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  • Writer's pictureJulie O'Connor

Is the Elephant in the Room Confused, Conflicted or Corrupted? The Eroding Trust in Singapore's Governance

Updated: 1 day ago





Singapore's ruling party continues to assert a consistent message: 'Anyone who breaks the rules will be caught and punished. No cover-ups will be allowed, no matter how embarrassing it may be. It is far better to suffer the embarrassment and keep the system clean for the long term than to pretend that nothing has gone wrong and let the rot spread.' However, talk is cheap and akin to the tale of the boy who cried wolf, these assertions are facing growing scepticism. Recently, I encountered reshared posts from 2016 and 2020 that I would say reflects the prevailing sentiment—more Singaporeans seem to be losing faith in the governance system. There is now uncertainty about whether those prosecuted or persecuted are truly guilty, whether those who escape punishment are genuinely innocent, and whether elections are fair.




Freedom House 2024

To rebuild trust as the new Prime Minister, Lawrence Wong faces a challenging but crucial task involving three pivotal steps: admission, atonement, and restoration. However, if his party fails to humbly acknowledge deficiencies—such as inadequate systems, insufficient controls, improper division of responsibilities, and the prevalent issue of cronyism that can lead to the protection or persecution of individuals—this could perpetuate financial fraud, abuse of authority, cover-ups, and the stifling of whistleblowers.


Perhaps PAP Ministers adhere to the notion that 'ignorance is bliss'; by staying unaware, they may uphold a moral high ground and assert their professed values with confidence. They might neglect to recognize that perceived conflicts, in addition to actual conflicts, can lead to cover-ups and corruption. However, as more financial scandals surface, this facade is bound to erode.   Already, questions are arising about the extent of misconduct that might have been hidden due to compliant regulators, profit-driven banks, conflicted legal entities, and restricted press freedom under their governance


Both Singaporean and international victims have reached out to me, sharing their personal experiences of a system that they believe has failed them. I empathize deeply with their frustration and disappointment. Personally, I consider myself fortunate in a sense, as I have directly witnessed an institutional cover-up in Singapore, validating that such actions do occur.


In 2015, I was part of a group offered A$3.5 million to endorse documents allegedly containing forged signatures. This deal required me to submit hard and soft copies of evidence and retract all complaints made to banks, regulators, audit committees etc. Simultaneously, another party was to withdraw allegations of fraud which had been made in a writ. Astonishingly, a politician from the ruling party, known for advocating zero tolerance for corruption and no cover-ups, was involved in these negotiations.


As Jim Morrison famously observed, "Whoever controls the media, controls the mind." Singapore's ruling party arguably exerts significant influence over the press, which often skillfully shapes the narratives that vilify the opposition. Having witnessed the interrogation of opposition leader Pritam Singh during the Committee of Privileges (COP) and the recent charges of allegedly misleading the COP, it prompts contemplation of the biblical maxim, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." I would also ask who misleads the biggest audience?


I have raised serious concerns with regulators, legal bodies, Ministers, the Prime Minister's Office, the President, and the anti-corruption watchdog, but to no avail. It seems no one wants to take responsibility for what has transpired, passing the buck as if handling a hot potato. Senior officials within the Ministry of Law, the Attorney General's Chambers, and government-linked DBS bank would undoubtedly face conflicts of interest if an investigation were undertaken into the serious issues raised by others and myself. However, their subordinates persist in responding that there is insufficient evidence to even begin an investigation, a claim that contradicts reality. This discrepancy highlights the underlying conflict, whether perceived or actual.


While some may have unintentionally found themselves in a precarious position, those with courage and integrity could step forward and address the cover-up head-on. The evidence is irrefutable: A$3.5 million was offered by a board member of SGX-listed EZRA Holdings which would cover up allegations of fraud implicating him. Numerous questions remain unanswered: Did the money to cover up the allegations come from company funds? Did the Board collectively agree to mislead investors? Did his personal assistant witness the affixing of the alleged forged signatures? Did he personally benefit from the over $20 million raised from investors? Was the option deed used in the conspiracy to defraud by his associate prepared by the politically connected law firm Allen & Gledhill? How many parties did Allen & Gledhill represent involving the same transaction? What did DBS know? These are just some of the many questions that need to be addressed, in addition to all those raised by NUS Professor Mak Yuen Teen. The EZRA Holdings Group wasn't a minor player; it was a billion-dollar entity, with DBS alone facing an estimated financial exposure of $637 million following the group's collapse.



Can PM Lawrence Wong reverse the public's lack of trust in the government, or will the use of POFMA, defamation suits and other tactics continue to be used to quell dissent and persecute those who oppose, while financial incentives are strategically offered before elections to win over voters? It takes courage to do the right thing, and a person of integrity doesn’t act based on situational ethics or the salary they are paid, but consistently adheres to their principles.


I have sent a copy of this article to Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, time will tell if he has the courage to admit to the cover-up which has taken place, or whether he is prepared to continue to allow Singaporeans and international investors to be misled and for the persecution of those who speak up to continue. If he chooses the latter, he and his party deserve to pay a hefty price.


The real question is, how long will it take for voters and international investors to wake-up or reach the tipping point and say, "enough is enough"? Are we there yet?












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Note 12 in EOL’s 2016 annual report, under “Trade and other receivables” states: “These amounts are unsecured, interest-free and repayable in cash on demand. Included in other receivables is an amount of US$3,500,000 relating to a refundable deposit paid to a company related to a director of the parent company”.[10] The 2015 annual report did not disclose any such refundable deposit.


This would suggest that there was a related party transaction with the director during that year (or in previous years but not highlighted in “other receivables” in earlier years). However, a review of EOL’s annual reports dating back to 2010 showed no disclosure of any related party transaction that appears to be in the nature of a refundable deposit paid to a company related to a parent company director.


Who is this director of the parent company (i.e., Ezra) who was paid the refundable deposit that was unsecured and interest free? What was the purpose of this refundable deposit? When was it disclosed, if at all? Was it repaid to the company?"


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