Trust, but verify

This is the exchange in Parliament between Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and MPs, including the Opposition leader and PAP MPs, taken from Channel NewsAsia:

“The concern arises over the way the two-key system operates. It seems the two-key system operates simultaneously at the same time. When the government key says ‘unlock’, the other key unlocks automatically,” said Low Thia Khiang, MP for Hougang.

Mr Tharman said: “This is not a ’wayang’ (show)… The point is: the President, advised by the CPA (Council of Presidential Advisers), makes an independent and careful judgement on the government’s case.”

MP for Tampines GRC, Irene Ng, said: “Can I ask the minister whether the process can be refined and improved further so that in future we can make the process more transparent — that the public knows that the institution of the President is one that is strong, and that it can exercise an independent turn of the key.”

Inderjit Singh, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said: “What’s missing is the process that the President took after he got briefed by the government. If we could get a sense of what they discussed and what process they went through to decide, then this may clear many of these questions.”

But Mr Tharman said: “I’m not sure why it is relevant. At the end of the day, this is a system that is different from Norway and Australia, where as much detail as possible is provided.

“This is a system that relies on trust in the individuals who are in charge, including those appointed to the CPA and the Elected President. Do you trust them? Have they made decisions wisely? Has the government been acting responsibly?”


I am deeply shocked that the Minister would say that our government’s system is one that relies on trust.

How can you have trust without transparency? The two go hand in hand. Particularly so for financial and governance matters. Is the Minister expecting Singaporeans to trust a few handpicked men with hundreds of billions of dollars of our nation’s reserves?

In my opinion, this is the most fundamental weakness in Singapore’s system of governance. Those in leadership expect — or even demand — that we trust them, without them having to demonstrate a commensurate level of transparency. It extends down to the ruling party’s philosophy that a one-party system works best for Singapore, and there is no need for an opposition to keep them accountable.

All men are fallible. Donning a white uniform does not put one above scrutiny.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

7 thoughts on “Trust, but verify”

  1. We have been con into believing that the government has a system of check and balance for the past few decades. And so all this while, the so-called check and balance is delegated to something call Trust. How amazing ! 4 decades and finally someone inadvertently broke the news that it is Trust that rule the system ! Last time, I thought it is complaceny. That is definitely Uniquely Singapore. Now I know why late-president Ong want to bring the PAP government to justice and demand them to list down all assets.

    No wonder those audit of HDB, EDB and many more are never performed properly much to the dismay of many because there is never a system in place at all. This is all wayang.

  2. Singaporeans are accused of COMPLACENY when Mass Selamat escaped from the ISD top security detention prison. That is, it is our fault for TRUSTING the govt to perform.

    When a senior civil servant, daughter of an ex-Chief Justice made a big boo boo of giving away hundred of millions of dollars to a telco, it was an HONEST MISTAKE. But when the govt don’t feel like helping the down and out, it was because ‘NOBODY OWES YOU A LIVING’.

    Now when there is zero transparency in the manner of the govt dipping into the national reserves that is supposedly guarded by the elected President, the Finance Minister demands our TRUST.

    Like the saying: Head, you win , tail I lose. But, really, the biggest culprit in all this liberties, guilty to the hilt for conspiring with the govt is the mass media of Singapore. They are the ones who have abdicated their role as the voice of the people. They are the ones who have sold their souls to the devil.

  3. Ok. Everybody breath.

    Notice that the exchange between Mr Tharman and the other MPs were extracted from Channel NewsAsia?

    Gerald, how sure are we that Channel NewsAsia did not extract Mr Tharman’s words out of context? They did not provide the full transcript after all.

    If Mr Tharman had really said that, then I’m sure at least one MP would have reacted the same way as us. He (or she) would have stood up and questioned Mr Tharman. But there were no such reports.

    If Mr Tharman did not really say that, then once again, what the hell is our mass media doing?

  4. Is that what happened in the NKF saga? What about the Madoff saga? Have not the PAP learnt from others’ mistakes?

    Ask me again: Why are we paying millions of dollars if the basic transparency is not even in place? We trusted that you could be trusted by paying you millions and place you in trust of our billions. Gee it’s simple, isn’t it?

    Trust me,

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