Parliament: Don’t be afraid to speak up, but don’t generalise?


Parliament: Don’t be afraid to speak up, but don’t generalise, don’t tar, you play your part also?

I refer to the article “Ong Ye Kung to Louis Ng: Generalisations tar public service ‘with same brush’” (Channel NewsAsia, Mar 1).

It states that “Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (Mar 1) issued a sharp rebuttal to Member of Parliament Louis Ng’s comments on Tuesday that public officers dare not speak up for fear of getting into trouble.

In response, Mr Ong Ye Kung who also leads public service innovation efforts, said: “Where the public service has fallen short, it will address the problem. But when generalisations that tar the entire service with the same brush are made in public and worse, further spread through media, it does not do justice to our officers and it discourages and undermines improvement efforts.”

As to “”Mr Louis Ng … you can do your part too,” said Mr Ong to his fellow People’s Action Party MP.

“If some civil servant tells you they dare not speak up, you can assure them from your own experience that you’ve always spoken up and never got into trouble. If they feel the system does not allow them to make a difference, ask them what is it you want to change.”

“So I say to Mr Louis Ng, be part of the change. Be part of the change,” he concluded. “Work with and encourage the public service as it strives to transform itself to build a better Singapore.”

Later, Mr Ng thanked Mr Ong for clarifying that “all public officers can speak up without fear of getting into trouble”.

“I’m keen to be part of the solution, which is why I spent the past year meeting, listening to and working with public officers, and now share their concerns with everyone,” said Mr Ng. “And I’ll take Minister Ong’s advice and will be more careful about generalisation of public officers.” – don’t you find it to be kind of self-contradictory?

As an analogy – isn’t it akin to saying you don’t have to be afraid to speak up, but almost in the same breath – chides the person who spoke up – that he should not generalise and tar everyone?

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.