What Happened Last Week? – Them Lowly Police/SCDF/Army Scum

While the whole world was getting riled up by North Korea’s nuclear test, America’s triple/quadruple hurricane whammy, or Myanmar’s (apparent) inhumane treatment to “illegal immigrants”, Singaporeans were more concerned about a certain post made by a female undergrad to a “Confessions” website.

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By now, many people would have countered her false perspectives with facts. For example, SCDF and police officers are well-paid, so she will definitely get her posh wedding, which by the way, will still be at least 80% reimbursed by the ang pows whether the wedding is sponsored or not.

This struck a raw nerve though, not only in my heart, but with many in the public (apparently most who responded to the post were uniformed officers). Even though it was not mentioned by the girl, the fact that she highlighted “police and SCDF are low class jobs” that are even lower than the army, I can’t imagine what attitude she and her family has towards prison officers, past and present.

As much as the authorities deny it, this negative attitude towards uniformed personnel and civil servants is very much prevalent in Singapore. Whenever someone wanted to make a point about a system riddled with issues or slow responses, the civil service would be quoted. Whenever someone wanted to raise examples of people who were overpaid, civil servants were quoted. Whenever someone wanted to complain about how bad the company they were working for had become, the public sector would be quoted as a comparison.

This is very much contrary to what many people outside of Singapore perceive our civil service to be. I’ve heard many foreigners praise the efficiency, incorruptibility and integrity of the public sector. Our government embraced technology more readily than other entities in Singapore. The civil service is more serious in training of their employees than the SMEs. In fact, the public sector supported many SMEs via sub-contracting and spearheaded many advances in technology with their groundbreaking projects; before driverless cars were vogue in Silicon Valley, we had driverless trains… since 2004.

This discrimination is so prevalent that I have had bosses who would reject my proposals not by listing down the pros and cons, but by “reminding” me that I was no longer in civil service.

More personally, though, was the thought that all the personal sacrifices by the uniformed personnel do not seem to be appreciated by the members of the public, as a result from that undefined discrimination. Uniformed officers do not get to spend festivities with their loved ones all the time (I had to work on Christmas and New Year’s Day for 3 consecutive years). They even have to spend weekends at work at least once a month (for me, twice a month), be subjected to physical pain to maintain fitness and have the G scrutinise every aspect of their private lives (from credit rating to medical reports and even background checks of relatives) just to live up to their duty to the country.

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Not that enforcing NS helped. How many times have we heard that “NS is useless” and “men who went through NS don’t deserve the higher pay than their female counterparts” because “NS does not give practical job experience”? It does not matter that NS trained me to have better accounting habits than my non-NS going colleagues, or that NS taught guys leadership skills as opposed to gossiping and putting down others in the team.

But I digressed.

Interestingly, civil servants are trained to be empathetic and tolerant to extreme ideas. Most people I spoke with just brushed this off, but perhaps because they were too used to such biased treatment that they no longer felt the need to address them.

However, as a contributing member of this society, I will like every non-civil servants to start reflecting on your own underlying assumptions and closet attitudes towards the public sector. If you think you can do better, why don’t you join the service (and you get to take home the higher pay you think the incumbent is undeserving of). If you have friends or relatives who possess such incredulous perspective, why don’t you try reaching out to them and educate them on being tolerant and embrace diversity?

After all, Singapore is not made up of just employees of the private sector.

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