Why is political office grudgingly seen as a sacrifice when it should be a privilege and an honour?

PAP MP Edwin Tong (Left) and his client, Kong Hee (Right)

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s recent account of how Edwin Tong had to make a downgrade in the money stakes to take on the job of Senior Minister of State strikes at the core of how they treat political office.

They see it as a sacrifice, they see it as doing Singaporeans a favour.

Elsewhere, it would be seen as a great opportunity to serve the nation at the highest level, a privilege and an honour extended to only the chosen ones.

How troubling it is that in Singapore, political office is instead seen as somewhat of a burden and a cross to carry.

For Edwin Tong, the more pertinent question should be whether being a Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, entrusted with contributing to the well-being of a country, is a more noble and enriching challenge than being legal counsel to Kong Hee of City Harvest?

Instead, ESM Goh resorted to telling a story told multiple times before, of how politicians like Edwin have to weigh the loss of income and make sacrifices.

What we are not told, however, is that for every one person who takes a pay cut to go into political office, there are probably several more who enjoy a pay hike.

Already, Singapore pays its Ministers the highest salaries in the world. If that is not good enough, it just shows that greed is a bottomless pit.

Money surely cannot buy passion and commitment. If money is used as the yardstick, we would never have men and women in political office with that genuine call to service, to do greater good for the country.

We can understand if politicians talk about sacrificing their privacy and time they could have spent with the family.

But the more they harp on sacrificing money, the more we question their passion and dedication to serve.

The bottom line is, do our politicians see themselves as all-powerful self-sacrificing masters rather than selfless humble servants?

The answer is obvious.

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