Thursday, 28 September 2023

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SingHealth hack: Exposing the cracks of elitism and entitlement

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has said that the SingHealth cyber attack “exposed weaknesses” in the system. He felt that Internet surfing separation, like what has been done in the public sector, could and should have been implemented on public healthcare systems.

That is only half the story.

The other half – more significant and more pointed – is that the episode exposed the cracks of a system embedded with elitism and entitlement, as symbolised by two of the central figures involved.

Group Chief Executive Officer of SingHealth is Ivy Ng, a role she assumed in 2012. Her husband Ng Eng Hen has been Defence Minister since 2011.

Such a power pairing is not isolated. It starts right from the top.

This is the 14th year that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is in his job – and also the 14th year that Ho Ching rules the roost at Temasek.

The other central figure in the SingHealth hack is also a member of the elitist and exclusive club.

Former army general David Koh has been Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency since its formation in 2015. He is concurrently the Commissioner of Cybersecurity, the Deputy Secretary (Special Projects) and Defence Cyber Chief in MINDEF.

As a former general, his exalted status is no secret and no surprise.

Dozens of former generals, like David Koh, emerge with regularity to contest elections, take on ministerial posts and infiltrate the top echelons of government, civil service and government-linked corporations.

Next week, outgoing SMRT CEO and former general Desmond Kuek will be replaced by incoming CEO and former general Neo Kian Hong. This is exactly how the system pans out.

True to form, the members of the Committee of Inquiry convened to investigate the SingHealth hack are all – surprise! surprise! – establishment figures. Keeping it all in the family, so to speak.

The irony is that PM Lee and his Ministers have in recent months been warning of the dangers posed by inequality and elitism.

But doesn’t the system itself nurture and cultivate elitism and entitlement, and exacerbate the inequality gap?

Is it genius or lunacy to keep warning of the very risks and dangers which the establishment itself perpetuates?

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