2023 Roundup (May-Jun): LKY100 begins. Independent CPIB investigations find the Ridout rentals above board.


In this annual year-end roundup series, Petir.sg looks back at key moments of 2023. 

HOW DO you honour the man who dedicated his life to bringing Singapore from Third World to First?  

By planting trees all over the island; that’s one way. Our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew was also Singapore’s de facto Chief Gardener, and he knew that “a blighted urban jungle of concrete destroys the human spirit. We need the greenery of nature to lift up our spirits.” 

So, to kick off the LKY100 events marking the centenary of Mr Lee’s birth, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and other 4G leaders headed over to St. George’s Lane one sunny Saturday in May with spades and saplings in hand.  

There, where that homey cluster of flats by the Whampoa River is, this 4G team — along with Jalan Besar GRC residents — planted trees to remember the late PM’s mammoth contribution to nation building . Then, DPM Wong spoke to the community about the gumption with which Mr Lee and his Old Guard comrades built modern Singapore. 

“They defied the odds, they gritted their teeth and they created and built today’s Singapore which we enjoy,” said DPM Wong. 

“If we continue to draw strength from what they have been through, and motivate ourselves with the same founding values and ideals that built today’s Singapore, we can all overcome whatever challenges come our way and continue to build a better Singapore together.”

Source: Josephine Teo / Facebook 

Other LKY100 events for strengthening Singapore followed throughout 2023. These included engaging policy dialogues, leadership programmes and scholarships for diverse students  and greening our island with even more trees — 10,000 by the year’s end!    

A strong stance against corruption

Zero tolerance for corruption was one of the founding values which DPM Wong alluded to during his St. George’s Lane speech.

Mr Lee revamped the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) into Singapore’s highest authority against corruption. The CPIB is not beholden to any Ministry and everyone knows the weight of the invitation when the CPIB calls someone up to lim kopi. No one can refuse.     

That said, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam personally and immediately requested to undergo independent scrutiny this May. They wanted to put to rest untrue allegations — and give Singaporeans the facts — regarding their Ridout Road bungalow rentals. 

“We need this sort of approach, regardless of who is involved, to make sure the system operates with integrity,” said Minister Shanmugam.

Source: CPIB 

The eventual CPIB investigation, which comes under the Prime Minister’s office, was thorough and spanned weeks, ending in June. It cross-examined and cross-checked information from every single person and company involved in the Ridout rentals. This while Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean concurrently reviewed these rentals for any hint of wrongdoing and our MPs filed pertinent questions about this rental process

In the end, both the Ministers’ rentals were found to be above board. Plus, the episode foregrounded for Singaporeans the CPIB’s independence and how our Party views dirty dealings. Even the Opposition agreed there was no wrongdoing or conflict of interest. As Mr Lee himself once said:  

“It is most important that Singapore remain a place where no one is above scrutiny, that any question of integrity of a minister, however senior, that he has gained benefits either through influence or corrupt practices, be investigated.”  

This is a strict anti-corruption stance and a systemic emphasis on clean governance and accountability. They are clear Party fundamentals — no matter whether in the days of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the present moment, or for the dawning future.