fbpx
Lt. Gen. Neo Kian Hong in 2012. (Photo by United States Department of Defense )

More ex military men take on political and public offices

I note that former chief of defense force Neo Kian Hong has started as chief executive of rail operator SMRT. But has anyone stop to ask why has Neo been appointed at SMRT?

Does his experience as former Chief of Defense translate into skills which can be utilised at the SMRT? In recent years, the SMRT has not fared well with numerous delays and failures - will Neo provide the leadership required to run it better and improve things? Without the relevant experience, I can't see how he could but I hope to be proven wrong. Other than Neo, two former colonels in the Singapore Armed Forces are reported to have taken on human resource roles within the rail operator.

Aside from this, there appears to be an increasing number of ex military or defense personnel taking on political and public positions. Other than Neo, two former colonels in the Singapore Armed Forces are reported to have taken on human resource roles within the rail operator. Take for instance Mr Chan Chun Sing and Mr Tan Chuan-Jin. Both are prominent politicians and both were ex army with Chan rumoured to be the Prime Minister elect.

Why is this the case? It is noteworthy that countries that have a large concentration of ex military personnel tend to be considered dictatorial or totalitarian.

While I have nothing against the military, I do think that it is important that the person with the most relevant skill set gets the job. In many of the appointments hitherto, I cannot really see how military experience translates?

Does the PAP government consider military men more capable? Or is there something more sinister in the works? Is the ex military image more authoritative and considered more able to maintain public order and keep dissent at bay? Is it considered that the might of the military will provide greater legitimacy and command greater public respect? How are these appointments made? As far as the public is concerned, it seems as if these people suddenly appear onto the public arena. Who sources them? What is the criteria for selection? These are among some of the crucial questions that remain unanswered.

In Neo's case, it has been reported that he was selected after a global search for the right candidate. However, given his lack of relevant experience in the public transportation sector, I fail to see how he can possibly be the best available candidate? Given that the details of that global search have not been made readily available, there is speculation that Neo was pre selected with the global search criteria pre set to suit him. Of course, this is conjecture but if one was to make an assumption based on available facts, this is not an unfair conclusion.

While Singapore has always had a significant proportion of ex army men in cabinet, the numbers seem to be creeping up. Do we need to be concerned that the government is either running out of talent or perhaps, is there a move to send out the message of a strong man government that will act as a deterrent to would be challengers?