Photo of Najib Razak and Lee Hsien Loong from Today

Just last week, the Malaysian’s police search into former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak’s residence found a mountain of luxury goods from bags to anti-ageing products. The harrowing discovery led to questions about the state of democracy in Malaysia, and on how does a country that on the surface appear democratic, can give it’s Prime Minister a free reign to corrupt.

The answer can actually be found just across the straits. One just need to look at Najib’s best friend, Singapore dictator Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who adopted a similar government model as Malaysia did.

The Singapore’s corruption bureau, CPIB, reports directly to Lee Hsien Loong. This is an open secret, blatantly stated on the Singapore Prime Minister’s Office website.

Screenshot from SG PMO websiteThe CPIB is even more “honest”, stating that it is only “functional independent” on it’s role description page:

“The CPIB is a government agency under the Prime Minister’s Office, operating with functional independence and is helmed by a director who reports to the Prime Minister.”

As a subordinate, the CPIB director is unable to open, conduct or conclude any investigation without approval from the Prime Minister. Like Najib, Lee Hsien Loong is hence immune to corruption investigation.

However, Lee Hsien Loong may be immune to investigation, he is still unable to stop the CPIB director from spilling  the beans and neither does he have the power to appoint who to sit as CPIB director. At least not directly.

This would give a complete picture why Lee Hsien Loong needs his subordinate, former PAP MP Halimah Yacob to be President. According to the Constitution, only the Singapore President can appoint who to be CPIB director. This is also why the Singapore President is paid a comfortable S$1.54 million a year, an amount literally enough to shut anyone up. And how did Halimah Yacob become President, and one will get an answer by referring back to the chart above where the second bubble point, ELD (Election Department), is labelled. Exactly the same government structure as Najib Razak’s corrupted dictatorship.

This article is however not about the corrupted ELD, we can leave this topic for another day. Let’s go back to analysing the internal structures of the CPIB, to find out why Lee Hsien Loong is immune to corruption investigation.

The CPIB is broken up into three main categories – investigative, operations and general administration. The key category to focus on would be the Investigations Department, that is broken up into 7 branches. Based off the nature of the branches, I rank them hierarchically as follow:

1) Special Investigations (Private)
2) Special Investigations (Public)
3) Financial Investigations
3) Special Interview Section
4) General Investigations
4) Investigation Policy Unit
5) Investigations Training Unit

The ranking above also indicate the amount of loyalty to the Prime Minister. For example, officers from the first rank will protect the PM from any investigation and they are strongly indoctrinated believing that Lee Hsien Loong is truly incorruptible. The bottom-scrapping ranking 4s and below are law enforcers who may be blindly following procedures, but they are also the most willing to dig further. Unfortunately for this low-ranking CPIB officers, they are stopped by an invisible wall. It is common to see cases from the General Investigations branch being taken out from their hands and handed over to the higher ranking investigators.

The CPIB structure also revealed one major vulnerability: no one department has the full information. In between departments, information and intelligence could be withheld from each other. Politically-sensitive intelligence is taken out from the equation to ensure no investigator is allowed to dig “in the wrong direction”.

The hierarchic nature of CPIB hence keeps Lee Hsien Loong very safe, and as aptly described “functionally independent”.

It is hence not surprising that Ho Ching gets to remain as Temasek Holdings CEO, and the powerful couple are probably the only ones in Singapore to know how much losses are there in CPF and the national reserves.

Singapore is in for a big shake-up once Lee Hsien Loong lose power, it would be worse than what Malaysia is going through now. The power transition would be chaotic, not from the new system but from the deeply-rooted corruptions in the incumbent. Inconvenient and troubling as it may sound, Singaporeans badly need such a change as corrupted monies are jeopardising everyone’s retirement and cost of living. Rising taxes is only one of the many consequences for voting the ruling party, the growing black hole in the reserves and CPF funds is more worrisome.

Alex Tan
States Times Review