Reflections on the Party’s approach to ethics and moral issues

1. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set out the Party’s stance on extramarital relations recently, when he spoke to the media on the inappropriate relationship between ex-Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and ex-Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui. Here is what he said:

“We can’t police MPs’ private lives. If the rumours seem credible, we will investigate them. And if they are verified, then we will speak to the MPs concerned to correct the situation.

If the behaviour is not outrageous or scandalous to begin with, and the MP heeds the advice, corrects it, makes amends, puts a stop to what should not happen, then we will not punish them severely and automatically or immediately kick them out. Because what do you do and what consequences the person should face also depends on the positions they hold and other factors: the circumstances, the family situations, how inappropriate or egregious the behaviour was.

It is essential that we do maintain high standards of propriety, honesty and proper conduct. There is such a thing as appropriate or inappropriate behaviour, propriety and impropriety. And we expect our MPs and certainly ministers to know the difference.

But in dealing with these situations, which are human situations, you also have to be cognizant of human frailties and conscious of the impact that our actions will have on innocent parties, on families, on spouses, on their children and deal with them as sensitively as you can, but upholding our fundamental requirement to maintain our responsibilities and our trust with Singaporeans.”

2. This approach does not imply that the Party tolerates or accepts moral wrongdoing. It must be the aspiration of every member of our Party to live honourably, and to pursue all endeavours with integrity, honesty and faithfulness to our country, kith, and kin. People who come into politics have to be prepared for their private lives to come under scrutiny, and cannot say that their private and public lives are completely separate. The person’s conduct, whether private or public, when called into question, will be assessed by the party as set out by the PM above. This has always been the Party’s position, articulated since the days of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.