PAP MPs asks all the difficult questions on CPIB probe involving Iswaran 


Speculations surrounding the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) investigation on Mr Iswaran have been the talk of the town lately. As Singaporeans demand answers, so do our MPs, who have never shied away from asking difficult questions and pressing for the truth in the name of public interest.   

Why was Iswaran’s arrest not mentioned in earlier announcements? 

Diving into the heart of the matter, MP Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) flagged the issue that has caused much outrage and discontent. Why had CPIB described Mr Iswaran as someone assisting with an investigation when they had already arrested him the day before? Similarly, MP Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) was concerned over why information on Mr Iswaran’s arrest was not released immediately as a matter of transparency.  

To many, it can look like an attempt to hide and whitewash the truth. However, the reality is that the omnipresence of the Government is greatly exaggerated.  

Clarifying the issue, Minister of Education Chan Chun Sing stated, “I must emphasise that what information to put out on ongoing investigations are operational judgement calls that law enforcement agencies make. Other parties, including Ministers, defer to the judgement of these agencies and do not and should not independently release such information.” 

In short, the independence accorded to the CPIB, rather than a lack thereof, has effectively given the Government no say in when or what information is made public.  

“That is why the Prime Minister’s initial statement and Deputy Prime Minister’s doorstop interview on 12 July took reference from CPIB’s press release on the same day. This was the proper thing to do. Ministers, including the Prime Minister, cannot independently release operational information,” added Minister Chan.  

Will we implement mandatory disclosure guidelines for political office holders under investigation? 

According to MP Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan–Toa Payoh GRC), making it mandatory for political office holders to disclose that they are under investigation will help minimise time lag issues and prevent unnecessary speculation by the public.  

While this is a good idea, there are operation considerations in what CPIB can reveal without risking the integrity of evidence and confidentiality of ongoing investigations or prejudging the case outcome, shared Minister Chan. 

Further explaining why CPIB did not disclose Mr Iswaran’s arrest in their first announcement, Minister Chan said, “It (CPIB) wanted first to establish more facts of the case, including hearing his side of the story.” And having gathered more facts three days later, CPIB made the judgement call that it would be appropriate, at that point, to confirm the arrest, he added.  

Why is Iswaran still receiving a salary when placed on a leave of absence?

Under normal circumstances, you would not expect someone with no role or duties in that month to continue getting a salary, said MP Mr Saktiandi Supaat. Therefore, why is Mr Iswaran still getting paid a notable sum of $8,500?  

In reply, Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong shared that he had considered the matter carefully. Without a similar precedent, which is a good thing, PM Lee revealed that he decided to take alignment from the Civil Service guidelines and the Employment Act for similar situations until proven innocent and stopping it when the individual is found guilty.  

“I think that is a reasonable model to follow,” said PM Lee, “and that is the basis on which I decided that Mr Iswaran will be paid $8,500 per month instead of his normal salary.” 

In light of the CPIB investigation on Iswaran, will the Code of Conduct for Ministers be reviewed? 

It has been eighteen years since the Code of Conduct for Ministers, which sets out the principles and rules on how Ministers should act and conduct their personal affairs, was last updated, noted MP Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC). Likewise, MP Ms Joan Pereira warned that any uncertainty or lack of clarity in the existing Code might cause political officeholders to become overly fearful and potentially impede the discharge of their duties.  

Therefore, have recent events necessitated a review of the Ministerial Code?  

In his reply, Minister Chan shared that while the Code was last updated in 2005, its general principles remain valid. It also considers evolving circumstances and needs without being so prescriptive that the system becomes too paralysing to work.  

But more importantly, Minister Chan touched on a salient point. That is, while any institution can introduce guidelines on how people should behave, they must be complemented by individuals who abide by the spirit and not just the letter of those rules. Moreover, there must be a system to put things right if something goes wrong. Otherwise, rules are just that, a meaningless string of words gathering dust in a handbook somewhere. 

Photo Source: PAP/MCI via YouTube