SINGAPORE - The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) on Wednesday (June 17) named key people leading the investigations into allegations of questionable halal certification practices, after the council received submissions from members of the public about the matter.
This is following calls online for more transparency in the investigations.
Muis said that a team at the council investigating the matter is being led by its deputy chief executive, Dr Albakri Ahmad.
The investigation team comprises officers who are not involved in Muis' halal certification unit or its matters, and reports directly to Muis chief executive Esa Masood.
In addition, an independent review panel chaired by Muis council member Abdul Hamid Abdullah, who is a retired audit director from the Auditor-General's Office, has been established to review the process and findings of the investigation.
While the team and investigations were first announced on May 29, this is the first time that the leader of the investigation team and the review panel chair have been identified.
On Wednesday, Muis thanked all individuals who had come forward to submit any information related to the case. It accepted such information from May 29 till June 15.
"Muis will carefully review the submissions that have been made, as part of the ongoing investigations, and a fuller update will be provided once the investigation process is completed," said the council.
Since April, Muis has made several public statements in response to allegations by Hong Kong-based news outlet Asia Sentinel that the council showed favouritism in its recognition of foreign halal certification bodies (FCBs).
Since then, other articles have been published repeating and furthering the accusations.
FCBs are organisations Muis deems to have similar standards to its own halal certification system, and whose products imported into Singapore are certified as halal, or fit for the consumption of Muslims. These organisations can earn thousands of dollars monthly by selling exported products to Singapore.
In April, Asia Sentinel alleged that the assistant director of the council's Halal Certification Strategic Unit, Mr Munir Hussain, is being investigated for corruption by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), a claim a CPIB spokesman would not confirm or deny, citing confidentiality issues.
According to Asia Sentinel, Mr Munir had caused Muis' delisting of a certifying body in Australia as an FCB, although it did not specify how this was done.
The article, reproduced on other outlets such as news site Halal Focus, also said that Mr Munir had interfered with and undermined the Australian body's attempt to be re-certified as an FCB, supposedly through actions like divulging its sensitive information to a competitor and forcing it to hire certain staff.
Muis has said that key decisions on halal certification are not made by one person, but by an independent panel and that the certification of FCBs is held to the same rigorous standards as local certification processes.
The council previously said that it has not been approached by the CPIB in connection with any investigation, refuting allegations published in different foreign media.
On Wednesday, Muis said that Mr Munir is not part of its investigation team and is also currently not involved in handling matters related to the recognition of FCBs while investigations are being done.
The council urged the public not to speculate on or spread unproven allegations as they are "unnecessary and counterproductive". It noted that various social media posts speculating on the outcome of the investigations are still making their rounds on social media.
"This has led to further confusion by members of the community. We urge for patience to allow for the investigation process to be completed," said the council.