Vital issues, the silent majority and ST's prime role

Dear Readers' Post,

Two recent articles published on the same day ("Meritocracy works but beware of elitism: ESM Goh" and "Police must do more than keep crime down"; July 28) reaffirms my faith in the prime media role of The Straits Times in effectively flagging public attention on vital issues that affect Singapore.

The first article confirms the editorial sharpness of The Sunday Times editor in making it the front-page lead story although the event, an anniversary dinner among old boys of a school, was not typically earth-shattering.

In highlighting former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's caution about the downside of meritocracy as the day's most vital piece of news, the editor reflected accurately, in my view, the keen concern of silent majority Singaporeans like me who feel that it is becoming increasingly vital for Singapore leaders to show and tell us that our leaders are aware and are working at finding effective answers against the danger of exclusivity in key institutions such as schools and Government, as well as society at large.

Certainly, there were perceptions then about pockets of a protected elite within prominent institutions like schools, government and the corridors of power when the first-generation leaders held sway.

But ordinary Singaporeans like me were confident and believed enough in the leaders then to ensure that such drawbacks of meritocracy did not affect the unity and purpose of nation-building; that trust, integrity and an instinctive and nurturing sense of inclusiveness were the prevailing hallmarks of my generation.

The strength of that sense of togetherness seems to be fraying because values like public service, trust and integrity appear to be less than what they are now, compared to my time.

That is why the second article, a commentary by managing editor Han Fook Kwang, deserves equal praise because Mr Han fleshed out the caution Emeritus Senior Minister Goh lodged in the front-page report.

Mr Han pinpointed the deeper and potentially unsettling consequences when senior officers who are supposed to serve and protect the public interest, do not.

Mr Han framed clearly, and in plain language, the concerns that alarm ordinary Singaporeans following the raft of charges and convictions against senior and even lesser public servants.

Chief among them are the erosion of high standards in the public service, the alarm that more instances of wrongdoing may come to light suggesting that solving corruptibility is a keener problem requiring greater vigilance and more effective solutions; and whether the government institutions are keeping up with changing perceptions of public confidence and expectations.

I have always believed that despite the vulnerabilities of our smallness and location, we have succeeded because we are stout-hearted and possess a national character that is frank, practical and as resilient as it is rational.

We will continue to succeed and prosper if the key values underpinning our national character like trust and integrity remain entrenched and undiluted.


Ravi Govindan

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