PM Lee admits he should have acted sooner on Tan Chuan-Jin, Cheng Li Hui affair
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was making a ministerial statement on the resignations in Parliament.
SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong admitted on Wednesday (2 August) that he should have acted earlier in addressing the affair between former Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and former People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui.
Responding to questions about the delay in taking action, Lee stated in his ministerial statement, "It is a fair question. In retrospect, and certainly now knowing how things eventually turned out, I agree. I should have forced the issue sooner."
He explained that he had hoped to give the individuals involved "a softer exit" by giving the matter some time, intending to spare them and their families from the pain and embarrassment they were experiencing.
However, he acknowledged that he may have placed too much emphasis on protecting their families.
The affair came to Lee's attention in November 2020, after the general election. He revealed that Tan and Cheng were spoken to and counselled separately, and they promised to end the relationship, which they did not follow through on.
In February 2023, Lee spoke to them again, and Tan admitted his wrongdoing and offered to resign.
Lee accepted the resignation, but he wanted to ensure that the well-being of residents in Tan's ward and GRC was taken care of before making it official.
Following Tan's hot-mic incident, Lee found out that he had not ended the affair, and decided that Tan 'had to go'.
PAP's approach to resignation amid extramarital affair revelations
Addressing the approach taken by the PAP towards such situations, Lee mentioned that relationships like this have happened in the past and may occur in the future.
He said, "These sorts of relationships happen from time to time. They have happened in the past, and no doubt will happen again in the future.
"In such cases, what we do depends on many factors: the circumstances, how inappropriate or scandalous the behaviour was, the family situations. We also have to be conscious of the impact on innocent parties – particularly the spouses and children."
He emphasised that there was no single template that applies to all extramarital affairs, but there can be at least three situations.
Firstly, in cases where parties are involved, they will be engaged in discussions, and if they willingly cease the behaviour, the matter will be considered resolved without further action.
Secondly, in situations where immediate action is necessary, especially when one party holds a position of authority over the other, swift measures would be taken.
Thirdly, there are instances where the relationship raises questions about propriety beyond being an extramarital affair.
In such cases, Lee said, discussions with the involved parties will occur, but the matter will not conclude there. Even if the affair has already ceased, some form of action will still be taken.
The specific actions and their timing will depend on the nature of the facts and boundaries that have been transgressed, he explained.
PM Lee urges compassion for affected families
In Tan and Cheng's case, Lee considered it a third-category situation where the relationship raised questions of propriety beyond being an extramarital affair.
He directed them to stop the affair and highlighted that such a relationship was problematic, given the Speaker's official capacity vis-a-vis MPs.
Lee acknowledged that he had contemplated taking action earlier, possibly asking Tan to step down as Speaker before the term's end if the affair had ended, with both MPs possibly having to leave at some point.
The Prime Minister urged fellow MPs and the public to empathise with and have compassion for the families involved, as they were also affected by the situation.
Lee added that he hoped they would be given the privacy and space they needed to heal.
PM Lee admits he should have acted sooner on Tan Chuan-Jin, Cheng Li Hui affair (no date) Yahoo! News. Available at: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/pm-lee-acted-sooner-tan-chuan-jin-cheng-li-hui-affair-singapore-071358813.html (Accessed: 03 August 2023).