In a precautionary measure, the Prime Minister removed from office the Minister of Transport, S. Iswaran, who is under investigation. On the other hand, a Malaysian tycoon paid a bail of 76,000 dollars to avoid the investigation, about which the most absolute reservation governs. The People’s Action Party has run the government since 1965 but could suffer a sharp drop in popularity in the next elections.
Singapore () – For the first time in 40 years, the small city-state in Southeast Asia is facing a major corruption case that could put the ruling party in trouble. On July 12, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong removed Transport Minister S. Iswaran from office in a precautionary move. Until the day before, the Malaysian Ong Beng Seng, one of the most influential businessmen in the region, leader of the hotel sector and sponsor of the annual Formula 1 race in Singapore, was also being investigated. However, after paying a bail of $76,000, the latter was released to continue his business and expatriate.
It should be noted that it is the first time since 1986 that a government official ends up in the crosshairs of the Anti-Corruption Office. Iswaran was formally suspended from his position after an interview with Lee authorized by anti-corruption authorities. The now ex-minister appears to be cooperating with the investigation, which is being kept secret while inquiries continue.
The case is being followed with interest and the subject of intense debate in Singapore, whose ruling class and managerial positions receive very high salaries precisely to avoid the temptation of parallel interests. Ministers are officially paid salaries of $832,000 a year and, according to Transparency International’s index of world corruption perceptions, Singapore ranks fifth among the least corrupt countries.
Iswaran is 61 years old, has worked in Parliament since 1997 and has been a minister since 2006. One of his tasks is to move the country forward after the aftermath of the pandemic and, in particular, to revitalize the maritime role of the city-state. A commitment that joins his temporary role as Minister of Commerce.
And although it is still in the investigation stage, Iswaran’s involvement in a corruption case does not favor the People’s Action Party. The party has led the government since independence in 1965 and has always upheld legality and commitment to the community, but today it finds itself in a difficult moment of transition. By the 2020 election, it had fallen to all-time lows in voter preference. The ongoing investigation could complicate the plan to move up the 2025 election to capitalize on its commitment to lift Singapore out of the pandemic and bolster its position. However, a long wait could also favor the opposition.