Photo of K Shanmugam from CNA

Defending against criticisms over the S$20 million sponsorship of the Trump-Kim meeting, Law Minister K Shanmugam gave a rhetoric response saying that North Korea might hit Singapore with missiles:

“The distance between the Korean Peninsula and Singapore is about seven hours by flight, but only 20 minutes by missiles. Hence, it is absolutely in Singapore’s interest to contribute to the peace process by hosting the Trump-Kim summit… If there is any incident, it’ll be bad for the whole world, in particular Asia. We will be badly affected. Singaporean jobs, trade and investment all could be affected. Most Singaporeans understand the importance of the summit even as there are some who are upset that Singapore is footing the bill for the logistical and security arrangements.”

In his state media interview last week (Jun 8), the millionaire minister mentioned that full-time national servicemen (NSFs) were deployed to provide security for the event. NSFs have long been cheap security forces, with salaries as low as S$450 a month.

There has been increasing scrutiny over the S$20 million spent in the two-day event, to which the Singapore government has been tight-lipped about. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said S$5 million was spent to accommodate the international press, while about S$10 million was spent on North Korea’s entourage. However, there has been questions whether if US received the remaining S$5 million of the spending.

Singapore was shortlisted alongside South Korea and Thailand for the Trump-Kim meeting, but the two other countries did not make any monetary offer. During the Winter Olympics, South Korea paid S$2.7 million to sponsor over two hundred North Korean athletes, cheerleaders and personnel for a month. In comparison, Singapore spent S$2 million in one and a half day.

There is also no mention of which pocket the S$20 million would come from, and whether if dictator Prime Minister adhered by procedures and sought the Parliament and President’s approval. Lee Hsien Loong also made no intention to account or make transparent the lavish spending, which is believed to have benefited crony contractors without going through a tender process. It is not uncommon to see crony contractors, whose directors are PAP grassroots leaders, getting margin as high as 50% from government contracts.

Aside from the excessive budget estimate, Singaporeans are also questioning over the preferential treatment of foreigners when it comes to public protest. Over the two day event, more than 10 foreigners protested in public and none of them was charged. One group of South Korean women were given two verbal warning and only arrested when they staged a third protest at St Regis Hotel.

The Trump-Kim meeting ended on Tuesday (June 12) with the two sides at least on conciliatory relationship.