Home News OPINION | The Age of Accountability, settling old scores and other stories

OPINION | The Age of Accountability, settling old scores and other stories

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While most Singaporeans trust the People's Action Party (PAP) led Government to continue leading the country, it would probably be safe to assume that a greater diversity of viewpoints in Parliament is also welcomed.

This seems to be the age of “accountability” and the settling of scores. Singapore is on its own journey in relation to this as news broke that Ken Lim, the former Singapore Idol judge whom many considered the country’s Simon Cowell, was charged with assault in March of this year.

Lim was also charged with molesting a 25-year-old woman in November 2021. On Wednesday (Jun 28), Lim was further charged with insulting the modesty of three women. This means there are now four alleged victims, and he faces six charges.

Given that Lim is a high-profile individual, it is no surprise that the charges have attracted a fair bit of attention from the public. Based on reports, Lim’s charges seem to indicate a pattern of behaviour that has gone on for some time. Is Singapore now going through its “#metoo” moment? Will he be the “Harvey Weinstein” of Singapore?

If Lim is indeed guilty of these charges, he should face the full extent of the law without fear or fervour. No one, no matter how much influence he or she may have or no matter how famous, such people should not have the sense of entitlement to believe that they can get away with this sort of behaviour. Nor should industry hopefuls feel that they have to put up with this to get their big break.

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Perhaps this breaking news can be an opportunity for Singaporeans to have a long overdue honest and open discussion on physical intimacy, gender preference, and what is acceptable and what is not. It would be a pity if this became just fodder for juicy gossip without any deeper societal understanding.

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Beyond catchy headlines of “molest”, it might be time for issues such as unfair power play to be explored by society at large.

As we talk about power and what privileges and obligations holding such power entails, it has been reported that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) announced on Wednesday (28 June) that it found no evidence of corruption or criminal wrongdoing in the rentals of two bungalows at Ridout Road by Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan.

The report concluded by highlighting the importance of upholding integrity in the actions of political officeholders and public service officers. It emphasised the need for strong values and constant efforts to maintain high standards of integrity and accountability in Singapore’s government and society as a whole.

Further, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) supported the findings and recommendations of the CPIB and directed that no further action be taken as the facts revealed no offences. Consequently, the investigation into the matter has been closed.

While it is to be applauded that the authorities took the matter seriously, swiftly investigated and concluded on the issue, it does beg the question of why some investigations seem swifter than others.

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Of course, there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by any Government department or officials in this matter. However, some have questioned why investigations on the senior members of the Workers’ Party (WP) over the Raeesah Khan matter still appear to be pending after more than a year.

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It is imperative to remember that it was Ms Khan that had lied, and she has already been punished with a fine and has long since left politics. So why does the saga remain a legal albatross around the neck of the Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh’s head?

While most Singaporeans trust the People’s Action Party (PAP) led Government to continue leading the country, it would probably be safe to assume that a greater diversity of viewpoints in Parliament is also welcomed.

The PAP maintain an overwhelming majority in Parliament; realistically, this does not look to change drastically any time soon. It might be possible for opposition parties to incrementally win more seats over the years, but there is unlikely to be a sudden shift in power.

Is this why Singaporeans seem so engaged in the upcoming presidential elections?

In reality, the Elected Presidency’s (EP) office is largely ceremonial. While the office of the EP acts as a second set of keys to some issues of national interest, its influence is largely limited.

Yet, some Singaporeans seem to see the office of the EP as some sort of way to check on unlimited PAP power. So much so that Madam Ho Ching, wife of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, talked about it on her Facebook page, setting the record straight by saying that the office of the EP is not meant to be some sort of independent voice.

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Madam Ho isn’t wrong in this. After all, the EP is meant to be Head of State and above party politics. Why, then, are Singaporeans seemingly so taken in by this election?

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Is it because Singaporeans have been distracted? Is it because Singaporeans have become caught up with the excitement of elections and missed the forest for the trees?

In this regard, I am glad that Madam Ho has set the record straight. The Office of the EP is not meant to be an independent voice. If Singaporeans want more independent voices in Parliament, the correct forum for this would be the general elections, where Singaporeans can vote for the members of parliament (MP) they want to represent them. It is the MPs that can vote on issues in Parliament and enact real change.

Of course, I am not suggesting that the office of the EP isn’t important. Of course, it is. After all, the EP is the Head of State and represents Singapore as a nation. As such, he or she does need to possess integrity and connect with the general populace.

Should we not be emphasising more on qualities over qualifications?

Why, then, does the criteria to contest for the office of the EP seem so over the top?

 

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