20131013 Was Ngiam Tong Dow strong armed into clarifying?

I read with concern the U-turn by ex high-flyer civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow on his comments on the government in the SMA News.

Let’s recap some points clarified by Ngiam:

1 Ministers do not speak up because of their high salaries – he clarified that this is “illogical” and “not fair”.
(this is in fact logical as all the issues currently faced by the majority of ordinary Singaporeans is probably caused by the fear of losing one’s job should one speak up. This fear is not only on the ministerial level but also pervades lower levels in the civil service. But the loss of a million dollar salary definitely outweighs every other issue. What Ngiam had said resonates with Singaporeans.)

2 PAP is “a bit too elitist” – clarified that this is not possible because they came from humble backgrounds. (PM Lee and DPM Teo did not come from humble backgrounds as well as a number of other ministers. Even though one could have come from a humble background, people do change over time especially when parachuted into top positions and seduced by power and money.)

3 Lee Kuan Yew’s reply to him on the issue of COE: “What’s wrong with collecting more money?” – Ngiam clarified that if the intent was to raise money, he would not have supported the policy and he revealed the discussion to “show Mr Lee’s openness in discussing policies…”. (Ngiam could not be suggesting that readers have misunderstood him, similar to Grace Fu. It’s a simple question easily understood by any six-year-old.)


When PM Lee says “..I hope that in retirement, he will continue to support the institutions and systems that he helped build…”, he is effectively trying to paint Ngiam into a corner.

Could ALL of Ngiam’s negative comments coincidentally need to be clarified i.e. effectively retracted? I believe Singaporeans are not stupid.

Since retirement, Ngiam has been a vocal critic of his previous employer. But the recent comments appear to be the ‘straw which may just break the camel’s back’. Understandably, PM Lee has responded instead of simply sitting on the fence as more critics will jump on the bandwagon and have a field day quoting Ngiam.

Most believe Ngiam must have been strong armed into clarifying because, coming from a person of his stature, the comments carry too much weight.

Perhaps the government would like to enlighten the public just what Lee Kuan Yew had in mind with his pointed question “What’s wrong with collecting more money?”.

Phillip Ang

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