A few days ago, Lim Yee Hung had a post titled PM’s son’s army gaffe and why we have to worry on his blog HUNGonline. As you can see, when you click the link, the post has been removed. Its about an e-mail written by 2LT Li Hong Yi (Prime Minister’s son) to his superiors in the SAF and the Minister of Defence. You can read about that here and here.

Hung’s original post has been replaced with this: The media has run it in the press. There’s nothing here now. To those who provided me with support these few days: a big heartfelt thank you. I’m very glad it all came to light, that I was able to effect something. I frankly believe that everyone came out the better for it. But the episode is over – it’s time to move on.

Why remove the post when updating it with new information would have been enough? Was he pressured or intimidated by his employer to remove it since, according to his profile, Hung’s a journalist with the Straits Times, a pro-PAP government newspaper? If not his employer, maybe MINDEF, or some other government department or agency? I had a feeling something like this was going to happen. So I had saved Hung’s original post along with the links in the post. (See below) The other interesting (or disturbing, depending on your point of view) thing about the original post: it provides a link to another blogger who has also removed his post on the same topic.

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PM’s son’s army gaffe and why we have to worry

Read this from the HardwareZone’s forums and confirmed the story with a friend in the military. A few bloggers have blogged about it too.

2LT Lee Hong Yi, better known as PM Lee’s son, had fired off an e-mail within the military network lambasting the “quality of leadership” in the SAF to the top brass, including the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Force.

He had done it after being punished for an error that was largely not his.

What was his fault, however, was involving just about the entire military force of Singapore in this one small matter of his, by addressing the e-mail to entire battalions of people. Committed by an ordinary serviceman, the offence would have warranted a formal military charge – and in an officer’s case, his rank may be stripped.

Nothing so far (or so I hear) has been done to 2LT Lee, save that the Commanding Officer of his unit gave a speech to the entire unit the next day about “following the chain of command”.

While one might argue that the e-mail comes from the military intranet and should not have been circulated in the general public (i.e. in HardwareZone), 2LT Lee surely could not have expected the matter not to leak out when he addressed it to so many people, most of them National Servicemen rather than full-time regulars.

If you looked through the thread, what’s worrying is not the blatant abuse of family ties, by a person who is highly likely to take up an important position in our society in future.

Neither is it the fact that he is being given favourable treatment on two counts: first, the lack of punishment for his offence, and second, his pending disruption from the army (which he mentioned in the article), despite not being bonded under a government scholarship, which, as far as I know, is the only official way of obtaining disruption.

And of course, it’s definitely not the “quality of leadership” in the SAF that 2LT Lee questioned that worries me.

No, it is the perceptible sense of fear in the Hardwarezone thread where the topic was discussed. No one dared to give the full details: one had to sieve through several pages of the thread before getting the full picture. Nicknames like “Bored Dragon” and “Golden bar” were given to the persons involved. There were even warnings given by concerned forum members about the ISD and MSD surveilling the thread.

If it were in other democratic countries like the US, such an incident would have been a scandal and generated a media frenzy. Questions would be asked about his conduct and his suitability for an important position in future. The public would have a field day airing their views on his actions.

What would have been the effect? 2LT Lee would learn a painful lesson in humility, and the transparency of the government would be highlighted, because they did not shield even the son of the most important official when he had done wrong.

The resulting fire of the public would simmer and die down, and the public would have been satisfied that their views were heard and their indignation expressed. That fire would have been a cleansing one.

Instead, the entire deed is hushed up. The original thread on HardwareZone was deleted. But perhaps the worst thing of all is that the public is censoring itself. People dare not to speak up about the topic.

Instead of fire, the incident is met only with self-defeat and fear. The public has lost its voice and its own opinion, and surrendered its position as the main critic of the government. And as we know, the local media surrendered its own position a long time ago.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Governments should fear people, not the other way round.

It’s just a minor incident – after all, there’ve been worse offences committed by officers in the SAF – but it speaks of a larger, darker, and insiduous problem.

“It does not do to rely too much on silent majorities, Evey, for silence is a fragile thing…one loud noise, and it’s gone…Noise is relative to the silence preceding it – the more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap.- V, V for Vendetta

Errata: Li Hongyi does have the PSC Overseas scholarship, my bad.

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