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Paying for monkeys

By Andrew Loh

It has been a week since the flood at Orchard Road and several areas around Singapore. It was the worst flood we have seen in 26 years. It has been two weeks since the Town Council Management Report was released. More than a month since the security lapse at Changi Depot and two months since two National Servicemen were shot in Thailand.

Yet, despite all these, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has kept a total silence.

One can only wonder why the Prime Minister feels that his leadership is not needed at this time and why he prefers to, as it were, bury his head in the sand. Hear no evil, speak no evil? It is totally unacceptable that as leader of this country he would remove himself from these occurrences.

Not a word of reassurance from him when the flood happened. No word of consolation for those affected or admonitions for those who were caught sleeping on the job. Not a whimper about where Singapore goes from here from our Prime Minister.

Not a word from him about the security lapse at Changi Depot either. As with his Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Transport, PM Lee has gone missing, perhaps hoping not to involve himself in another security fiasco barely 3 years after the last one.

Not a word from him about the finger-pointing fiasco which followed the release of the TCMR report as well. No leading from the front for his party’s MPs who have been roundly criticized for not taking responsibility for the low scores some of them have received. No answers from him or his ministers to Mr Low Thia Khiang’s question which asked how much were PAP town councils given in terms of additional funds for upgrading.

And finally, after First-Sergeant Woo Teng Hai, 25, suffered head injuries after being shot by Thai villagers, together with 19-year-old Private J Pritheery Raj, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has nothing to say about it – even though MINDEF had initially said only one soldier was shot. No explanation for this omission.

It is ironic that in November 2007, it was PM Lee himself who accused the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) members of going “awol” – absence without official leave. “[The] opposition’s five have scattered like monkeys when the tree fell,” he said, referring to the five WP candidates of Aljunied GRC which the party fielded in the last elections. “One of them has ran (sic) to Sweden,” he continued, “the other has left the WP. They call it their A Team, I say it is A for Awol.”

Cheap shots by the PM, of course, as Alex Au explained here.

The question Singaporeans now have is: Has the Prime Minister himself gone awol, as far as recent events are concerned?

The PM did make an appearance on Sunday – to be the guest-of-honour for Bukit Timah’s 55th anniversary celebration. [Straits Times]

He however chose to keep his total silence on recent events. One can only wonder why – especially when Bukit Timah was one of those areas which were badly flooded, not once but twice in the last eight months!

In 2009, the PM was reported by the Today newspaper - with regards to Permanent Residents serving National Service (NS). He was against the idea of “first generation” PRs doing NS. The PM said:

“If we make it (NS and Reservist for PR) a requirement, we would not get the people we wanted. Secondly, if they did serve NS at 30, 40 and 50 years old. I would not like to be their platoon commander.”

[Blogger “Feed Me To The Fish” was aghast at the PM’s remarks. See here: “Ungrateful platoon commander, insensitive leader”.]

Would the Prime Minister like to be the commander of a troop of chimpazees which allows a terrorist suspect to escape, for a train depot to be breached, for officials who did not reveal how many soldiers were shot or for his MPs who are shirking responsibility for the state of their own towns?

Indeed, the Prime Minister by his absence, could very well be saying, "I would not like to be your commander"!

In 2008, when Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre, it took the Prime Minister a full 11 days before he made his remarks about the incident. [See here]

If you go missing not once but twice, three times and more, whenever a major incident happens, we too would rather have someone else leading us.

Perhaps our mainstream media, praised by the PM himself, should be probing why our PM keeps going missing - the same way the Straits Times so enthusiastically regurgitated, with a full spread, the PM's accusation of the opposition going "awol".

At the moment, it seems that we are not only paying millions of dollars for monkeys who keep screwing up and who are not willing to take responsibility for these screw-ups, but we’re also paying for monkeys who scatter and go awol when the trees fall.

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Further Reading: "A learning experience for weak leaders" by Gerald Giam

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