Iron & Compassion

Trigger Warning: Includes mentions of suicide and sexual assault.
Why were Pritam and the leadership so vague with the instructions to Raeesah? They said it was because they were worried about her well-being. She revealed she was raped (exact word used). Pritam thought her well-being was priority, and gave her space to square things with her parents, then tell the truth in parliament.
WP Raeesah Press Conference
He thought his instructions were clear, but events turned out very differently. Pritam conceded he could have been more direct in hindsight during the hearing.
If you are/were a WP supporter, it must be frustrating to watch things come to light in the hearing. If only any of the WP leaders had just communicated, in clear precise terms, for Raeesah to stop lying.

Leaders must have “that iron” LKY said

I sympathise with Pritam. It’s not easy to be an opposition member in Singapore. And it’s probably one thousand times more difficult to be its leader. Pritam had to contend with important issues such as the FICA and CECA debate while dealing with a delinquent Raeesah.
But there’re no excuses. As the leader of the opposition, Pritam should have expected to face challenges like this. As LKY put it, “Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him”. If Pritam wants WP to one day, become the government of SG, he must quickly find “that iron”.

Communicating clearly with compassion and iron

WP leaders built a narrative that because they were concerned about Raeesah’s well-being, so perhaps instructions were unclear and WP dragged its feet
But why must “compassion” and “clarity in instructions” be mutually exclusive choices in any situation? It’s a fallacy. WP leaders could and should show compassion, but at the same time, clearly lay down to Raeesah what needs to be done to make things right.

We must not divorce compassion from leadership though

The tragedy of Teh Cheang Wan keeps coming to my mind throughout this episode. He was the Minister for National Development in 1986 under LKY, when he was investigated for corruption. Though Teh maintained his innocence, he committed suicide before being charged for the offences, on December 14.
I can only imagine what despair he must have felt, and what mental state he was in, that drove him to this. Could the tragedy be avoided? What if the leaders then showed him similar levels of compassion as the WP leaders to Raeesah?
To be clear, I’m not blaming then leaders for his suicide. Neither am I implying that Teh and Raeesah are the same. Teh contributed to Singapore’s nation building efforts. Raeesah made twitter posts accusing the police of racism. The accusations against them are also very different.
The point I’m trying to make, is that any situation has the potential to end very poorly, such as in Teh’s story. Compassion cannot be undervalued. And while condemning WP, we should also commend them for protecting the well-being of its members.

Did Raeesah abuse WP’s compassion?

Raeesah Parliament Speech
Raeesah cannot avoid the spotlight while we discuss this. While much of this is self sabotage by the WP, one should also ask if Raeesah wilfully misunderstood the instructions to try and turn things in her favour.
For example, Raeesah has shown in the evidence that she has a tenuous relationship with the truth. She invented words such as “take the truth to the grave” in messages to her aides. She took the unclear instructions to her advantage, and twisted it to fit her own narrative.
Communication goes both ways. If someone wilfully and intentionally wants to misunderstand the instructions, then is it the superiors’ fault for not communicating better?

In the end, leadership is not for the faint hearted

Again I sympathise with the plight that WP is in now. With social media, every single action is mercilessly analysed and very mistake memed. I’m sure more information will also come to light in the future.
But WP needs to confront what its identity is going to be, and what exactly does it stand for. We don’t just vote in leaders because of their ability to show compassion and protect party members.
Parliamentary responsibilities, integrity, decisiveness are some of the things that voters are looking for, but will not find in the way WP handled the Raeesah incident.
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Tidbits from Pritam's Second 15th Dec COP hearing
Tidbits from Raeesah's 22nd Dec COP hearing