While I agree with veteran journalist PN Balji’s view that Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong failed to give a proper account of the SingHealth cyber attack, I respectfully disagree that it was Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen’s show. Yes, it is true that Ng had better delivery style but apart from that, comparing Ng’s performance with that of Iswaran and Gan’s is not comparing like for like,
For a start, it is always easy to hem up the rhetoric of danger when nothing as yet as happened. In Ng’s domain, Singapore has hitherto not been subject to a terrorist attack. The world around us however has. It is therefore not difficult to unify everyone in fear. Fear is after all the most powerful societal glue. While I am grateful that Singapore has so far escaped the scourge of terrorist attacks, I do not think that this is down to Ng’s leadership. There are many factors ranging from community support, police efforts and government intel.
Gan and Iswaran on the other hand are dealing with a breach that has already occurred. This is of course going to be a lot more challenging than making promises and statements (which was essentially what Ng was doing). Nothing yet has happened on the terrorist front (Thank God and long may that continue). From that standpoint, Ng has nothing to defend. He simply has to lay on the rhetoric and sound strong. It is completely different from Iswaran and Gan who have unfortunately under their watch overseen the largest ever cyber data breach in the history of Singapore.
Just as the absence of a terrorist attack is not the work of Ng, the cyber attack is not solely the fault of either Gan or Iswaran. Is it therefore fair to compare the performances of these 3 individuals? I would say not. As far as I am concerned, none have displayed any remarkable skill. Gan and Iswaran may not have displayed a deep degree of understanding in their portfolios. But arguably, neither has Ng. All he has really done is fan the flames of fear.
One take away however is the need for the leadership to take responsibility. Gan’s name is now tarnished with this breach, along with that of Ivy Ng’s as head of SingHealth. For there to be recovery, there needs to be fresh faces at the helm. This departure is the only way to move forward and signify a new start and change. If Gan were to resign, that would be displaying political leadership that would make him stand out far more than Ng. As for Ivy, her resignation would signify corporate leadership. But perhaps I am hoping for sunsets to be blue.