She did not marry me and became Temasek Holdings' Chief Executive Officer. I married her because she had the talent of a CEO. This was the dramatic revelation of PM Lee Hsien Loong in referring to his wife, Ms Ho Ching, in an interview with Mr. Phil Ponce, host of the Chicago Tonight on WTTW Channel 11 last Thursday. Apparently, this was said to pre-empt Mr. Ponce from popping the question of nepotism in the Singapore government.
At first glance, the startling revelation seems in order. But upon closer examination, it could hardly stand up to scrutiny. Like the Chinese saying: It simply breaks without being attacked (不攻自破）。 First of all, when did PM Lee first discover that Ms Ho Ching possessed CEO talent? Had she ever served under him before she married PM Lee so that her display of outstanding talent akin to that of a CEO in the course of her duty could not have been missed by the eagle-eyed PM Lee? If not, unless he had clairvoyant power and could have seen things where other people could not, it may seem a bit far-fetched for PM Lee to make that kind of claim.
If the claim of Ms Ho Ching being CEO-talented before her marriage to PM Lee is lacking in proof, then the question of nepotism in connection with her Temasek CEO's appointment as a corollary cannot simply be wished away. Singaporeans will be wondering whether, with her disastrous stewardship of Temasek Holdings involving colossal losses, Ms Ho Ching really has the talent for the post. The lack of accountability for these losses has not given confidence to Singaporeans, especially the taxpayers, that Temasek Holdings is in capable hands. The question uppermost in their mind, despite government's vehement denial, is whether Ms Ho Ching would have been appointed Temasek's CEO if she had not married PM Lee. This is still a moot point with Singaporeans.
The question of nepotism is not confined to Singaporeans. Singapore ministers going on official overseas assignments were often asked this question, maybe in a diplomatic way. Even the PM in American this time if he had not had the foresight to bring it up first. So in the world of politics, you can plead being above board in nepotism and corruption but you cannot completely eradicate cynicism shown by some of the sceptical citizens. And this can have a multiplying effect in certain circumstances.
Well, the die is cast. We will wait and see how the PAP will fare in the General Election which can be called as early as this year. They are likely to face a formidable realigned opposition with the avowed aim of denting the invincibility of the PAP.