The Straits Times
Published on Dec 19, 2012

Personal moral standards vital in leadership


IN HIS letter, Mr Simon Huang referred to the sacking of Workers' Party MP Yaw Shin Leong and the resignation of the Speaker of Parliament and People's Action Party MP Michael Palmer ("Should MPs' personal lives matter?"; last Saturday), and argued that they should have stayed in office if the personal indiscretions they committed had not affected their ability to discharge their duties.

That may be so, but there is still a link between private misbehaviour and public office as it involves one's personal integrity and the element of trust.

Failing in moral probity implies clouded judgement. Once a seed of betrayal and deception has been sown, and trust misplaced in one's personal life, especially in the sensitive area of marital infidelity, can the public expect such leaders to lead and handle more pressing national issues?

Mr Palmer's high rank as Speaker means moral indiscretions like an extramarital affair, may make him vulnerable to potential blackmail, for instance, which in turn, implies a national security threat.

Strong political leaders must set an example for the younger generation of leaders to emulate, especially in character and conduct.

Former deputy prime minister S. Rajaratnam was right when, in 1988, he said of PAP politicians: "Honesty, morality, being ashamed... are most important of all. After that do brains and ability matter."

Leaders from all political parties should expect their members to set an example by upholding fundamental values such as maintaining integrity and conduct worthy of public service.

One's reputation and the trust earned matter a lot to the public.

Ada Chan (Ms)