Thursday, July 19, 2007

Don't you hear the whistle blowing

So goes a line in that old nursery rhyme, "I've been working on the railroad". Today, whistle blowing refers to something more controversial, and requires a lot more guts from the person doing it. Corporations can be quite messed up today, and its people may not be behaving ethically. So unless there is a system to weed out such improper behaviour, somebody has to do the whistle blowing. This is when the systems and processes, and more especially when the people who are supposed to be the guardian of proper corporate behaviour are not doing their jobs, not to speak of the guard himself stealing the cake.

Apparently, this also happens in the Armed Forces of Singapore. 2Lt Li Hongyi, erstwhile son of PM Lee Hsien Loong, whistle blew on his superior officer for his improper conduct (going AWOL) when his initial complaints got no response from the army's chain of command. He then let fly an e-mail that he had addressed to no less than Mr Teo Chee Hean, the Defence Minister, detailing the failings of his fellow officer. Normally, this whistle blowing would have been the right thing to do. But what 2Lt Li did wrong was to copy that e-mail to persons that may not need to know about the case. After all, this is the Armed Forces, and you don't go shooting off your complaints so the whole world will know that the Forces stink in some parts. As an officer, he should have had better judgement.

E-mail, as some have pointed out, is so insecure an instrument that I wonder why the Armed Forces allowed it as a channel of communications on Army matters right up to the Defence Minister. Today, it was whistle blowing. Tomorrow, some classified information can be leaked, to the benefit of all our enemies and the detriment to our country. Now, some crook or spy can take a leaf from the 2Lt of how to communicate in the Armed Forces, since that channel does not seem to be restricted.

2Lt Li may have done the right thing, but he certainly did it the wrong way. The Army was right in reprimanding him. He should reflect on the error of his ways.

But let us also give credit where it is due. PM Lee did not shield his son in any way. He let the military law to run its course and, in the process, punish his son accordingly. Now, this one action refutes many aspersions cast on the 'Lee' dynasty. We are a country ruled by law, not 'Lee's' law, but Singapore law. As a Singaporean, this is something to be proud of.

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