SINGAPORE – Businessman Salleh Marican has taken issue with a New York Times report that quoted him as saying that he wanted to open an investigation into Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for alleged abuse of power.
The one-time presidential hopeful said in a Facebook post on Thursday (Sept 14) that he had never given an interview to the American newspaper.
He added that the quote attributed to him was “untrue” and was based on an inferrence of what he had told sociopolitical website TOC.
Mr Salleh,67, was among two businessmen who had submitted application forms to run in the presidential election, but were disqualified from contesting as they did not meet the threshold for candidates from the private sector.
Madam Halimah Yacob won in a walkover and was sworn in as President on Thursday.
The New York Times article published on Tuesday, with the headline “Singapore Has a New President, No Election Needed”, had reported Mr Salleh as saying “if he was elected, he would begin an investigation into the allegations that Mr Lee abused his power in his dispute with his siblings”.
Refuting this in his Facebook post, Mr Salleh said this was “inferred from an interview I gave to The Online Citizen”.
He added: “That quote was untrue. I never said it and have not given any interview to the New York Times.”
In his interview with TOC published on Sept 1, Mr Salleh, the chief executive of Second Chance Properties, had been asked a hypothetical question about how he would use his presidential powers if he won.
Specifically, he was asked whether he would be willing to use his powers as president to direct the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau to open an investigation into PM Lee if there were credible allegations against the Prime Minister.
The TOC had cited as an example the dispute between PM Lee and his siblings over their family home in Oxley Road. The Prime Minister’s siblings had accused him of abusing his powers to prevent the demolition of the house, an allegation he has denied and addressed in a Parliamentary debate.
Mr Salleh said in his Faceook post that he had actually responded to TOC: “One of the reasons I want to be President is to do my best to ensure that the zero tolerance towards corruption continues. This has contributed to the clean reputation of this country. As President, the people of Singapore can count on me to uphold and protect Singapore’s precious reputation.”
He said he had written to the editor of the New York Times asking for a clarification.
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