently Hu and Koh found that there was nothing wrong and LHL and LKY were allowed to simply pay back the discounts and the matter was closed. JBJ pushed the lone WP MP, Low Thia Kiang, to ask questions which would have clearly demonstrated that there had been a corruption offence, but he declined thus earning the undying gratitude of both Lees and a lifelong friendship with LKY, reinforced when he removed my father as WP SG. This culminated recently in LHL praising Low in Parliament and comparing Pritam Singh unfavourably with him. In contrast Nadhim Zahawi argued that he had paid the penalty and that it was an “innocent mistake” (presumably what the Lee father and son argued) but was still sacked.
“Ownself check ownself”, what the PAP argue should be the preferred gold standard for accountability for supermen like LHL and the PAP ministers, in contrast to the checks and balances provided by a strong Opposition, has allowed conflicts of interest, to use a polite term for what in most democracies would be termed corruption, to proliferate since Nassim Jade. The most glaring example is the PM’s appointment of his wife to head Temasek on a salary that is apparently so embarrassing that the Government will go to any lengths to avoid disclosing it including issuing POFMAs and publishing refutations of speculation on the Government website (Un)Factually which omit to mention any facts
Lower down the food chain there are plenty of other examples of rampant conflict of interest such as MOM, headed by Josephine Teo, declining to prosecute Liew Mun Leong, another inexplicably grossly overpaid civil servant and PAP hanger-on, over the illegal deployment of his maid Parti Liyani, while Josephine Teo’s husband was employed by Surbana Jurong, where LML was the Chairman. Also the decision by the AG, formerly LHL’s personal lawyer, to prosecute Parti Liyani., using evidence that failed the evidentiary test.
These are only a few of the most glaring examples but it is likely only the tip of the iceberg. With a small and toothless Opposition in Parliament, more concerned about not suffering the same fate as JBJ and keeping their well paid jobs and no Freedom of Information Act, the PAP are largely able to keep embarrassing facts hidden. There is no public disclosure of Ministers’ assets or family business interests, which only have to be disclosed to the PM whose family wealth is shrouded in secrecy. though informed speculation suggests it is substantial.
Singaporeans are told to pride themselves on their government’s supposed incorruptibility and high marks from international organisations for transparency (which has been gamed by the PAP as a superficial box-ticking exercise in “ownself check ownself” certification). Corrupt politicians, or at the very least ones who fail to disclose egregious conflicts of interest, like Nadhim Zahawi in democracies are held up as a warning of what will happen if Singapore becomes a Western democracy where parties alternate in power. The PAP works assiduously to create the myth of the superiority of its supposedly technocratic and meritocratic authoritarian state but this is largely the result of lack of information and fear to call out corruption for what it is on the part of a weak and fearful Parliamentary Opposition. Controlling the media and using state resources to fund propaganda and spin about yourself is itself corrupt. The PAP have traditionally claimed this serves Singaporeans well in terms of high and rising living standards. However I have shown repeatedly that this is not the case, whether we are looking at the growth rate, the proportion of Singapore citizens working, median wages per hour worked and the prices of basic foodstuffs compared to other developed countries. Despite the PAP’s claims democratic accountability and higher living standards are linked. The problem, or for the PAP the benefit, is that Singaporeans do not seem to have grasped this yet.
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