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When the heavens opened up flooded Dunearn Road last year, Environment Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said that the flood was a freak occurence that occured “once every 50 years”. This has turned out to be an idle boast and one he will regret making especially after the wet deluge yesterday at Orchard Road.
Such hubris has become typical of the PAP through the years with ministers making claims that are often wildly off the mark. The tragedy is that they are never held accountable and things go wrong as a result.
Mr Yaacob was, of course, touting the Government’s prowess at building Singapore’s infrastructure so that floods had become a thing of the past. The Ministry of Environment even said that Orchard Road would never flood. The press chimed in, adding that the drainage system there “can empty an Olympic-sized pool before your cup of latte has time to cool.”
But yesterday’s downpour left more than just egg on faces. The shopping district was submerged in brown water and where basement shops in the entire block of the Wheelock building went missing, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
Bad as the situation was, it is not the most tragic. What is dangerous is that people believe the claims that the ministers make and they leave everything to the authorities to handle. But when tragedy strikes the ministers start to finger-point and blame everyone but themselves.
The Home Affairs Ministry has been found wanting when it comes to protecting public security and safety despite its trumpeting of doing a wonderful job. Violent crime, vice and drugs have risen at a shocking rate in recent years.
The Government’s assurance and re-assurance that everything is being done to secure the country from terrorist acts has led to a high-security terrorist suspect breaking out from his prison and an intruder breaking in to an MRT train depot.
And who can forget the “golden period” that Mr Lee Kuan Yew said that our economy was entering into when only months after we crashed into our worst recession.
Mr Lee’s were not mere words. His bullish sentiment probably led the GIC and Temasek Holdings to plunge into investments in banks like the UBS and Merrill Lynch, investments that cost us $140 billion in losses.
Then there is our former prime minister Mr Goh Chok Tong who envisioned that Singapore would play in the FIFA World Cup finals in 2010 – yes, the one that is taking place right now in South Africa. We can’t even get our S-League off the ground.
Words and actions of ministers have consequences. When these consequences come to pass, it is the people who pay for them. This is why sophisticated political systems ensure that their elected leaders are held accountable for what they say and do.
This is also why the Singapore Democrats place so much emphasis on democracy. It is the only way that we can hold our ministers responsible and take them to task when they fail to carry out what they promise.
At the very least, it would stop Mr Yaacob’s bluster that flash floods occur only once in 50 years and get him to actually do something about the drainage system to prevent future occurrences.