The death of Lieutenant-General (LG) Ng Jui Peng on New Years Day 2020 due to pancreatic cancer have brought back an interview with the Sunday Times that Ng had before he passed on. In it, he candidly talked about life after retiring from the SAF, as its Chief of Defence Force, in 1995. Ng then went into the private sector to make a name for himself before eventually returning to semi government portfolios.
The interview is like most others before him, that of the national media deliberately going all out to portray a top government man in the best possible light. However, his quotes resonates with most average Singaporeans. The late LG Ng said, “I surely cannot be seen in my second career to be living off the Government”. In explaining his decision to enter the private sector, the late LG Ng said “the basis of the second career is that the SAF has trained and groomed a person who is of this calibre and a person of this calibre should be able to hold his own outside of the SAF, the Government and Temasek”.
Contrary to the late LG Ng beliefs and values, we have seen so many former SAF generals parachuted into cushy senior positions in government linked companies, statutory boards, stood for election and ambassadorial position etc. In those wise and strongly worded views of the late LG Ng, why are so many of our former SAF generals not seen to be able to hold their own outside of the SAF, the Government or Temasek”?
In fact, we need not look too far when paper generals such as LG Desmond Kuek screwed up big time at SMRT time and again, and LG Ng Yat Chung couldn’t turn NOL around and sold it off only for the new French owners, CMA CGM, who turned it around with a modest profits the very second year. And over at Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), SPH had to retrench staff under the leadership of LG Ng Yat Chung but he gets to keep his plum job and his fat salary.
Paper Generals who cannot lead, does not show leadership qualities and are basically useless, but still get to keep their cushy posts and huge salaries only with the help of the Government? If these guys were out in the private sector, they would probably have been sacked for such poor performances.