Saturday, April 26, 2008

The minister should resign

In his speech to parliament last Monday concerning the escape of suspected JI terrorist Mas Selamat, DPM Wong Kan Seng said;

“A window that should have been grilled but was not; guards who should have maintained line of sight of the detainee …….. – these all point to a slackening in internal vigilance and supervision. Complacency for whatever reason, be it fatigue given the protracted security operations by ISD since 2001 or routinisation over time, had crept in the operating culture at WRDC.”

Personally, I am rather disappointed that the Committee of Inquiry into the Mas Selamat escape only looked at the simple matters like the physical lapses (the famous ungrilled window, the low fences etc), the human lapses (the guards’ negligence etc) and did not probe deeper into the “whatever reason(s)” mentioned by the minister.

DPM Wong says that complacency crept into the operating culture of the WRDC? I don’t think organizations per se can become complacent. It is the people running these organizations that become complacent and I would like to offer some reasons for how this could have happened.

1) Young men with brilliant academic qualifications but little front line experience are put in charge of huge complex organizations. Such leaders are good in strategic planning but tend to underestimate the importance of operational details. They are easily lulled into thinking that everything is fine in the front lines.

2) Leaders have been over-praised by other leaders who over-praise themselves. Even when things go wrong, they continue to pat themselves on the back. They should learn to be humble.

3) Leaders accept accolades for achievements but refuse to take the blame when things go wrong. Only frontline managers are disciplined for disasters in the organisation. This results in low morale of the staff in the lower rungs of the organisation.

4) They earn astronomical salaries and still tell themselves they could be earning even more if they were working in the private sector.

I did a search on Googe on the topic Organisational Culture and Leadership and found that most management gurus assign a strong link between the two. As such I think the leaders, starting with the DPM Wong Kan Seng should accept the responsibility for the complacency that had ‘crept into the culture’ as he put it, and resign.

I am reminded of the movie Titanic. The main reason for the disaster was the complacency of the captain and his crew. As such when the ship sank, he refused to be rescued and chose to go down with it. Likewise, DPM Wong should resign to accept responsibility for the failure of his ministry.

And if all the above is not sufficient reason for the minister to resign, another one just surfaced on today’s front page of the Straits Times. An accident involving a school mini-bus resulted in one kid being killed and another seriously injured. How often have you seen these mini-buses and vans, carrying young children without seat belts speeding recklessly through our housing estates and wondered to yourself, “Where are our traffic police when we need them?” Likewise, how often have you seen lorries overtaking buses overtaking other lorries on our busy expressways and asked yourself the same question. At such times, I ask myself; "Aren't our leaders drivers too?" (to borrow a line from a petrol advertisement).


Anonymous said...

I think DPM Wong position is untenable that is why another MP is now understudying his job and waiting to take over anytime, but why the delay? It boils down to the question of 'face'. For a PAP minister to resign over a breach of security safeguard is a serious blow, amounting to a failure - a word which does not exist in the govt vocabulary, nothwithstanding that this party is holding power for nearly fifty years (since 1959) - a world record by any standard in a democracy. In Japan the opposite is true. A minister would allow 'his head' to be chopped off first before anyone, should his staff down the line committed an unforgiven mistake, but then it is Japanese culture.

Sleepless in Singapore said...

Even before the ink on my post has dried, so to speak, another colosal accident involving a huge trailer has occured on the PIE as reported in the front page of today's Sunday Times. You can imagine what speed the guy was travelling at to come down in such a spectacular fashion.

Zen said...

Sometimes I am puzzled over why our motorists need to speed like demons in such a crowded Singapore traffic environment, interpersed with many traffic lights. One of my suspicions is that some motorists got a 'kick' out of speeding disregarding to loss of lives from their recklessness. To reinforce my reasoning I would like to relate a story. Years back when I was working in the Port, an officer offered me a lift home, but he cautioned me that he was a terribly fast driver and I should not let out 'green shit'(frightened in hokkien) during his break-neck speeding . Nevertheless I took up his offer. Just imagine he covered the whole journey from Tg Pagar to Braddell Road, with traffic lights in between, in about twenty minutes. I quickly said thank you to him, and bolted, in my mind never to accept a lift from him again. However I must say I did not shit anything green during my encounter with this 'speedy Gonzales'.

Anonymous said...

WKS should at least resign as Home Affairs Minsiter.

If you look at the pics at the MHA site, the window handle is fixed to the frame using screws. Why saw off when you can just unscrew? Either real cartoon superintendent or it's all part of a scripted story.

Anonymous said...

I am a lay-man who doesn't know much about law but the govt really needs to revise existing laws regarding detention camps. So much talks on the danger posed by JI - sabotage, placing of bombs at vital installations, religious extremists and so forth. Then why are these JI connected people are just being detained? In my view they should be in prison in the first place pending thorough investigation into their hideous activities. It is the govt that passes the bills in parliament to safeguard public interests and not to wait for something to happen then takes corrective action.