When leaders lie, people die. Leaders, especially those who are elected into office by popular vote of the people, have a mandate and moral responsibility to their supporters. Political offices are for those with a heart to serve, and to a lesser extent, a head (intelligence). The motives behind political service must be altruistic and definitely not for monetary gains. Monetary pursuit must be best left for those who have the desire to take all forms of mercenary risks in the commercial world and not in the political arena. Profit is the raison d’etre of business, whereas in political leadership, it is people’s welfare. Politics cannot be mixed with money. Of course, this is a utopian statement. The sad reality is that politics today is all about money. It is a pathetic state of affairs in political leadership. There is truism in the adage: “the only good politician is a dead one.”
The highest salaried politician in the world comes from a tiny city-state of Singapore. Many people don’t even know where it is. The Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong earned a reported UDS$2.2 million. The US President Obama trailed a long way behind at only USD$400,000. The Singapore President is largely ceremonial but has custodial powers over her sovereign wealth. He earned SGD$4.2 million (USD$3.37 million) in 2011 (yahoo). The political leadership makes no apologies for their high salaries by justifying their roles as compared with CEOs in the commercial sector. That may be so if the country is Singapore Inc., and not Republic of Singapore. While that contradicts the basic tenet of political leadership, the leaders prefer to equate running the small state as managing a commercial entity. After all Singapore’s GDP in 2013 was a mere USD$298 billion, which is much smaller than Walmart’s USD$476 billion revenue. It is probably easier than running Walmart, which has 11,000 stores in 27 countries compared with just running one tiny country. The issue had been politically explosive but given the ruling party’s absolute control over the legislative, executive and judiciary arms, the challenge by the people is of no consequence.
In 1972, US President Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal as he attempted to cover-up his involvement in a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. He was forced to resigned in disgrace. In 1998, US President Bill Clinton lied about he having illicit sexual affairs with Monica Lewinsky. Initially, Clinton vehemently denied those allegations. It was only until he was not able to evade evidence presented did Clinton eventually admit in taped grand jury testimony that he had had an “improper physical relationship” with Lewinsky. He was able to survive the misdeed and regain his leadership. American citizens are a forgiving lot. In 2004, US President George Bush lied to the world about Iraq having possession of WMD. There was no explicit evidence, but the world was convinced to believe him and British Premier Tony Blair whom George recruited to bolster his efforts to invade Iraq. With that one lie, George decimated over a million people over from 2003-2007. He lied and one million died. In August 2012, Obama delineated a “red line” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He threatened Assad to heed U.S. warnings to neither use nor move chemical or biological weapons, lest he risks crossing a “red line” and provoke a U.S. military response. Then on September 2013, succumbing to pressure, Obama backed off from his red line stance and instead, put the blame on the world instead.
“I didn’t set a red line,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference here in Stockholm. “The world set a red line.” He added, “My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America and Congress’s credibility is on the line.”
What credibility? What Obama said was worse than a lie. He further accused the world of something that was untrue. A double lie. Perhaps he believed that two lies make a truth! Yet the world applauded him and smiled. Is there anymore credibility with world leaders? These are just some of the bloopers made by prominent politicians. We can only suspect that this is the tip of the iceberg.
Back to the tiny city-state of Singapore, the citizenry is now fuming over the retention of their social security fund CPF (Central Provident Fund). As more people start aging past 55 years, they yearned to be able to receive these hard-earned CPF savings so as to retire. Unfortunately the rules for fund withdrawal appear complicated as many sees this as an attempt for the CPF board to block the withdrawals. As social media continues to raise pertinent issues, questions were asked about the low interest rate that members receive for their mandatory savings. Younger generation began pounding questions as more information surfaced about how the CPF funds were invested with little accountability to stakeholders. The governing leaders shrugged away accusations that CPF funds were siphoned to the sovereign fund Government Investment Corporation (GIC) for investment. The issue is not new, just forgotten and suppressed. In 1984, the late Dr Toh Chin Chye (a ex-Cabinet Minister), publicly declared that what CPF did was a breach of fundamental principles. The question was asked again by an opposition member of parliament Low Thia Khiang in a 2007 parliamentary sitting – if money from CPF was invested by GIC? The then Manpower Minister Ng Eng Heng emphatically denied. In the light of current revelations, it appeared that GIC did use CPF funds for investment. Had the Minister lied in parliament then? If so, why did he lie? It begs for even more answers.
Lying by politicians is common. We see world leaders lying all the time. Often, main stream media collaborate by skewed reporting as a matter of mutual interest. We must expect that lying is a modus operandi of political maneuvering. While we seek truth, honesty and integrity in political leadership, too many instances of lapses do beg for trust to be forthcoming. So what do we do when leaders lie? Smile, it is just one more!