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Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah's response in Parliament yesterday to the Keppel corruption scandal was a wash-out.
Apart from issuing motherhood statements such as having “zero tolerance for corruption” and warning firms not to “import” corrupt practices into Singapore, she said precious little on how the Government would deal with the perpetrators of our nation's biggest corruption scandal.
Keppel O&M's executives have already paid penalties in excess of $500 million in the United States in a scandal that saw the company pay $73 million in bribes over 14 years. Yet, all Ms Indranee can say is that the Singapore Government is “extremely disappointed” with Keppel's conduct.
This is in contrast to recent cases such as:
Mr Edwin Yeo – sentenced to 10-year imprisonment for stealing $1.76 million in public funds.
Mr Lim Cheng Hoe – sentenced to 15-month imprisonment for cheating the government out of $89,000.
Mr Tey Tsun Hang – sentenced to 5-month imprisonment for receiving gifts and sexual favors in exchange for passing grades. (Mr Tey's conviction was acquitted by the High Court on appeal.)
In Keppel's case, only a “conditional warning” has been given by the CPIB. How is this possible? The uneven treatment by the authorities in this case is beyond shocking.
Ms Indranee also says that the probe involves cross-border issues and, hence, complicates investigations. This is yet another vacuous excuse.
Keppel is a government-linked company. They are answerable to shareholders of which Temasek, helmed by PM Lee Hsien Loong's wife, is the largest. Surely, Keppel can be easily held to account by its largest and institutional shareholder, can't it?
Also, the executives are Singaporeans. They can be investigated independent of foreign involvement with those found guilty swiftly brought to justice. The vaunted prowess of the CPIB to ferret out corruption matters must not be left to question.
If the PAP government can speedily track down and prosecute Internet users who post anonymously, why can't it resolve the current case with similar efficiency? Failing to do so is but an excuse.
Another cop-out is Ms Indranee's answer about former Ambassador to Brazil Choo Chiau Beng. Mr Choo was one of those named in the probe. He stepped down as ambassador in 2016. Ms Indranee said that she did not have information regarding Mr Choo's stepping down.
How can the minister not have answers to such a fundamental question? Couldn't she have turned to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan for an answer? Why such a nonsensical and evasive response?
The SDP is deeply concerned about the entire matter. A huge criminal scandal has been un-earthered and the PAP seems reluctant to provide clear answers.
The fact that Keppel is one of the myriad of GLCs belonging to Temasek which is wholly owned by the government and that the CPIB operates within the Prime Minister's Office, creates a morass of conflicts of interest.
The arrangement raises questions about the government's position as an impartial actor to this case as well as future ones. This exacts a heavy price for Singapore's reputation despite the warm pronouncements and assurances that the authorities mouth.
The SDP calls on the PAP to stop dithering and giving excuses, and provide firm answers about what it will do with the Keppel scandal, how it will prosecute the matter and by when it will get it done.