Photo by Trekkathon/

Are our political leaders seduced by their own hype, becoming numb to criticism and to the ails and concerns of the people?

It certainly looks that way. They turn a deaf ear and stand their ground. Whatever the concerns, whatever the disquiet, of which there is a whole laundry list, our political leaders seem like they couldn’t care less.

We have to ask the question, is it because they have given in to their own hype and become too thick-skinned for their own good?

To start with, Ministers need to be thick-skinned to not be bothered by all the talk about how on earth it is justifiable for them to be taking home million-dollar salaries.

Beyond the remarks of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Ministers like Ng Eng Hen have previously told Singaporeans that “you are getting a bargain for the Ministers’ pay!” As long as they think that way, they will not be swayed by criticism and feedback, believing that people are just making a mountain out of a molehill.

It also takes thick skin to resolutely stick to the notion that the buck does not stop with the Minister. They have their cake and eat it. They are the world’s highest paid politicians, yet their heads are never on the chopping block

Whatever happens – be it the disgraceful Mas Selamat escape or the deplorable Hepatitis C outbreak that claimed several lives – Ministers are never held accountable.

If punishment is meted out, it will always be those further down the line who are held responsible or scapegoated.

Just wait and see the eventual outcome of the investigation and inquiry into the SingHealth cyber attack. It is a foregone conclusion that no Minister, no Permanent Secretary, no Chief Executive, will be held culpable.

Our politicians also need to be thick-skinned to readily accept that failure is not an issue because they can always enter Parliament by the backdoor.

The likes of Mah Bow Tan, Ong Ye Kung and Koh Poh Koon all lost badly in their initial electoral battles, but were later sneaked in through the backdoor in subsequent elections because they were fielded in sure-win Group Representation Constituencies.

Do they care that they entered Parliament on the coattails of others, or only because of the GRC system? No, because their saving grace is having a thick skin and believing in their own hype.

Speaking of which, Koh Poh Koon, the self-proclaimed Son of Punggol, morphed into the Son of Ang Mo Kio and is now a Senior Minister of State. A case of thick-skinned bravado paying dividends!

Ministers also have to be thick-skinned about giving themselves and their team an outstanding report card. Just over a month ago, Ng Eng Hen gave an ‘A’ to the SAF personnel for securing the Trump-Kim summit against external threats. It goes without saying that an ‘A’ to the team means an “A’ to the guy on top, the Minister for Defence.

You may recall that after Khaw Boon Wan took over the Transport Ministry, he wasted no time bragging about the instantaneous improvements to SMRT, although the situation actually got worse. He is first among equals when it comes to hyping himself up at the expense of others, including his own colleague and predecessor.

Khaw’s predecessor Lui Tuck Yew did not last long as Minister for Transport and left the cabinet altogether – a case could be made that it was a rare instance of a Minister whose skin was not thick enough to survive the game.

But as a whole, our political leaders have given in their own hype and thick-skinned bluster, so much so that they become totally numb to criticism. It appears that all the people’s sound and fury fall on deaf ears – and that is a sad and sorry state of affairs.