This is an opinion piece that just cries out to write itself into existence.
TTSH & MOH – High Standards of Integrity
Press releases are not to be taken lightly. There is usually plenty of time to think through the many possible interpretations for the different audiences intended or that may come to read them.
For citizens taking the recent statements put out by TTSH and MOH at their face value, we cannot but applaud them for setting and then holding even their lower-ranking employees to their high corporate standards of integrity.
From TTSH, we have
“Mr Ngerng’s conduct was incompatible with the values and standards we expect of our employees. While our staff are free to pursue their personal interests outside work, they must conduct themselves properly, honourably and with integrity.”
“MOH supports TTSH’s decision as Mr Ngerng’s actions show a lack of integrity and are incompatible with the values and standards of behaviour expected of hospital employees.”
For both TTSH and MOH to go to such lengths to demonstrate their commitment to integrity is indeed laudable. Both are merely practising what PM Lee has time and again emphasized what Singapore cannot do without:
“… maintaining high standards of integrity and honesty is the key differentiator between politics in Singapore and in many other countries.” – (28 May 2014, on ‘Constructive Politics’ in Parliament)
PAP & PM Lee – Consistent Stand on Integrity
Every one of the three PMs that Singapore has known thus far has emphasized the supreme importance of integrity at one time or another.
“The moment key leaders are less than incorruptible, less than stern in demanding high standards, from that moment the structure of administrative integrity will weaken, and eventually crumble. Singapore can survive only if Ministers and senior officers are incorruptible and efficient.” – (Then PM Lee Kuan Yew, 1979 [Link])
“But it is not just efficiency of the bureaucracy. More important is integrity: integrity of political leaders, public officials and the value system of the country.” – (Mr Goh Chok Tong, 18 Oct 2008)
“This is the standard that we must hold ourselves to, and that Singaporeans have rightly come to expect from those in politics, whether in government or opposition. This is why we must take accusations of dishonesty against political leaders very seriously,”
– (PM Lee Hsien Loong, 13 July 2013, in Parliament when confronting WP on AHPETC’s spring cleaning of hawker centre)
Aren’t we Singaporeans so darn fortunate to have leaders who put so much emphasis on the indispensability of integrity in public institutions and life?
Integrity Consistency – But For A Toothpick Thrown Into The Works
“Many restaurants give you toothpicks, but the toothpick is so big it can never go through, but this one is so fine that whatever is inside sure can come out… In fact, can never resist…They always serve in a pack,” – he told reporters at BreadTalk Group’s new headquarters in Tai Seng.
“And because I go there very early – 10.30 in the morning – always full right. And guess what? By the time I left, normally right, it’s half left. The other half is in my pocket.” – (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Swee Say, 22 July 2013, on Din Tai Fung’s toothpicks [Link])
Why are we holding lower level employees to the high standards of integrity in the use of office time and resources while completely ignoring a minister in the PMO going to lunch at 1030 hours as a matter of course and snitching on toothpicks? And, as someone astutely pointed out, since SGX trades can only be done from 0900 to 1700 hours working days, how about another minister who could trade shares in the million units and make millions $$$ more there from?
Of course, we must state a sparrow or two do not a summer make, that the entire government and civil service is lacking in integrity.
But, we must surely recognise ‘it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things’. Hence, could we be looking at ‘the moment’ that LKY speaks of, “The moment key leaders… are less than stern in demanding high standards, from that moment the structure of administrative integrity will weaken, and eventually crumble.” LKY, the wise man that he is, understands that the one who is faithful in little is faithful in much.
The question of the moment, then, for PM Lee is, has that moment passed by him now? Or will he put aside his pride or double standards and come through for Singapore somehow? Or is he so distracted with his own personal reputation over a silly infringement from an over-zealous citizen, that he is too far gone to care for the State of the Nation?