System would have failed if not for netizens

~by: Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh~
ALTHOUGH deputy editor Zuraidah Ibrahim makes many good points in her commentary on Sunday ("Scrubbing out sleaze in Singapore") on recent corruption scandals, in particular, the need for a more watchful, engaged public, I am surprised by one of her conclusions that "everything that has happened in the past six months has shown that the system still works". In fact, the scandals have exposed some flaws. Singapore has prided itself on an elite system of talent selection and career progression. Meritocracy and intense scrutiny together produce only the best leaders, or so we have been told. The sex-for-business allegations against the former chiefs of the Central Narcotics Bureau and the Singapore Civil Defence Force, if true, suggest otherwise. Singaporean meritocracy may, in reality, inflate the egos of those who succeed such that their sense of entitlement and privilege can supersede their better judgment. Meanwhile, their followers, by virtue of finishing second or third, may lose the self-confidence and gumption needed to keep No. 1 on his toes. In other words, our Darwinian selection system is partly behind the inordinate power structures one might find in Singapore organisations. Second, although Ms Zuraidah cheers the effectiveness of Singaporean justice and vigilance in bringing these cases to light, she admits that the probe into the National Parks Board's Brompton bicycle purchase was prompted only after Internet grumblings could no longer be ignored. Hence, here again the system would have failed if not for the tireless - and purely voluntary work of netizens. It is good that the public is having a lively post-mortem on these scandals. We must be honest about the potential problems in our system if we are going to address them.
-This article was published in The Straits Times Forum on 2 August 2012

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