a community of singaporeans

Where is the basic common decency?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on June 12, 2007

This is filed under Letters To TOC

By Zyberzitizen

It is mindboggling, at least to me, that someone can be dismissed without being treated with very basic decency and courtesy.

Yes, I am referring to the MOE’s dismissal of poet/playwright Alfian Sa’at from his relief teacher job at a secondary school.

Since the MOE has chosen to keep mum about the reasons, even as the Straits Times and TODAY (and many many bloggers) have called for clarification, it now stands that the civil service will be perceived as being high-handed and discourteous.

Yes, discourteous.

It makes one wonder what has happened to all those years of the courtesy campaigns.

Perhaps we should have one specially for the civil and government service people.

I will not delve into the secret world of behind-the-scene manoeuvres which some have suggested took place which led to Alfian’s dismissal. Instead, I would like to ask a very basic question:

“Does the government consider it important to treat its citizens with basic common decency and courtesy and respect?”

Sure, as Koh Jie Kai have said, the MOE may not be obliged legally to offer any reasons for what they did. But if we’re all going to have to be legally bound before we act decently, then may the heavens help us!

What is immensely ironic to me is that the people who displayed such uncaring attitudes are people in the EDUCATION ministry!

So, kudos to the EDUCATION officials for teaching our kids how to act when one has power over others.

It is beholden of the government that if they publicly conduct courtesy campaigns for its citizens, and exhorts the same citizens to be “compassionate”, that they too act in the same manner.

Otherwise, they’d be guilty of hypocrisy of the highest order.

And may I humbly offer that dismissing a teacher, even though he may be just a “relief” teacher, in such a callous and non-transparent manner, is bad manners and bad attitudes unbecoming of officials of a ministry which is set out to educate our kids.

So, while we may argue about whether the sacking is justified, or whether the MOE is correct in its reasons (whatever they may be), there is no doubt that the MOE should, can and must do better.

For if they don’t, they’d be no better than “uncaring elites”.

Yes, please lets spend some money on a courtesy campaign for the officials in MOE. And while we’re at it, lets see if the MOE can “try a little kindness” too.

Or should we all wait for the next “Kindness Week”?

“In his 1996 New Year Message then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong highlighted the need for Singapore to become a gracious society by the 21st century. He emphasised that Singapore should not only continue to develop its economy, but should complement it with growth in personal development and in social behaviour.…In line with the Mr Goh’s call to build a gracious society, the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) aims to encourage Singaporeans to make a positive commitment to gracious living through simple acts of kindness in their daily activities. (Link)



8 Responses to “Where is the basic common decency?”

  1. Not right to remain silent said

    To me, it is not just discourteous.
    It is outright rude and seemingly insincere.

  2. peasantJUDGE said

    Let me hazard a guess at what happened at MOE.

    The HR Director was informed of this Alfian application. He/she was briefed on this Alfian character by the person processing the forms because he was no ordinary relief-teacher-to-be. The Ministry has just had some new boss who doesnt surf porn, and who sits in the same constituency as you-know-you.

    The HR Director faced a dilemna. He/she wants to look good to his/her new boss. This Alfian sounds a bit too clever, too outspoken, and may be a potential er…non-conforming & difficult teacher, to put it mildly. If this Alfian should make his presence felt in the Ministry system, word is going to reach the new boss, and the new boss’s BOSS. No doubt, the HR Director might lose his/her head if something like that comes to pass. Afterall, the ultimate BOSS is not someone who tolerates anyting of this sort at all.

    So the HR Director decided, okay, best move is to remove Alfian. And all future potential problem will be eradicated. His/her job is safe. He/she can look forward to that hefty salary raise coming round the corner.

    This is probably what happened.

    Or maybe worse. The new boss, sitting in his hot GRC seat with the ultimate BOSS, called that shot. Afterall, they always like to say “nip it in the butt”. Yes, butt.

  3. Daniel said

    Well said. I’m going to attend the man’s upcoming Wild Rice play. It must be a good one, for the government to care so much. Now I need to find out where to get tickets and what the play is.

  4. Yew Kwong said

    Graciousness, courtesy, kindness and caring society?

    Millions spent on such campaigns will go to waste if what we are seeing is the result of the “Better education received”.

    Yes, as a citizen of Singapore I applaud what the Ministry of Education has been doing over the years to breed a new generation of well educated Singaporeans giving everybody the equal opportunity.

    However, looking at the way things are done and policies taken in recent years, I cannot help but being very concern about the type of society that is developing around us.

    Basic courtesy such as greeting someone older appears to be a thing of the past.
    Decisions are made at a stroke of the pen. Economic benefits supercedes everything else.

    I really hope that while the Ministry of Education cannot be solely held responsible for such outcome as PARENTS must do their part, perhaps there should be a fine tuning in our education system.

    For a start, perhaps, instead of spending taxpayers monies on outings such as “Learning Journey Tours”, let’s consider having in replacement of such tours that mainly focus on cultural heritage, multiracialism etc which is taken by most students as social outings, by having SOCIAL GROOMING LESSONS such as how to behave oneself at the buffet spread, how to eat without waking the neighbourhood, how to tone down on your chatter when talking, how to wish someone senior etc. In summary a subject on SOCIAL GRACES and MANNERS.

    We do not need a nation of “INTELLIGENT IDIOTS” without a soul as this will widen the “GAP” and in time social problems will arise between the two ends of society.

    It is sad that while there are many well educated people in Singapore, the system has in the process generated an ATTITUDE problem in our society because of the elitist fever. Hence the efforts by the different Ministries to educate people on “SERVICE” has not yielded any results and worse still with the “GEMS” Campaign not too long ago, our ranking has dropped even further.

  5. Hey PJ,

    That’s a conspiracy theory! How can?? Our govt has said before that “we cannot hide what goes on in singapore”. Nonetheless, MOE keeping quiet will only fuel such theories. I truly wish they’d just come out and give us the real reason. But then again, with complete and total power over the people, they probably find it a nuisance to have to justify their actions.

  6. Numb Already said

    Talk about discourteous and uncaring…. such attitude doesn’t just prevail in the MOE… it has trickled down to the schools level. Ask most parents who have had to deal with “uncaring” school administrators, principals, vice-principals, HODs, etc. Actually, u can’t accuse these people of being discourteous! They did offer a reply! It’s the way they reply that causes many to just want to pull their hairs out! Forget about common decency if most of our civil servants are going to hide behind their standardised bureacratic replies. It’s decent that they even reply!

  7. Clarence said

    eh please lah, wa lao the govt is very busy charting growth for SG, pls dun burden them with nitty gritty ok!

    kaoz uncaring peasants!

  8. aygee said

    my thought is that govt bodies can no longer take on a 70s-80s old school, PAP-esque “we’re right and u may not like it, but this is for your own good” style of handling the public.

    All of you might notice, this is also the way many of our banks, telco operators, Starhub, SBS, and other organisations handle the public.

    The world has changed – the citizens’ mindsets have changed. People are more rational now with a lot more information. they need justification.

    So – i think there needs to be a change in mindset. In situations like these, a clued-in PR person should step in – not someone from HR who has no clue how to handle the public.

    Thus, its a call for better trained PR in all organisations.

    But then again – i think i know why MOE is keeping mum. Because all the hullabaloo is being kicked up by a vocal minority.

    Does the average HDB heartlander really care whether Alfian was dismissed unfairly or not? does the Foreign Talent community really care? Do all the foreign companies that are currently investing in Singapore, or plan to, care about it?

    All they need to do is to say that Alfian has non-mainstream orientation. They get SPH to interview a few housewives, expat soccer mothers, “Should MOE allow gay teachers to teach our children?”…. and there u have it.

    in short, the majority of singaporeans dont care.

    As for the one who made the decision to dismiss Alfian, , he/she did it to cover his/her own ass first, as suggested by many.

    Singapore and our leaders have such a strong “finger-pointing” tendency when things go wrong. Better to be safe and take care of your rice bowl, right? which brings to that discussion of working in FEAR.

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