PM Lee welcomes Ngiam Tong Dow's clarification of comments on ministers

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has welcomed former top civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow's clarification of several negative comments he made recently about the current crop of ministers. -- ST FILE PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has welcomed former top civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow's clarification of several negative comments he made recently about the current crop of ministers. -- ST FILE PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has welcomed former top civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow's clarification of several negative comments he made recently about the current crop of ministers.

Mr Lee issued a short statement on Friday which said: "I am glad Mr Ngiam has clarified the statements in his interview in the Singapore Medical Association's newsletter, especially his comments about my ministers.

"Mr Ngiam served as my permanent secretary in MTI years ago. I hope that in retirement he will continue to support the institutions and systems that he helped build during his long and illustrious career."

Mr Ngiam was the permanent secretary of several ministries and chairman of the Economic Development Board before he retired in 1999.

On Thursday, Mr Ngiam said he had given the "wrong impression" in his interview published in the September issue of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) News.

In his statement which he sent to the editor of SMA News, Mr Ngiam retracted his earlier charge that today's ministers are afraid of speaking up in Cabinet because of their high salaries. He also said that ministers are not elitist, adding that he had made the comments without realising that many ministers come from humble backgrounds.

"I retired from the civil service in 1999. Since then I have not attended any cabinet meetings, and have never seen one chaired by PM Lee Hsien Loong. Thus my statement that ministers will not speak their minds before PM Lee is unfair as it was made without knowing what actually happens at cabinet meetings today," he said.