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  • Writer's pictureJulie O'Connor

A Denial of a Conflict of Interest by those Who Are Conflicted Should be Taken with a Pinch of Salt

Updated: Jul 10

"Rights can be considered wrongs, depending on who is judging.” ~Suzy Kassem

I was somewhat surprised when I started searching for concerns raised about conflicts of interest in Singapore, that the cases popping up involved some of the most powerful individuals in the country. Individuals who arguably have either direct or indirect control over whether an individual is prosecuted or protected. The same individuals who we have seen stand in judgement over others.

Having a conflict of interest doesn't necessarily mean that someone has done anything wrong, but it does render one’s judgment less reliable than normal and creates an unusual risk of error, negligence or betrayal of trust. Which is why I personally found not just the concerns raised by Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling alarming, but more so the manner in which those concerns were dismissed, and the acts that followed.

In my opinion, Lee Hsien Yang and his family didn't stand a chance of defending themselves with the AG, Minister of Law and potentially Judges finding themselves in positions of conflict.

I say Judges, due to comments made by Freedom House - "The country’s top judges are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister. The government’s consistent success in court cases that have direct implications for its agenda has cast serious doubt on judicial independence. The problem is particularly evident in defamation cases and lawsuits against government opponents."

Here was Lee Hsien Yang accusing the Prime Minister, who is arguably the most powerful person in the country, of abusing his position. The subsequent action taken against Lee Hsien Yang's wife and son left a bad taste in the mouths of many decent folk. I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether actual or perceived 'conflicts of interest' in the highest echelons might have played a part in Lee Hsien Yang's decision to leave Singapore.

"Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang - 14 June 2017 - “we do not trust Hsien Loong as a leader or as a brother.”

The practice of recusing oneself when there is a conflict of interest, and delegating to subordinates either inside or outside Parliament does not allay concerns because in the vast majority of situations a subordinate will follow the instructions of their boss anyway, so the conflict still exists and is just hidden behind some smoke and mirrors.

Conflicts of Interest, Cronyism & Cover-Ups

I have a personal interest in how the Singapore establishment views conflicts of interest because the Attorney General (AG) Lucien Wong and the Second Minister of Law Edwin Tong are conflicted in the serious concerns which I have raised about their former client. At the time the events took place, Minister Tong was a PAP MP, Deputy Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Law and Home Affairs, and Senior Counsel at Allen & Gledhill. The same law firm of which Lucien Wong was head, and where the Minister of Law Shanmugam had previously been a Senior Partner.

I have no doubt that there is SUFFICIENT evidence to investigate Minister Tong's former client, but I also know that there are CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. What Officer in CAD is going to run to the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) with evidence in hand to instigate an investigation, and who in the AGC is going to recommend investigating not just those involved in the original activities, but the ones who covered it up?

What took place is in the public interest, more so than the events which led to the investigation and prosecution of Indonesian maid Parti Liyani. There should be an independent investigation into the concerns which I raised, and those raised by Lee Hsien Yang. There should be no feeble assessment, review of an assessment or a Parliamentary debate where underlings have to tick the box! I will not tolerate being gaslighted, to make out that I am some conspiracy wacko, because those at the top lack the courage to accept accountability for what was allowed to take place under their watch.

It’s not those who speak out who are undermining the creditability of Singapore's leadership, that is down to the unwillingness of Singapore's leaders to acknowledge conflicts of interest and cover-ups, despite the promises that they publicly make. If Ministers and other well-connected individuals are unable to recognize the actual or perceived conflicts of interest that are being raised, maybe it's time that all the rules about conflicts included in corporate governance rules and codes are re-written in PAP style, then everyone can drop to their level and let there be a free for all...

Do we need more salt?

"Having a conflict of interest doesn't necessarily mean that someone has done anything wrong, but it does render one’s judgment less reliable than normal and creates an unusual risk of error, negligence or betrayal of trust."

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