In my opinion, all the headline grabbing incidences that have arisen in the past year has all been about the same thing, albeit under different guises – the issue of accountability. From teenager Benjamin Lee’s tragic death to the electoral changes down to the salient points raised by Dr. Poh Soo Kai at his recent book launch all point to the same general concern.
Despite coverage by the alternative media and questions posed by the public in blogs and forums, there have been no official statements that have attempted to address any of the concerns.
Let’s take the changes to the NCMP system as an example. While the government has dressed these amendments up as a means to tackle the problem of a lack of alternative voices in Parliament while ostensibly providing opposition politicians a forum for honing their skills, numerous articles have surfaced online poking holes at the PAP’s supposed goodwill. These online discourses do raise some credible questions that merit answers from the proponents of the changes. Yet, the silence from the powers be remain deafening.
I am pretty certain that the ruling party is fully apprised of the commentaries online. I can also hedge my bets and presume that they are well aware of the shortcomings of their amendments. Yet, instead of rising to the occasion to engage the public and defend their decisions, they have chosen to be tight lipped apart from carefully constructed interviews with the mainstream media that focus only on general issues while avoiding any depth.
Is it because they are well aware of the superficiality of their tweaks to the system? Or perhaps they deem that a deeper response is unnecessary?
The Benjamin Lee tragedy showcased a similar seeming disregard. No matter what the circumstances, the death of a teenager at the beginning of his/her life is always a sad affair. Much less a death that seems to be have been caused by a combination of police inaptitude and school unprofessionalism! Schoolteachers and police officers are civil servants whose salaries are being paid for by our taxes. Surely then the public deserves better than the tight-lipped treatment that has hitherto been meted out?
It beggars belief that not a single minister has uttered a word in public on this! In the face of a very public death of a young Singaporean, which has been attributed to the public services sector, does the government not feel that it has a responsibility to openly address the questions of the public? They are surely not ignorant of the many articles and social commentaries that have been circulated on this untimely death?
Surely, they possess enough foresight to understand that this death will cause much disquiet to parents who leave their children in the protection of schools for most of the day? Added to that, they must be aware that Singaporeans entrust their daily safety to the hands of the police. An incident like this is bound to worry Singaporeans on police priorities and capabilities. The silence thus far is incredulously remarkable. Is it an inability to provide sufficient answers or is it a refusal to acknowledge the government’s need to be completely accountable?
In Dr. Poh’s speech at his book launch, he cited a few inaccurate accounts of history, which have so simplistically consigned the roles of villain and hero for decades. No questions were tolerated and the only available view was the one sided one that was put forward by the government. The public was not permitted to read all sides and decide for themselves. There was no transparency leading to grave injustices for many involved. Yet however, the greatest injustice is that to the people of Singapore whose rights to information and accountability were denied.
While the occurrences involved different people with divergent scenarios, the chief issue is a blatant lack of regard for accountability by those in power. While Dr. Poh’s account may have taken place years before, history will continue to repeat itself unless and until the government acknowledges and steps up to its duties of accountability.
Let’s not be distracted by the seeming differences in these incidents. Instead, let’s focus on the big picture for now – the lack of accountability and the need for it.
Remember, old habits die hard and to change entrench practices require consistency and persistence.
GHUI WRITES: Grave injustices the result of govt's lack of accountability