Sunday, March 11, 2012

Integrity - Fundamental Basic of Leadership

(Update: Vikram has admitted that he shouldn't use the Nigerian Scam to insinuate Chen Shao Mao. At least he has the courage to admit his mistake and upheld his integrity. This is reported in Zaobao: 把工人党议员陈硕茂对改善财政预算案的提议,和“尼日利亚骗局”作比较,挖苦对方一番。三巴旺集选区议员维凯反省后承认:太过火了。 )

More than 20 years ago, I was just an Officer Cadet in OCS. Day in day out, right from dawn till dusk, our trainers would shout at us and punish us for the slightest fault we made. I remembered very clearly that the most often used phrase was "All of you have integrity problem is it?"

In fact, several fellow cadets were kicked out of course due to "integrity problems". Integrity problems could range from telling white lies, breaking rules knowingly to outright stealing. Looking back, all those little issues are really minor and OCS might have been too strict. However, it set the expectation of every officer-to-be: Integrity is the most important virtue valued.

I would expect any persons in the positions of public service to uphold the highest integrity level. This should apply to both ruling and opposition parties MPs. Even in Hong Kong, where they are having election of the Chief Executive by a mere 1200 electorates, they were fighting on the issue of integrity.

It is really disappointing to note that in the recent months, certain events had happened and it exposed the lack of due respect to integrity in the leadership of the highest authority of law making, parliament. Integrity encompasses a whole range of issues, from Yaw-gate (saving grace for WP, Low Thia Khiang finally decided to expel him), plagiarism, intellectual dishonesty, refusing to admit glaring mistakes and use lots of lame excuses like "it is just a joke" or "it is not against the rules and law" to explain away their spoken words cum actions, to the disrespect of our written Constitution on by-election (Well, the saving grace for PAP is that PM Lee has decided to call for Hougang by-elections) etc. People just couldn't think straight and talk straight but tried every ways to twist and turn, flaunting with words and "interpretations".

If this is the First World Parliament that we are supposed to build, I would rather not have it. Contrary to some people, including my friends who thought that I am "trumpeting" about "High Moral Standards" in my expectation of our representatives in parliament, I have only asked for the very basic quality of leadership in terms of Integrity, transparency, accountability and democracy to be part of the core values of them, to be upheld and safe guarded.

I understand it is unrealistic to ask for saints to fill all the parliamentary seats but at the very least, we should have people with basic integrity and honesty to lead the country.

As for opposition party supporters who have been criticising me for being too vocal on opposition MPs, particularly WP MPs and I should cut them some slack because they are, as IPS Gillian Koh said, "rookie politicians", I have only this to say to them: I have been the Secretary General of NSP and I understand it is really difficult to attract good and upright individuals to join the opposition cause.

However, if we do not keep our "role model" opposition MPs in check and keep reminding them what qualities are expected from them, especially in the aspect of Integrity, then those good and upright people would think thrice before they want to join any opposition parties. In the end, only those who do not put emphasis on integrity will join opposition parities. Do we want that to happen?

On the other hand, the middle ground voters who are mostly better educated would feel disappointed after giving opposition parties their votes in last GE. We should not take their support for granted and be mindful that the only way to continue to get their support or even convince others in the middle ground to support opposition cause, is to give them full confidence in our opposition MPs. Integrity is part of the confidence building process.

I thought with the break through in a GRC by WP is a major step forward a more balanced democracy but I was wrong. It seems that we just have a long way to go in achieving an upright democratic development for Singapore. I hope future political players will work harder to achieve that goal, with integrity.

Goh Meng Seng

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