From ‘Right and honourable’ or remorseful?, 15 Dec 2012, Voices, Today
(Jupiter Seow): I am perplexed by how former Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer’s resignation is seen as honourable, when it was the only thing to do (“Palmer resignation ‘right and honourable'”; Dec 14).
I am afraid that the way he was portrayed would give the impression to our youth that if one does the correct thing after having an extramarital affair, it is honourable.
Allow me to cite the meaning of honour from Oxford Dictionary: The quality of knowing and doing what is morally right. Mr Palmer’s resignation is a form of remorse and answering to his actions, and we should not continue to harass him and the lady involved. What we should do is teach our children the correct values.
MP Amy Khor’s exact words were: ‘I think he did the right and honourable thing to resign because MPs and politicians must uphold the highest standard of integrity in personal conduct in order to earn the respect and trust and confidence of people who have elected us to represent them’. Although it does seem that the PAP is quick to diffuse Palmer’s affair with lofty praise, how would the public and fellow MPs react if he continued to fight allegations instead of quitting on the spot when he knew the game was up? Would that make him less ‘moral’?
The phrase ‘honourable resignation’ is usually a face-saving, overused figure of speech to describe, often ironically, a response to a shameful deed rather than the person resigning. In feudal Japan, blood (often your own) is spilled through hari-kiri in the name of ‘honour’ if you failed in your duty. In 2009, Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong did the ‘honourable thing’ by resigning when naked pictures of her surfaced online. More recently BBC chief George Entwistle did the ‘honourable thing’ by stepping down in the wake of the Jimmy Savile paedophilia scandal. If stepping down after doing a horrible job or having your genitals exposed for the world to see may be labelled as ‘honourable’, where does having an affair which doesn’t compromise your ability as a politician come in? If I’ve been told that this blog upsets thousands of people, can I declare shutting it down an ‘honourable’ thing to do? Just to show how banal the phrase has become, Ris Low giving up her Miss World crown has also been lauded by some as ‘the right and honourable’ thing to do.
It does appear that Palmer was left with no choice in the matter, rather than out of guilt or ‘remorse’ as the writer suggested. Some would argue if Palmer promptly sacrificing his star-studded career over a fling is even ‘correct’ , or ‘responsible’ in the first place. Shock quitting as a dead-end remedial action is also partly the fault of his own party’s holier-than-thou lambasting of WP’s Yaw Shin Leong’s scandal. Khaw Boon Wan called Yaw ‘insufficient in character’ and that he ‘misled his voters’. In order to spare his colleagues the dilemma of slamming their own, and to maintain the consistency of the party ‘walking the talk’ when it comes to a politician’s personal conduct, Palmer decided not to waste anyone’s time and called it a day. Call it honourable or irresponsible, residents have lost an MP, and one can only speculate what could have been if the PAP just minded their own business with the Yaw Shin Leong affair, instead of unwittingly raising the moral bar of their own members.
There were some hints, however, that it was getting into politics that led Palmer the dashing silver fox astray. He once lamented that there was little time for romance with wife Diane since joining politics, when their dates became monthly rather than weekly affairs (for lack of a better term). In 2010, he admitted to Cyberpioneer that he hardly had any ‘family time’ with his son. None of which are valid excuses for fooling around of course, but with the amount of social dancing that goes on during PAP functions (see the sparks fly between Palmer and Indranee Rajah below), who knows?
No word on whether Laura Ong’s resignation was ‘honourable’ or not. Though one may question PA’s ‘honour’ in exposing Palmer’s lover so quickly, whatever their ‘internal circular internal‘ reasons for doing so (why bother calling it an ‘internal circular’ then?). If there’s any other male politician getting antsy about Laura’s hurried exposure to the press and being sprayed with friendly fire, it has to be Teo Ser Luck. Someone’s life has been possibly ruined, and trust Lim Swee Say to deliver words of cold comfort in the same way as he bid a mournful farewell to Amy Cheong after axing her, about how he felt the ‘pain’ that both women were going through. You guys thrust one of your own smack right into the firing line and are now giving the verbal equivalent of a state funeral. Oh save it, please.