The Straits Times
Published on Dec 19, 2012

Infidelity: Why zero tolerance is right


THE argument that marital infidelity should not be grounds for the termination of a public office seems compelling ("Should MPs' personal lives matter?" by Mr Simon Huang; last Saturday).

It sounds even more convincing when a leader's public duties do not appear to be compromised.

The argument is predicated on the premise that marital infidelity is a private indiscretion and thus, should be assessed on a case-by-case basis vis-a-vis its impact on the public office.

But is marital infidelity merely a private indiscretion?

Marriage, in all religions as well as secularist charters, is essentially a vow between two parties made in the presence of society as represented by friends, relatives and acquaintances. In Singapore, marriage is registered by the State. In many religions, God is invoked as a witness.

An essential component of that vow is conjugal fidelity. So, the often-quoted "conjugal rights in a marriage" are actually bestowed on a married couple by society, the State and/or God following their public vow of conjugal fidelity.

From this point of view, conjugal infidelity is nothing less than a violation of that social, statutory and/or divine trust.

It follows that as the parliamentary oath requires the upholding of public trust, the violation of that social and statutory trust is grounds for the termination of a parliamentary occupation, even if that trust is broken in the privacy of the bedroom.

For that reason, the People's Action Party and the Workers' Party were right in adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards extramarital affairs.

Osman Sidek