From ‘Former CDF dispels concerns over group-think in PAP’, 22 Aug 2015, article by Laura Elizabeth Philomin in Today
With almost a third of the Cabinet members hailing from the military, former Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Ng Chee Meng – who was today (Aug 22) formally unveiled as a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate for Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency – dispelled concerns of “group think” among the country’s political leaders.
…“All of us have unique life experiences… we all bring unique perspectives. Even while we were in the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), we speak our mind, we share our views – and the only common thing that drives us is the common desire to serve and achieve the best outcomes,” said Mr Ng, 47, who stood down as CDF earlier this week to enter the political fray.
He added: “The best way to look at group think is to first, be aware of such probabilities and possibilities, and thereafter make sure that we listen actively to differing views, consult widely from the different sectors so that we can seek out the best ideas to answer or design any solutions.”
To support Ng in his assessment of groupthink, DPM Teo Chee Hean chipped in by comparing himself to fellow SAF scholar Lim Swee Say, with whom he shared the same ‘crucible’ that is the SAF, but both having their own personalities, hence ‘same-same but different’. Whatever that means. The former CDF is stating the obvious, that people, by nature, are all different. But that doesn’t absolve one from being an accomplice to groupthink. In fact, you could have groupthink in full force exactly because of contrasting personalities.
If I’m a soft-spoken introvert and my co-worker is a loud obnoxious extrovert who makes his voice heard, the direction of any decision-making will tend to sway towards the vocal one even though my ideas are sound but I suck at pitching them, and the group will naturally take the path of least resistance, and the nail that sticks out will be hammered down. Over time, you’ll tend to deceive yourself that the result was the best possible ‘team’ solution, when it could very well turn out to be the shittiest decision ever made. One example of possible groupthink at work was when a staggering majority of PAP MPs voted Yes for the Population White Paper. It remains to be seen if the right decision was made.
I also think it’s rather premature for a candidate who hasn’t yet secured the electorate’s vote to give his two cents on policy-making. If he could explain to me the difference between a ‘probability’ and a ‘possibility’ of groupthink, I would be slightly more impressed. As a military leader you rule by fear of insubordination, and there’s barely any room for healthy, intellectual debate with all that chest-thumping, medal polishing and baton swinging. If he’d done his research he would cite teary-eyed Lim Boon Heng when questioned if groupthink exists within the PAP (‘There is no groupthink *sob*’ i.e. “I’m a living example because I opposed the casinos and cried in my sleep over it”). Nobody in the PAP accused him of crocodile tears then. You won’t expect the same outpouring of emotion from a military minister, no SIRee.
Retiring MP Inderjit Singh questioned in a lengthy Facebook post if ‘parachuting’ in so many high ranking SAF officers who are ‘cut from the same cloth’ would lead to groupthink. I don’t know, would you disagree with someone who provided you with not just a parachute bag, but a soft cushion to land on? Incidentally, Pasir Ris-Punggol was also a landing pad for one Michael Palmer. He may not have been a military man, but he sure misfired pretty bad.
So, General Ng, what colour is your parachute ?