Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): Thank you, Mdm Chairperson. My first cut, on foreign interference.
Chairman, in some of our laws, the Government has sweeping powers over many activities. In the Home Affairs Minister’s FICA round-up speech, he said if the CPIB hypothetically “wants to investigate the Prime Minister, there is a higher authority they report to.”
I would like to return to one question I raised during that debate, which is, who checks the checkers, and specifically in relation to foreign interference. The world is changing and geopolitical tensions are ratcheting up to levels that have not been seen in recent memory. Ministers, including the Home Affairs Minister and Prime Minister himself, would be extremely high-value targets for foreign interference, particularly given what some might say is Singapore’s significant role in ASEAN.
I would like to ask MHA what is the nature of the institutional check on senior Ministers in respect of foreign interference. Does it reside with the CPIB, which is what the Home Affairs Minister’s reply suggested? If so, does the CPIB proactively assess risks of foreign interference against Ministers or does it act only reactively, if complaints are lodged? Are there officers in the CPIB with the necessary skills and expertise to investigate possible foreign interference?
I would like to reiterate calls for an Ombudsman to provide independent oversight, similar to that in countries like New Zealand. The office of an Ombudsman would create investigative resources behind a legitimate institutional check that would be seen to be legitimate. In the current climate, there is more of a need for this.
3 March 2022
Ministry of Home Affairs