29th June 2015, Monday

Minister Heng
Dear Mr Heng Swee Keat,

I refer to your post: [ LINK ]

With regards to your message in response to tragedy at Mt. Kinabalu. It cannot be more appropriate than now to send you this open letter, being the first day of a new school term, and considering how painful especially today for the parents of those 12-year old kids who had lost their lives in the tragic trekking trip at Mount Kinabalu on 5th June 2015.

Yes, it was most unfortunate. Yes, it was most painful. No words, no words can assuage the pain and hurt. Fine, you had made your appearance Fine, you had sent out your message of condolence. But does it just end there?

Technically, you may readily say that the earthquake is a natural disaster. But, can your responsibility as a Leader, as a Minister be explained away by technical terms?

What about your moral sense?

What about that moral sense that is outside the use of reason?

The lives of some 12 year old kids were cut short.

Yes, their parents signed the indemnity – but that was because they trusted the Ministry of Education, that the Ministry would recommend the best for their child. And – you are the Minister heading the Ministry of Education.

Let me post these questions to you, which as a Leader, as a Minister, you should answer, whether in your part or on behalf of your subordinates:

Can you say that you are not aware of the trip?

Can you say that you, as the head of the Ministry are not part of the approval given?

And – did you climb the mountain before giving your approval?

Have you assessed whether the climb is suitable for 12-year old kids?

Have you considered the safety factor in the case of unforeseen circumstances?

Or did you just rely on some beautiful marketing brochure from the operator to give your approval?

Or did you just leave it to the School Division while you sit behind the comfort of your desk?

Given the fact that you are a Leader, you are a Minister heading the Ministry of Education, we would expect that you would have considered these factors and that you would have the foresight to consider all factors surrounding this trekking trip.

I put it that you were part of the approval process and you had facilitated this tragic trip.

Now – comes your moral obligation: Don’t you know as a leader, as a Minister, every approval implies a responsibility, an obligation, a duty, and a moral sense that cannot be ascribed and explained in technical terms?

And as a leader, where lies your moral distinction?

Certainly not simply on your superficial message of condolence.

Moral sense fundamentally lies in sentiments, a quality that should be ascribed to a Leader.

It is the primary source of moral knowledge. Reason or reasoning is not the source of moral distinction.

What moral sense approves of is “the general calm desire of the happiness of others” (Hutcheson); and moral approval is caused if not constituted by the contemplation of a Leader without reference to his or her particular interest. This is the operation of affection, an analogical association that the pains of others are communicated to a Leader.

Reason is not sufficient to substantiate the way that morality does. As a Leader, we expect you to have this moral sense: Moral sense is the source of justifying reasons, not instilling or exciting reasons.

So, where about is your moral distinction that must come with the role of a Leader?

As a Leader, you must have the quality of moral distinction, to admit responsibilities, whether in favour or adversity; otherwise, anyone can be a leader.

Yes, as a Leader and a Minister you get the full weight of praises and pretty shots in the State media when things are favourable. Surely in the same parallel, when tragedy like this happens, which has caused the loss of lives, a message of condolence cannot suffice.

You have yet to reach a moral conclusion, for moral conclusion cannot be reached by reason alone.

I put it that you must recognize that as a Leader, as a Minister, you are bound not only by technical responsibilities – your technical responsibilities must be substantiated by a moral sense.

Your superficial message of condolence is not enough. You must substantiate it in the display of your moral sense, if you have any at all.

I am writing to you as a citizen of Singapore. as a member of the public, as a person with sense, one who shares the pain of the parents of those 12-year old kids and the families of the teachers and guides who had lost their lives in a trekking trip facilitated by your Ministry of Education, to tell you:

Your stepping down is appropriate.
Your stepping down is absolutely necessary to demonstrate to the people of Singapore that you have a moral sense.
Your stepping down will still see you having some integrity.
Your stepping down will still see you having some moral sense.
The tragedy was most unfortunate.

Your not stepping down will be even more unfortunate.

Please step down.

Ms Christina Yew, Singaporean

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