Louis Ng is not a ‘Yes, Sir’ MP

 

Suresh Nair

ONCE in a while we have someone who rocks the system for good. Once in a blue moon, we get a PAP Member of Parliament who dares to be different. Once in a way, we’ve a young parliamentarian who propagates that he’s not a “Yes Sir!” man.

Once in a Tuesday morning, he erupts Parliament House with a rousing speech that left Singaporeans speechless of a Rambo-styled MP and needless to say, he made the talking point in the print, broadcast and social media.

I’m proud to say that Louis Ng is my MP at Nee Soon East and as I do MPS (Meet the People’s Session) Monday sessions and other heartlander activities with him, I’ve always told non-partisan friends that if there’s an eighth day of the week, he will be on the ground for residents on that extra divine-intervented day.

He’s only 39 with a big animal-heart, armed with a Masters in Science degree in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brookes University and founder of ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society). But he’s a gentleman MP with a bigger heart for the man-in-the-street.

picture credit: the middle ground

Simply because he listens to the ground and seriously and sincerely conveys the down-to-earth feedback right to the austere corridors of Parliament House.

I know him better, too, as we were born on same December 8 birthday and believe me, as a Saggitarian, he unpretentiously calls a spade a spade and always offers that soul-searching opinions of the grassroots folks, from senior citizens to the younger generation in any matter that affects their day-to-day life.

TSUNAMI-OF-A-SPEECH

And on Tuesday, he gave a tsunami-of-a-speech about the public service, which many Singaporeans perceive to be pro-ruling party and sometimes the PAP propaganda machine.

He kicked off by emphasising that the “public service is the heart of our entire system and they play a crucial role…the success of this budget and Singapore relies heavily on them and this year, I will again focus my speech on how we can strengthen our public service.”

Ng does his homework excellently well. He says: “In the past year, I have reached out to public servants through closed door dialogue sessions to better understand their concerns, the difficulties they face and their aspirations. I’m grateful that they have shared their views with me very honestly and candidly.”

Without fear or favour, Ng says that there is a general consensus that people will get into trouble if they speak up in the public service. He adds: “They fear that they will be labelled as troublemakers and that their bosses will get angry. They fear it will affect their appraisal and their promotion.”

As a fair-minded Singapore, he says “this fear is troubling, extremely troubling”. He elaborates: “In fact after I delivered my budget speech about the public service last year, there were Facebook comments and I received messages telling me to be careful, I will get into trouble for speaking up too much. My sister was also passing me messages from her friends, telling me to be careful.”

Like the brave-hearted, sometimes Rambo-styled, warrior he is, Ng says: “I’ve made it a point to publicly say that I didn’t get into trouble for speaking up, that this fear is mythical. Having said that, this fear of speaking up, whether we want to acknowledge and accept it, is very real.”

SPEAK UP MORE!

He noted that a panel of academics and former senior civil servants echoed the same sentiments at a forum last year, “that Singapore needs more people to speak up and challenge authority. They lamented the reluctance of civil servants to pose contrarian views when facing political office-holders.”

He encouraged civil servants, who drives the core of the government’s policies, to “fight for changes that will lead to an even better Singapore”.

Emphatically, he says: “This culture of being afraid, of keeping quiet, of not rocking the boat is detrimental to the public service, to any organisation and most of all detrimental to Singapore. This culture results in the loss of good ideas, of better ways of doing things and the loss of good public servants.”

Quoting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Ng reminded that PM didn’t want to be surrounded with “yes, sir” men. PM then said: “That is important because if all you have are people who say “three bags full sir”, then soon you start to believe them and that is disastrous. You need people who have their own views, whose views you respect, whom you can have a productive disagreement with, and work out ideas which you might not have come up with, or who improve on ideas you had.”

And that’s the mantra of the PAP government: Not to have a public service filled with “yes sir” men and women. And to demolish this culture, we need to break our entrenched processes and bureaucracy.

Ng noted that even Education Minister Ong Ye Kung spoke about at the Public Service Conference in 2017: “We urgently need to cut the extremely long red tape that may be frustrating not just for members of the public but also our public servants.”

Ng, always with a fresh young heart and head says: “We are in danger of becoming what Calvin (in the comic book Calvin and Hobbes) said: ‘If you care, you just get disappointed all the time. If you don’t care, nothing matters, so you are never upset.’

“We need to make sure that, one we make it easier for public servants to voice their concerns and, two make sure that we follow up on the concerns they raise. We need to ensure they feel empowered.”

MEDIOCRITY IS REWARDED?

picture credit: Louis Ng FB

Daringly, Ng gave feedback that some public servants told him that it is “almost impossible to feel motivated to do more because mediocrity is rewarded…status quo is a prized possession. They want to make a difference, which is why they joined the public service, but they do not feel empowered to do so”.

Moving forward, he urged that we should continue this “open and transparent practice of having all-hands staff meetings frequently, where all levels of public servants have direct communication channels with senior management…I also suggest that we have an internal Quality Service Manager (QSM) within Ministries and Statutory Boards”.

It’s ironic, Ng adds, that MPs are calling for civil servants to be “less rigid” and to “think outside the box”. Recently, MP Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon South) in an interview even suggested that civil servants give “cut and paste” answers.

“Ask any young civil servant and they’ll tell you that their superiors frown upon those who speak up or try to introduce fresh ideas.”

He quotes the philosophical words of Napoleon: “The world suffers a lot, not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people.”

Giving a pat-on-the-back for civil servants, Ng remarks: “As I shared in my budget speech last year, these are a rare breed who devote their lives towards serving Singapore. But we now need to make sure that they don’t work in a system where they feel they need to be silent, where they feel they need to be “Yes sir” men or women and where they feel that nothing will change even if they speak up.”

PRAISES FROM NETIZENS

Ng’s forthright Parliament House speech drew massive applause from netizens.

Well-known critic-commentator Howard Lee says: “It might seem futile to bring it up in Parliament, but it does speak to those in power who care to listen. It touches on so many of my pain points through my decade in public service. I have been called “willing to try new ideas” and “radical” by my nicer bosses (God bless them), does not empathise with X position” and “making things difficult” by the worst. Never once has “diversity of opinion” been taken seriously, in spite of all the grandiose statements.”

Schoolteacher Sally Viathalingam says on Facebook: “Thanks Louis for being our voice. Many a times when giving feedback on government policies from the residents, you’re branded the troublemaker and worst still, you’re blacklisted. You speak with a brave heart.”

Former Non-Constituency MP Braema Mathi says: “Fantastic speech by MP Louis Ng. How many times have we seen this, experienced this and heard this. Leaders in various sectors do not set the example as leaders and many are averse to risk taking. So well, done Louis.”

Kelly Ann Oxenham writes: “Some public servants I met also told me directly that it is almost impossible to feel motivated to do more because mediocrity is rewarded. Status quo is a prized possession. They want to make a difference, which is why they joined the public service, but they do not feel empowered to do so.”

“I’m a big fan of the 360 appraisal review and agree that it should be implemented across public service urgently. Just as important – inculcating in the students of today, a habit of questioning, so we can groom the leaders of tomorrow who can ask insightful questions and develop meaningful solutions.

“Thank you Louis Ng for always speaking up and saying the things that need to be said!”

Suresh Nair, a veteran journalist over three decades, sits in the Nee Soon East Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) and actively serves in grassroots activities with Louis Ng in Nee Soon GRC.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Hope it is not another PAP WAYWANG. I wish him well. All I could say if He talks too much He would not able to earn his handsome rewards

  2. Finally, perhaps a white knight has arrived? Be close to your ‘true’ friends, be closer to those at the top of the shit pile who appear to be ‘friends’ or you will never survive the arena of dark politics!

  3. Almost 99.9 % of the PAP MPs are yes-man and yes-woman, because they don’t want to cut off their $20k plus… or ministers million dollars salary… they have becomes more and more greedy.

    So only 1% are good MPs, the rest are just greedy pigs.

  4. Not only civil service. Private sector is the same. They ask for suggestions but when you give they not happy as indirectly saying their management is not good or just too rigid to change. Always wait till something happen then look for scapegoat.

    • Many years ago
      Worked in a worldwide chain of hotels
      Yearly, there is a assessment about how employees felt about career prospect, working environment and others
      Well, I have “low” point in overall
      My superior was not happy
      And hinted to me to reassess
      Of course I disobeyed
      Well, nightmares begun
      Wahahahaha

      Like many, I sought for greener pastures.

  5. They will tolerate n accommodate his rants as d party will be seen as welcoming diverse views n opinions. The fears r real, so r d rewards for sticking to being “loyal”. Meanwhile, business as usual

  6. In theory Louis is correct but in pravtice this cannot be achieved. Civil servants are too well paid for them to risk their jobs by speaking up because telli g the truth might endanger hid boss’s position. Wbich fool would dare speak up?
    The over payment of salaries has boomerranged on the quality of the civil service. So just shut up and continue to be promoted with an even higher salary.
    Outspoken people have been punished before and there are lots of examples.

    So Sinkaporeans stop dreaming. Get real and be prepared to sink with the PAP..

  7. Directors n Deputy Directors dare not rock d boat…go with d flow. Say n present what they think their respective bosses like. Its happening everywhere.

  8. YES! Singapore REQUIRE more such outspoken types of MPS in order to let the wolds respect our up right little red dot policies. NO FEAR, NO WORRIES of beings victimized.

    • To the powers that be, they require a few of these token “outspoken MPs” to maintain the illusion that the system is not fossilised and closed to external inputs. Makes the fence sitters amongst us feel good when casting a vote for the dominant party

  9. Many words are spoken or written not in diplomatic manners n resulted in lots of misunderstanding.
    I would not say” oppose” ” voice out against the idea” etc etc.
    It is the way we communicate that makes the listeners frown n rejecting the approach.

  10. I am a resident of Yishun and Young Louis Ng is my MP. He has my undying support in any future elections. He is a prolific, fearless and opinionated individual who speaks freely on many issues from Rohingya crisis to the homeless and destitutes in Singapore. A rare breed among the Men in White. Keep it up Louis

    • He gives PAP a veneer of open-ness. He is false hope. But if it makes you feel good to believe in him, enjoy 🙂

  11. Didn’t he “Yes Sir” after the debate on the criminal code temporary provisions and voted along party lines? His memory too short?

  12. I think the problem is the current management. A lot of them are the old guards and they are afraid of being flexible. Also, civil servants usually have the mindset that why must I be flexible to give myself more problems? They prefer to continue their iron ricebowl.

  13. majority of Singaporean, especially on the higher position or government sector is yet to learn how to take criticized in gracious form. Most of them having super Ego state of mind, refuse to receive criticism in constructive manner.

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