Recently, a lot of our “paper” generals came into the news. I can’t help myself but ask, how effective our “paper” generals are?
We have been told on numerous occasion of their brilliance despite the known fact that NONE of these generals have ever been tested in any war or major armed conflict. Not that we are longing for armed conflict of any sort, but these generals’ fate were determined the moment when they are just 18 years old and on a simple thing like acing the A level examinations.
Don’t you find it ironical, that the PAP keeps telling you that degree is not important and polytechinics or even ITEs are as good, yet NONE of the generals had a polytechnic or ITE education!! This is just like in the Nisha’s “fake” degree saga when the IDA claimed that Mumbai University is a reputable university, yet none of our scholars have ever been sent there!!
Anyway, let’s not digress and come back to evaluate our “paper” generals. Over the years, we have easily more than 50 generals for an army size numbering barely 300,000. This is an obvious case of overkill!! Basically it has been a “musical-chair” exercise with everyone taking turns to take a seat. So, let’s take a good look at how well these generals have done in the management in private companies and public ministries.
First one is obviously the 3-star general Desmond Kwek who was our Chief of Defence Force (CDF). After leaving the SAF, he spent the two years wondering around in the civil service before finally taking up the hot seat at SMRT as the CEO in 2012. To me, a general should be visionary, should have great leadership quality and top in crisis management. Yet, what has changed in SMRT under the helm of this general? It is now worse than ever!! Previously, only one of the lines broke down and resources could be scrambled to alleviate the problem. We now have TWO of the major MRT lines breaking down at the same time affecting more than 250,000 commuters!! Is this progress?!
Let’s move on to another 3-star general Ng Yat Chung who was our fifth CDF. After leaving the SAF, he spent the next four years in Temasek Holdings before he was finally parachuted into NOL as the CEO in 2011. And what does he have to show for in these four years? Hundreds of millions of dollars continued to be lost. He has not once turned the company around and into the black!! This is the mark of a great leader? The rumour now is NOL is going to be offloaded. It’s another PMET out on the streets!! Welcome, Gen Ng!!
The problem does not stop with just the two of them. There is the manpower minister, Gen Tan Chuan Jin whose tenure has been marred with bus drivers going on strike and MOM’s widespread acceptance of foreign workers with degrees from degree mills!! Then, there is Minister for Home Affairs, Admiral Teo Chee Hean, whose handling of the Little India riot and population white paper has gone down extremely poor with all Singaporeans.
Sad to say no one paper general has EVER stood out in the crowd!! Well, how did this paper general started in the first place? We believe the roots can be traced back all the way to PM Lee Hsien Loong. At a tender age of just 31, he broke modern-day record to become one of the youngest generals in the world. Whether his father had any hand in this, no one will ever know and we are not bothered too. But one thing we do know is the two LEEs have very different leadership and management styles.
Lee Kuan Yew’s strong leadership is best characterized by what he said in 1984, “Everything works, whether it’s water, electricity, gas, telephone, telefaxes, it just has to work. If it doesn’t work, I want to know why, and if I am not satisfied, and I often was not, the chief goes, and I have to find another chief. Firing the chief is very simple.”
This is completely different from his son’s management style and clearly evident when LHL said in 2008, “Forcing ministers to resign is not S’pore way”. In the absence of a strong leadership, we had to tolerate mediocracy. This is like imperial China when the Emperor was surrounded by YES-men, that is the eunuchs!
Yes, though we are living in the 21st century, it feels like we are living in medieval times. Back then, aristocrats don’t resign, they were born into it. We now know that such feudal lords will not last long and will eventually be overthrown. We are a small nation. Precisely because we are small, we must not tolerate mistakes and accept mediocre ministers. If your head does not fit the hat, let’s get someone with a bigger head to wear it!
The time has come to bid these “paper” generals good bye. Vote wisely and bring us truly into the 21st century!!