Corrections regarding false statements of fact in article and post published by East Asia Forum on 18 August 2023
Corrections regarding false statements of fact in article and post published by East Asia Forum on 18 August 2023
min read Published on 13 Sep 2023

1. The Prime Minister’s Office would like to point out that the article published on 18 August 2023 by the East Asia Forum on their website and shared on their Facebook page contains false statements of fact. 

False statements of fact 

2. First, the article makes the statements that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) conflated marital infidelity and corruption, and he equated the three issues the People’s Action Party (PAP) had faced [1] with the Workers’ Party’s (WP) one episode of marital infidelity. This is untrue.   

3. PM Lee did not conflate marital infidelity and corruption. 

• At the press conference on 17 July 2023, PM Lee gave his views in relation to both the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) investigations and extra-marital affairs pursuant to a question posed to him by the media. Any concurrent mention of both the CPIB investigations and extra-marital affairs related only to the close proximity of the timing in which the incidents were made public, and not the substance of these incidents. 

• PM Lee made clear in his Ministerial Statement on 2 August 2023 that the Government took different approaches towards allegations of corruption or other wrongdoing in the discharge of official duties on the one hand, and cases involving misconduct in personal lives on the other hand.  

4. Furthermore, PM Lee made two references to the WP in his 2 August 2023 Ministerial Statement and clarifications to the same [2], none of which were attempts to equate the three issues the PAP faced with the WP’s one episode of marital infidelity. PM Lee’s Ministerial Statement can be found in the Official Report (Hansard) for the Parliament sitting on 2 August 2023.   

5. Second, the article conveys that: (a) CPIB is not independent in deciding whether to carry out investigations because it reports directly to the Prime Minister alone; and (b) the Prime Minister alone has the power to refuse approval for CPIB to investigate. This is also untrue

6. CPIB reports directly to the Prime Minister, in that it is accountable to the Prime Minister. CPIB, like all other agencies, has to be accountable to somebody. A state agency cannot operate without any oversight or governance. 

7. However, the article omits to mention the other safeguards that have been put in place to ensure CPIB’s independence: 

• CPIB is not legally required to seek the consent of the Prime Minister before conducting its investigations. 

• Investigations can proceed, unless the Prime Minister indicates that he does not consent to any particular investigation or that he would like the investigation to stop. 

• Even if the Prime Minister indicates that he does not consent to a particular investigation or that he would like a particular investigation to stop, Article 22G of the Constitution enables CPIB to continue with the investigation with the concurrence of the President.

• There are also Constitutional safeguards for the appointment or the revocation of the appointment of the Director of CPIB, which may be refused by the President in his/her own discretion. 

8. Third, the article conveys that there was a cover-up of wrongdoing or corruption in having only former Minister Richard Hu speak with M/s Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong, in relation to their purchase of properties from Hotel Properties Ltd. This is untrue

9. This matter was openly debated in Parliament in 1996. The full facts were disclosed in Ministerial Statements, and there was a full debate on the matter. During the debate, MPs who spoke, including then-Opposition MPs Low Thia Khiang, Ling How Doong, Cheo Chai Chen, and Chiam See Tong did not state that there was anything wrong with the discounts that then-SM and then-DPM received.

10. In addition, investigations were conducted by then-PM Goh, then-Minister for Finance Richard Hu, and then-Deputy Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Koh Beng Seng at the material time.

MAS’ investigations did not disclose any wrongdoing or impropriety by M/s Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong or reveal any evidence that would call for the application of section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1960.

• Then-PM Goh also explained that “CPIB had also received two anonymous letters of complaints on HPL's method of ‘soft launch' of its properties. But as no corruption was alleged, it referred the letters to MAS.”

11. Finally, the article conveys that there was a cover-up of wrongdoing or corruption by allegedly having only Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, and not CPIB, investigate the matter concerning SLA’s lease of state-owned properties at Ridout Road to Minister K Shanmugam and Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. 

12. This is untrue.

• The two Ministers had asked the Prime Minister for an independent investigation into their respective rentals of the Ridout Road properties, and the Prime Minister had tasked CPIB to do the investigation. 

CPIB investigated into the matter and produced a report after a thorough factual investigation. Its report stated that it found no evidence of corruption or wrongdoing in the rental transactions of the Ridout Road properties. Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean also reviewed the matter (relying on CPIB’s investigation findings), to establish whether proper processes had been followed, and if there had been any wrongdoing. His report concluded that both the Ministers and the public officers, as well as private sector intermediaries involved, conducted themselves properly in the rental transactions of the Ridout Road properties. Both reports were ordered by the Prime Minister to be published.

• The investigations, findings, facts and related matters were discussed openly in Parliament in July 2023, during which MPs raised questions and sought clarifications. MPs from both sides of the House did not dispute CPIB’s findings.  

• The sitting was telecast live and the proceedings, investigations, findings, facts and related matters were widely reported.

13. PM Lee has made the Government’s stance very clear – to keep our system clean and incorruptible, the Government will carry through what needs to be done in accordance with the law, no matter the embarrassment or political cost. Where there have been allegations of wrongdoing, these have been investigated and the findings reported to the public. Where wrongdoing has been found, the Government has acted decisively. 

14. Whilst the author is free to express his views on the above matters, his article makes false and misleading statements while omitting key facts on these matters of public interest.

15. Hence, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ms Indranee Rajah, has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a Correction Direction to the East Asia Forum in respect of the article on their website and their Facebook post. The Correction Direction requires the recipient to insert a notice against the original post, with a link to the Government’s clarification. We advise members of the public not to speculate and/or spread unverified rumours. 


[1] The alleged conflict of interest arising from SLA’s lease of state-owned properties at Ridout Road to the Ministers, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) investigation involving Minister Iswaran, and the resignation of former Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin (Mr Tan) over his marital infidelity.

[2] The two references are as follows:

(a) PM Lee made a personal plea that whilst Mr Tan, Ms Cheng Li Hui, and a former WP Member of Parliament (MP), had behaved improperly, there are also innocent family members involved who are suffering. PM Lee hoped that MPs and the public could empathise and have compassion for the families, and give them the privacy and space they needed to heal; and

(b) PM Lee mentioned in response to a clarification by Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh that the PAP establishes its own standards and practices, and the WP will have to decide and account to Singaporeans for its practices.