Friday, April 29, 2011

Public Servants, Political Realities & Prime Minister Sylvia Lim

I read this and I felt I should add my views for what it's worth.

I have many friends and relatives, who are public servants. They work for ministries, statutory boards, organs of state and other government-linked bodies in Singapore. Many of them are fiercely loyal to the party in power because their loyalty to the Executive of the day demands it.

However, it is sad that some of them develop an awkward and displaced sense of loyalty. These bunch feel they should not be voting independently; they should be voting for the PAP simply because they are public servants.

Nevertheless, I can confidently say that all public servants have the capacity to act independently.

I accept there are circumstances when they, under the directions of their political masters, adopt partisan positions. For example, when public servants write official letters to newspapers to defend the PAP.

Conversely, I know of several instances when public servants have shown they act independently. I am sure we have our own stories to tell but I will relate one incident that has left an indelible impression on me.

This happened at an event in Singapore some years ago, after the last general elections. The then Minister for Law was the chief guest of the event, and he was to be received by a top public servant. Just before the Minister arrived, the present Workers Party Chairman Sylvia Lim walked in. That senior public servant immediately sprung up and received her. He treated her as he would treat any ruling party leader.

Later, I went up to the senior public servant and raised this incident. His candid reply remains unforgetable. He said, "She deserves the same level of respect we give any member of our political leadership. If one day our electorate decides to vote out Prime Minister Lee, she could end up our Prime Minister. As civil servants, we stay out of the fray but we work within the political realities."

If not for the fact that we have a dominant party with over two-thirds majority in Parliament, there will probably be more such stories of public servants displaying their independence.

I find it unfortunate that public servants get a bad name because of the dominant presence of one political party in Parliament. Public servants are hardly blameworthy here. The voter that gives a political party such hegemonic power in our legislature should bear this responsibility.

Dharmendra Yadav

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1 comment:

andrew said...

The chap must have watched yes minister.