Saturday, July 16, 2011

Of odd politicians & political office

Two political developments in recent weeks have negatively affected me.


This should be the new name of a special team in the Prime Minister’s Office, who have been designated to take care of the affairs of two former Prime Ministers: Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

I find this extension of services by the Prime Minister’s Office a conceit; we don’t want our former Prime Ministers near us but we will still give them a way to hang around.

Some days ago, I was aghast to watch on television Lee attending a public event surrounded by a battery of security officers. As he no longer holds a ministerial position, it made me ponder who is bearing the cost of such splendid security.

It would appear that, despite not holding any official position in the Executive, our former Prime Ministers continue to enjoy unprecedented privileges, far more than what any sitting Member of Parliament or a former minister would be typically entitled to.

At a talk recently, the Honourable Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh shared how his parent expressed disappointment about the treatment of Lee following the last general election. With respect, in the context of the observations above, the great leader in all probability deserved it.

I am neither ungrateful to our former Prime Ministers nor do I accept that they should be forgotten for what they have done. However, I feel very strongly they should have long followed the example of their peers like the late Dr Goh Keng Swee and left political office totally.

If there is a need to involve them in government matters, they can be appointed independent consultants. It is imperative, given their exit from ministerial office, that they should not be permanently relying on employees of the state.

There are many examples of these in other democracies, where leaders have stepped down but in their independent capacities are tapped from time to time for national duties.

Plus, if they are really needed to support other statutory boards or government-linked companies, it should be those entities that should provide the support rather than that of the Prime Minister.


New Government Parliamentary Committees have also just been announced.

In essence, a GPC is a component of the ruling party. It is partisan in nature. Its work is backed by a panel comprising members of the public. GPCs were created "to increase the participation of MPs in policymaking, to give the public a say in government policies through sitting on resource panels, and to strengthen democratic institutions in the country" at a time when there were almost no opposition Members of Parliament.

In carrying out its work, each GPC "examines the policies, programmes and proposed legislation of a particular government ministry, provides the ministry with feedback and suggestions, and is consulted by the ministry on issues of public interest".

It is clear from its work that the GPC enjoys special access to the relevant ministry, including knowledge of matters that may be of a confidential nature. This is something which no other political party enjoys in Singapore.

I therefore found it really odd to learn that a current Member of Parliament, who is reportedly still the subject of a police investigation, has been appointed to deal with matters concerning law and home affairs.

Shouldn’t this put her in a position where her interests conflict with the interests of these ministries?

Notwithstanding this, it certainly puts government officials in the law and home affairs sectors in a very difficult position since they will now have to be accountable to her on top of investigating her.

Lately, odd politicians and political office seem to be the flavours of the month.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Sgcynic said...

The provision of Secretariat support for the two senior Politicians who are currently only MPs really makes one wonder what other "privileges" these two men receive. If the principle is right, then which other MPs and ministers are also deserving of such special provisions under the same principle? Our system is really flexible and indeed bend over backwards to cater to the needs of individuals at times. Who said Nation above society and society before self? Just another high faulting aspiration.

Anonymous said...

Grossly UnEthical! I thought they are always portray as 'Whiter than White'?

yujuan said...

Even Tony Tan who have resigned from his Ministerial post sometime ago, has a police post protection at his residential front gate, on 24 hours duty, all at taxpayers' account?
Such priviledges to LKY and GCT are as normal as ABC.
These VIP are so kiasi, must have a guilty conscience doing lots of sinful things.

Ponder Stibbons said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Quoted from the article,"I therefore found it really odd to learn that a current Member of Parliament, who is reportedly still the subject of a police investigation, has been appointed to deal with matters concerning law and home affairs.

Shouldn’t this put her in a position where her interests conflict with the interests of these ministries?"

The PAP has made conflict of interest rules a fool's errand. You find elites running businesses and sitting on Government decision boards of the same industry as their businesses. Check at MUIS, there you will find a Shari'ah lawyer in private practice sitting in the MUIS decision making Board as a Council member. I wrote to almost all the cabinet ministers about him and at last he seems to have vacated his post at MUIS. But the Law Society wrote back to me to say that they find no conflict of interest in his case. I find this ominous.

I would like to describe a situation which may not be conflict of interest but the opposite: convergence of interest. Elite Lawyers with political connections such as having lawyered for prominent members of the PAP in their defamation cases have made State Institutions work for them pursuant to their corporate enterprises. Specifically such elite Law firms have commandeered the ISD to hound the enemies of their clients in preparation for Court Hearing. The ISD's brief was to soften their targets so that they can be more easily dealt with in Court. You know how the ISD can harass anyone. No wonder Mas Selamat could escape from prison so easily: the ISD have their focus changed from going after the Enemies of the State to enemies of their friends.

My worry is that, the citizenry is so caught up with economic issues like housing,jobs, transport, medical services, elected president etc that our basic Human Rights are trampled upon so blatantly. My view is that when the Ruling Party can with-hold basic human rights from you, there is no chance that they will bother to look at your economic rights with any seriousness. The recent blunders committed by the PAP is a testimony to my hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

"Shouldn’t this put her in a position where her interests conflict with the interests of these ministries?". Unquote.

Do get used to the many conflict of interest in the Context Of Sin. As You have noted, it happened, it is happening and it will happen anytime.

They have the power to use or abuse, what do the citizens have?