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  • Writer's picturechiusk

Isn't the PAP afraid of losing the 2019 elections?

the previous AG did his job so well (by pointing out all the financial & accounting lapses of the various ministries) ; that the Top People are getting uncomfortable & decided that he has to go..... This is a sign of Corruption & Rot at the Top....

When PMO announces the retirement of Auditor-General Willie Tan Yoke Meng (who is only 63 years old) and replaced him with Goh Soon Poh (who is the wife of Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How) it rightly drew flaks and anger from many Singaporeans. Why is our government retiring a highly capable and highly functional civil head when it itself is advocating for a higher retirement age?

AG Willie Tan has been flagging Government Ministries, Agencies and Town Councils over the years for many of their repeated financial and accounting lapses. For the younger Singaporeans, he is the reflection of what our no-nonsense Permanent Secretary or “Mandarins” used to be – competent yet fearless leaders who dare to do what is right. It is because of the sincere dedication and commitment of such individuals to do what is right for Singapore that had contributed to the collective success of our civil service.

Our civil service was highly admired by many other advanced economies and even our immediate neighbours were always lamenting aloud about how they could make their civil service like ours.

But as politics begin to transcend deeper into our civil service, clueless political appointees were appointed. In turn, they in turn bring in their own pool of “yes-sir” senior executives and the quality of our civil service had clearly deteriorated tremendously over these past years.

Look at the many lapses, failures and breaches that had taken place and the growing anger of Singaporeans about how our civil service could no longer get some simple things done right. This issue has yet again reflects the valid concern that all is not well with the way our government is politicalizing our civil service.

The only positive thing about this is, like a blessing from above, is that our younger Singaporeans finally get to see with their own eyes, in a more explicit manner, how politics had been eroding away our civil service, and what a real “Mandarin” is all about.

Our government must act with greater restraint in appointing related individuals or their “manufactured” political leaders and their army of “yes-sir” executives into strategic ministries, agencies or our GLCs. We ought to be encouraging and empowering highly functional and capable ones, and allowing them to recommend their shortlisted successors whom they must have been grooming over the years.

If our leaders value these no-nonsense Mandarins or our working class for their vital contributions to our Nation Building, they ought to be equally comfortable and appreciative of their hard responses when things are not well. That is what our ex-AG Willie Tan and his team are being perceived to be doing.

Surely our ex-AG would have groomed some equally fearless and competent successors, who dare to put the interest of the country ahead of theirs, for serious consideration. Is our government telling us that there is no such competent successors from within the AGO? Are we inadvertently also “sandwiching” or “sidelining” competent senior executives within our civil service?

Opposition MP Sylvia Lim was right in questioning parliament about such a controversial appointment but what is even more troubling is the response by Minister-in-Charge of the Civil Service Chan Chun Sing. His reply not only echo-chambered the narrative of his political party but ended up not answering the question: Is this the type of PM-leadership Singaporeans aspire?

But what can Chan really be expected to do? There are already a few husband and wife teams in our public sector where one of them is politically aligned. For Chan to dictate otherwise, he would also have to question these other controversies. Can he be expected to take on his superior and question them about their potential conflict of interest?

If he cannot adequately deal with such Hard Truths and address the concern of Singaporeans, I think many of our ex-Mandarins or even our ex-AG has much to offer him on how to do what is right fearlessly. The boy has much to learn.

No one is against the new AGO or her 30 years of experience. If she has good conscience and the foresight to understand how controversial her appointment really is, she would have excused herself in the first place. Personal character and discipline are traits of good leadership.

No smart leaders will ever put themselves into a position of controversy. In the eyes of the public, this is akin to selling off their souls. Can she be expected to tell her husband off publicly for the failures within his Town Council or in MINDEF, or will she be accused of tipping him off prematurely? Point is – why subject herself to hell when the controversy can be avoided?

Singaporeans finally get to witness how such a controversial appointment can pass through the many layers of check and balance that our government had “diligently” put in place – from the evaluation and recommendation of the Civil Service Commission to the PMO, then from the Council of Presidential Advisors to the selected President, and finally the parliament.

If our check and balance cannot filter out this controversy, we ought to be concerned as more of such controversies would get pass these “cracks” effortlessly. Do we have sufficient opposition in parliament to demand greater accountability?

I remain clueless about which part of the controversy is our government unable to see or understand? An online poll with some 2,400 votes shows that 96% sees a conflict of interest while 4% thinks otherwise. Surely our government and the civil service would have done their own preliminary sampling in some form but why did they still proceed with such a questionable appointment? Are they even aware of the various negative messages this controversy is sending out to the public and our investors, or how it contradicted our policy to increase retirement age?

What I really feel concerned about is the future of individuals like Willie Tan who are still working diligently in our civil service and the many more good ex-Mandarins who had spoken out or acted fearlessly in doing what is good for the country but somehow are being sidelined prematurely or ignored.

Take for example Philip Yeo, former head of EDB and A-STAR, who warned the government against ending up like an imperial court where useless eunuchs propagate their self-interests and create trouble to make themselves useful. I am beginning to wonder if our government truly value serious feedbacks or the many highly competent leaders who dare to disagree or act differently from them. Will Singapore end up horribly like those dysfunctional imperial dynasties?

I am equally concern about the many good souls within our civil service who still aspire to do what is right. If they are ever sidelined or disadvantaged in any way for their sincere effort to do what is right, just like our fearless Mandarins, then they may at some point, end up being politically-victimized by our present system. As part of our working class, we ought to be in good conscience also empathize with them, find ways to support and empower these future Mandarins and their senior executives, and start acting to reverse the politicalizing of our civil service before it starts to destroy itself from within.

We need to push for the return of our fearless and highly competent Mandarins and reject all other mediocre propositions as our civil service is the backbone of our economy. If our civil service ever ruptured from within, our economy will suffer, and all our years of effort in Nation Building to build our socio-economic dreams will vanish like a shattered dream. It is time we act decisively and engage our government factually and constructively.

It is looking to be a wasted endeavor when it comes to our so called 4G leaders. With each incident, they are starting to look more like an echo-chamber or seat-warmers for their superiors, concerned only about keeping themselves commercially viable. If they show no real concern when Singaporeans raise their concerns, then I think our future is indeed very bleak.

The few good opposition leaders in parliament are currently out-numbered by the incumbent to be doing anything effective. We need to bring into parliament more credible opposition leaders who dare to question and champion the protection of our working class and our civil service. They have to put Singapore and the interests of Singaporeans ahead of themselves and their parties. Competent opposition leaders must get their acts together and show better public-character, articulation-skill and commitment than the incumbent, and start winning the hearts and minds of the voters decisively.

The time-tested DNAs of our working class and that of our civil service are worth protecting. These are what that had make us great as a nation, and we must be proud and honoured to be protecting them. Our government must stop overly-politicalize, trade or trivialize these vital assets. Time for Singaporeans to get really serious about the state of affairs of our government because as Singaporeans, we all deserve better.

Joseph Nathan

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