Political leaders distinguish themselves by making people’s lives better. The good and great ones are celebrated for uplifting spirits and well-being, leaving behind the legacy of a kinder, more tolerant, inclusive and gracious society.
No leader is ever admired for going in the opposite direction – inflicting pain by suing until pants drop (to borrow a phrase from the Workers’ Party’s Low Thia Khiang).
Yet all three Prime Ministers of our country have carried on the tradition of taking citizens to court.
The irony is that Singapore is not even considered a litigious society. In the United States and Australia, we have two of the world’s most litigious countries, where lawsuits are commonplace, but still we hardly ever hear of their politicians suing fellow citizens.
How did this practice of suing fellow citizens until pants drop come about in our country?
There are three possible explanations.
One: Singaporeans are more hot headed, ill-intentioned and malicious than citizens of other countries and therefor politicians are left with no choice but to sue them.
Two: leaders of other countries stand tall, confident and assured that their reputation speaks for itself and cannot be so fragile as to be easily besmirched by people of far lesser standing and stature.
Three: as with most things, Lee Kuan Yew started it so the tradition must be preserved because what worked for him then must surely work today.
You could eliminate one as too far-fetched, but two and three are patently not overstretching it.
Achieving honour and upholding dignity, integrity and reputation comes from exemplary service and leadership – and surely not from proving falsehood and guilt through lawsuits.
And it’s somewhat of a mockery when siblings cannot be sued but opponents, critics and bloggers are sitting ducks.
Before long, Singapore will have its fourth Prime Minister. What are the chances of him keeping to the tradition of suing fellow citizens until pants drop?