As the furore over the intentions behind Leader of the Opposition (LO), Pritam Singh’s announcement of donating half his LO salary to good causes rages on, I would like to borrow a phrase from Queen Elizabeth I : “not making windows into men’s souls”.
In historical context, Queen Elizabeth I wanted to unite her people under a common prayer book. However she did not want to impose ways of interpreting it. Hence she used the expression of not making “windows into men’s souls” to describe her unwillingness to persecute people based on their interpretation of texts, as it is their soulful way of perceiving things. She does not see nor wants to control what goes on in the minds and souls of her subjects.
While these events took place over 500 years ago, it bears relevance to the current situation.
In making the announcement, Singh has set the tone for his leadership as LO. This is an inaugural role in the Singaporean context and by starting it off with an announcement that half of that salary will be donated, he is setting his standards and signalling his goals as a politician.
We can never really know what anyone’s intention is and it doesn’t matter. We are not mind readers nor do we need to be. The relationship that most of us will have with Singh is with him as a public servant. His intentions (whatever they may be) are therefore irrelevant. What is relevant however is what he does for the public. Those that insist on questioning his intentions have surely missed this point.
As a public servant, it is important to walk the talk and Singh is making public that he intends to. This means that we can hold him accountable should he falter. What so bad about that?
Besides, why is there such a binary nature to this donation announcement? Just because the public praises Singh for donating doesn’t mean that the public is not also grateful for donations that PAP politicians may have also made? Surely the two are not mutually exclusive?
Also, whether or not someone chooses to publicise their donation or not (for whatever reason) is their choice. If you chose to donate anonymously, you can’t then turn around and be angry that someone else made it public? To react badly because someone else did something differently to you is childish and illogical.
Secondly, those who criticise Singh are also assuming that he does not make other donations in private. Surely it is not mutually exclusive to do both? How do we know he doesn’t?
It also bears noting that Singh has not made a one off donation. He has pledged a recurring one. That is a sign of commitment. Not just a once off gesture.
At the end of the day, why is everything so binary these days? Why is there a need to be so divisive over a donation? Public or private, the donations will still provide the intended help right?
Critics such as Calvin Cheng have implied that division will lead to failed democracy. But let’s take a step back here and think about this. Who is the one who has been creating all the division?