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S'pore needs right people to keep it corruption-free

PM Lee tells dialogue in London:

"The odd thing... is that people actually know the Government generally is doing the right thing, but they'd like somebody to be there to put a bit more chilli on the Government's tail."- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on the position of opposition parties in Singapore, quoted by Channel NewsAsia

Singapore has a strong anti-corruption system but it is the people who run it who will continue to keep it clean, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in London.

He was responding to questions at a dialogue at independent think-tank Chatham House on Friday, with former cabinet minister Malcolm Rifkind in the chair and an audience of academics, diplomats and intellectuals.

Mr Rifkind noted that the abhorrence of corruption went back to the days of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and asked if there were strains in the system now.

PM Lee said the system and people's values were quite well-entrenched. The public's expectations were such that if something was not right, the alarm would sound, investigations would begin and consequences would follow.

"It doesn't mean that the system runs by itself. In the end it is still people and you must have very capable, honest and very resolute people who will operate the system and follow through and keep it clean, even when it's politically inconvenient," The Straits Times quoted him as saying.

"And that's what we tell Singaporeans: You cannot assume that whoever happens to be the minister or prime minister, all will be well because we've got all these rule books and laws built up. It depends on what sort of person he is and who is going to make it work."

On what made it possible for Singapore to be corruption-free when so many others had failed, he said the British did leave behind a system, but the PAP also felt it was important to win the first elections "because by the second time, the system may well have gone corrupt".

Mr Lee also opened the London office of Temasek Holdings on Friday. It is expected to help the Singapore investment company with its forays into Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

He said the new base reflects Temasek's confidence in European opportunities and Africa's long term potential. "Temasek's interests are part of Singapore's broader relations with these continents," he said.

Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng said: "We are a long-term investor. We invest into the longer-term trends, and continue to see many opportunities emerge as the global economy rebalances."