Beyond Michael Palmer’s love affair, bigger questions loom

I haven’t yet seen a good enough reason why Michael Palmer should resign from parliament, and I have a feeling the government is going to do everything possible to prevent disclosure — if there is a good reason. And this hanging chad of a story may end up damaging our politics.

Yes, I know he has admitted that he had an affair with a officer of the People’s Association who was indirectly related to his constituency, but if having extra-marital affairs alone disqualifies one from political office, then I think we’re going down a slippery slope. Politicians should not be expected to be saints. If we narrow the qualifications for office to such throttling moralistic standards, then we deprive ourselves of possible talent.

There are enough reasons why a politician should step down, for example, for romantic affairs that create a conflict of interest, abuse of power or a breach of confidentiality. Did Palmer’s affair give rise to one of these situations? The problem at this point is that we don’t know. The People’s Action Party (PAP) has been eager to stop the story from going further than that he had a romantic affair. If there had been conflict of interest, abuse of power or breach of confidentiality, admitting so would tarnish the PAP even more, so if indeed there is something more to disclose, the PAP isn’t going to do it willingly.

But this silence would do Singapore a disservice, because it would give the impression and set a precedent that merely having an extra-marital affair is enough to demand political sacrifice. Setting such a standard would be troubling.

Maybe there is nothing more to disclose. Maybe it was nothing more than a romantic affair. If that’s it, then to have to sacrifice Michael Palmer is the sorry comeuppance for the PAP trying to make hay out of the Yaw Shin Leong affair earlier this year.

The two are not entirely comparable. In Yaw’s case, his stubbornness in not explaining his actions even when it was beginning to hurt his party indicated a serious flaw in his character. Poor political judgement, a shocking lack of communication skills and an overall lack of transparency are all reasons relevant to the job and sufficient to strike a politician down. If Yaw had said that yes he was having an affair and even if he said that he was divorcing his wife and choosing his new love, I think Singaporeans would have understood. It was his arrogant non-transparency that made him unfit for office, not that he was having an affair.

Amid our prurient interest in extra-marital affairs, it is important to make this careful distinction between a flaw, mistake or wrongdoing relevant to the job and one that isn’t.

In any case, there is at least one minister who has gone through a divorce. Palmer notwithstanding, the PAP can hardly claim to be consistent.

So what really is the story with Michael Palmer?  Does the PAP know more than they are telling? Or is there really nothing more to tell, in which case a damaging, moralistic precedent had been set.

* * * * *

A more pressing problem is the PAP’s short-sighted cowardice in maintaining that by-elections are almost entirely a matter of discretion for the prime minister. I know a court has ruled that this is the law (but is being appealed), but I’ll say this: the court is wrong and deserves all the disrepute it gets for having said what it said.

In trying to preserve maximum discretion for the executive, this government is again doing Singapore a disservice. Instead of building institutions and setting precedents that will evolve into hallowed conventions that are trusted and above politics, it would rather destroy them for its short-term tactical advantage.

If the prime minister doesn’t call a by-election immediately, we will know whether he’s an asset or a liability for us all.

In any case and as a general principle, calling and organising elections should not be left to politicians. A by-election should be automatically triggered and run by an independent elections commission once a seat falls vacant unless there is less than six months to the pre-scheduled next general election. So, going beyond the question of Punggol East constituency, Singapore needs to set up such a commission.

* * * * *

But there is one more thing about the Yaw and Palmer affairs that show up our democratic deficit. What if a member of parliament, becoming a centre of controversy with accusations more serious than romance alone, refuses to resign AND his party does not push him out? Can such a scenario arise? Yes. Imagine if a party has a razor-thin majority in parliament and is loth to lose even one member. The result of such an impasse is that we’d have a person of doubtful integrity in our legislature, maybe even in our cabinet.

Here is where a recall election (strictly speaking: a recall referendum) should be an option. If voters in that constituency manage to collect a threshold minimum of signatures, the independent election commission shall by duty-bound to organise a poll so that voters can decide whether to throw him out.

The Palmer event should make us stop and think what kind of system we have and how it can be improved. My worry is that Singaporeans get so absorbed by the details of the affair, they fail to see the larger questions it poses.




73 Responses to “Beyond Michael Palmer’s love affair, bigger questions loom”

  1. 1 None the wiser 13 December 2012 at 23:47

    Interesting piece. Though I have a different perspective for Yaw’s case. In Yaw’s case, there was no wrongdoing professionally but he was expelled by his party in order to maintain its pristine image.

    As you had mentioned, we are not sure of any professional wrong doings in Palmer’s case, if there are, that would be an even more serious matter that his party tries to conceal.

    For Yaw, could it be an obligation to follow his party’s silence on the matter that prevented him from speaking out? Of course, on the aftermath of his expulsion, he could have chosen to speak out the truth about toeing party discipline, but whose interest would it play to by speaking out against his former party? Perhaps it was to prevent a political setback for opposition politics that he kept his silence?

    In politics, there are more than it meets the eye. We are all none the wiser unless you are the person himself.

  2. 2 wong charlie 14 December 2012 at 01:47

    very good analysis and insight

  3. 3 fpc 14 December 2012 at 01:53


    yaw could explain. he chose not to because it will cause more shit to WP.

    Him running away already cause so much media attention. imagine he was to explain.


    Other than that I agree. having extra marital affairs is not cause for withdrawal from public office.

    there must be some other shit going around. Since he is lawyer, we need to check what he has done professionally,…

    • 4 Chanel 14 December 2012 at 09:55


      How could Yaw’s “explanation” cause harm to WP???

      Remember, there is little money and benefits associated with being an opposition MP. Yaw didnt hold any governmental role, so corruption isnt a possibility

  4. 5 Valentino Romanis 14 December 2012 at 05:53

    I am surprised by your tone in alleging the Court is deserving of disrepute for ruling as it did. What did you expect the Court to do? The Courts must interpret whatever Laws Parliament has enacted in the manner it was enacted. In 1965, Lee Kuan Yew decided not to follow Malaysia’s example in having by-elections within a certain time frame, and Parliament dominated by the PAP changed the Constitution to reflect that.

    There is no other way for the Court to interpret other than what parliament has prescribed, nor should it. We want our Parliament to be the maker of our Laws not the Courts. We want the Courts to be above politics.
    So I think the disrepute charge on the Courts is uncalled for. Blame it on Parliament or the PAP but leave the Courts out of it.

    We need a more independent judiciary and unwarranted criticism for doing exactly what they must do doesn’t help. We should encourage judges not criticise them.

    That said, I am in total agreement that elections should be managed by an independent commission or if the PAP owing to their superior numbers in Parliament will never agree to it, then at least a fixed time frame for by-elections to be called as you suggested should be in place, not just for SMCs but GRCs as well.

    As for recall elections, that could be quite costly, and since the Westminster system doesn’t have it, we should leave it at that. As for removing MPs who have done certain misdeeds, that power is actually there now – The House can suspend any member from its sittings or remove him altogether.

    As for wafer thin majorities, I think let’s hope to see a more level playing field, removal of obstacles in the contest itself like GRCs, electoral boundaries etc and see more proper representation (40 percent opposed the PAP but just look at the number of seats they have), before we come to this scenario.

    And finally yes, more answers are needed or more questions asked as to why Mr Palmer has resigned, the breakdown of marriage shouldn’t be an issue in this time and age, unless there was an abuse of office in that affair, or something utterly unbecoming in the MP’s conduct during that affair. Marital infidelity because a marriage has broken down or lost it’s lustre between parties, shouldn’t be the death knell to one’s service, just as is one’s sexual preference shouldn’t either.

    • 6 Chanel 14 December 2012 at 09:58

      What happened to Justice Philip Pillai after ruling that the Hougang woman need not pay cost to AGC ????

      • 7 Valentino Romanis 14 December 2012 at 17:43

        He reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. I know what you’re thinking but there have been other judges who have also retired upon reaching 65, some have stayed on for an extra year or 2, when asked to during a shortage.So nothing sinister should be viewed about this, unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise.
        In fact not many are keen to serve beyond 65, I had a friend who served under a judge and the judge did so because he felt a duty to country. He would have earned far far more in private practise than on the Bench.

        Some just want to retire, others to return to private practise and others just want to serve the minimum term (either as JCs or until 65). Perhaps there are some who enjoy being jduges for the power or prestige or whatever reason, but unless we have evidence to suggest that Justice Pillai was forced out after ruling as he did, we should take this at face value.
        And actually Justice Pillai did not rule against the Govt on the main crux of the case, only the small issue about costs. Whatever it is, the case is under appeal and out of his hands.
        But yes, he has served with distinction and we hope we can get more Judges of his calibre.

    • 8 SomeOne 14 December 2012 at 20:38

      On your point: “There is no other way for the Court to interpret other than what parliament has prescribed, nor should it. We want our Parliament to be the maker of our Laws not the Courts. We want the Courts to be above politics.”

      In that case, why bother having courts and Judges?

      I think we should abolish the courts and get rid of lawyers and save money .

      • 9 Anon k1Wq 15 December 2012 at 00:42

        Err… We have Courts to interpret Laws, and Parliament to pass them. The Courts are not supposed to change laws; This is to ensure separation of powers – Legislative (Parliament), Executive (Cabinet), and Judiciary (Court). Judges are not elected representatives of the people and hence do not have the moral authority to change laws.

        If we take your suggestion to the extreme, we might as well have a 1-man Dictatorship and we’ll save lots of money! Not sure I’d want that. Who knows whether $1 per citizen will be enough to satisfy him? 😛

    • 10 Robox 15 December 2012 at 03:43

      “We want our Parliament to be the maker of our Laws not the Courts.”

      What about laws passed in Parliament that are unconstitutional? Is there a role for the courts? (I would have appeneded “in your learned opinion: to the second question, but I am more interested in fact, not opinion.

  5. 11 Lye Khuen Way 14 December 2012 at 06:22

    Yes, you raised very relevant points.
    The ruling party was definitely in damage control mode.

    As to the by-election, yes, maybe, no that is at the whim and fancy of the PM, as pointed out, that court decision is being appealed. The judge, incidentally is being retired.

    Well, our parliamentary system is far from settled. I would even rate it primitive, considering that GRC institution of ours.

  6. 12 TCU 14 December 2012 at 07:53

    I tell you this plain & simple: PA is a can of worms.

    Here’s why. Got me thinking about how cosy the relationship is between PA employees & the MPs. It raises a lot more questions like: how close a relationship whether platonic and/or working relationship you have with an MP can further your career within the PA organization. What happens if a PA employee with very close ties to an MP resigns from PA & then works elsewhere & exploits that relationship to further monetary gains by running his/her own business or works for a company which fully exploits his relationship with all the MPs eg successful in quotations or tenders related to government projects…is there such a thing as gardening leave within the PA like those within banks for those with exceptionally close working relationship with MPs??
    I ask this question becos if you read the TNP’s expose yesterday, 13 Dec 2012, you will notice that Palmer replied to Laura Ong that he had done things for her. What things?
    And another thing that piques a lot of interest is why did Cindy Ong, sister of Laura Ong, abruptly resigned one month earlier?
    Did either one of these 2 sisters furthered each other careers within PA thru their exceptionally close relationship with the MPs they worked with?

  7. 13 David Lim 14 December 2012 at 08:14

    Great blog. Reminds me of the infamous Profumo affair in 1963 when the then British defence minister had to resign – not because he had slept with call girl Christine Keeler ( who had Soviet connections/clients) but because he had been economical with the truth about this; opening up a whole slew of issues at the height of the Cold War. So – what possible conflicts may have existed in the Palmer-Ong case? No one really knows except perhaps the parties and the PAP exco.

  8. 14 yuen 14 December 2012 at 08:24

    Does the PAP know more than they are telling? of course; Singaporeans get so absorbed by the details of the affair, they fail to see the larger questions it poses. of course again; why would anyone familiar with Singapore think otherwise?

    in the mean time, the plot thickens with information that Laura’s sister used to work Palmer’s electorate, and Laura had another boyfriend; soon people would find it too complex to understand and stop paying attention; maybe they will start thinking about the constitutional issues then??

  9. 15 SoFDMC 14 December 2012 at 08:52

    My thoughts are that both elected parties could be controlled by higher order entities that have key ‘blackmailing’ seasons where you will see politicians fall.

    Especially in the United States they will never let a politician reach higher levels unless he has mistresses or “honey traps” for them to compromise if he doesn’t do what he says. In order to push forward certain policies they make sure as a politician you have some weakness so that they can use you to do it, even if it is unpopular, of course against the populace’s wishes.

    And of course as a politician if you refuse to do their bidding they will say, ‘oh you dont want to do what we say? What about this mistress we know you have?’ and the politician knows he will be finished in 24 hours.

    Obviously insinuating that is what happens in politics here might seem far fetched to us, but we must remember the amount of things the general public isn’t allowed to know about and the massive assault on our senses through the advertizing media and obsession with sports and music idols is designed as a Circus Distracticus (from Ancient Rome’s bread and circus distractions at the Circus Maximus as the empire neared collapse) is a great place to see the depths of corruption and debauchery that the ruling elite engage in at expense of the general populace. I might not support some of the PAP policies, but I am not under any illusion that the Worker’s Party or any other opposition party will do our bidding as ultimately every country’s wealth and economic produce is controlled by an oligarchy of international bankers like Goldman Sachs that no country in the world has had a say and voted for.

  10. 16 Nic 14 December 2012 at 08:58

    I agree completely. Also, a Member of Parliament is more than just the guy running the town council. His election represents a mandate from the voters in his constituency based on the platform he ran on. Now Michael Palmer is gone, the voters in his constituency is left with political representation in our legislature. As the saying goes, no taxation without representation.

    After all, Teo Ser Luck can help to look after Punggol East constituency, but he can’t very well vote twice on the same bill in Parliament, can he?

  11. 17 Leelimsim 14 December 2012 at 09:23

    We have a very responsible government,very transparent and acted so fast and i really admired them.

    • 18 Devil 14 December 2012 at 10:23

      Do you admire them for inaction when they screw up their real job instead of their family?

    • 19 ricardo 14 December 2012 at 10:47

      Lets see if PM Lee is so transparent and responsible that he will ‘act fast’ and call a by-election. Lets hope he understands what is Democracy.

      If not, he will be simply be looking after the interests of our Lord LKY, the HoLee Family, their Ministers & friends … just as he always does, often at the cost to all who live in Singapore, especially the Poor & Disadvantaged.

      I wonder if any other Westminster Democracy leaves the choice to hold a by-election to the Glorious Leader.

    • 20 Chanel 14 December 2012 at 11:41

      They acted “fast” because there is a real possibility of a leak. The New Paper was tipped about the affair on Saturday but of course didnt publish it then

  12. 21 Chanel 14 December 2012 at 09:37

    Instead of going after Michael Palmer to seek answers to the questions Alex has raised here, the mainstream media (especially The Straits Times) strangely hound Laura Ong and her innocent boyfriend.

    The Straits Times now wnts to project the image that Palmer is a “victim”. It takes 2 to start an extramarital affair. The MSM were so gungho in going after Yaw Shing Leong, but MSM became a pusy when it comes to Palmer.

    Question on my mind is whether Palmer and PAP would have publicly announced had there been no risk of a leak. It tuns out that someone tipped The New Paper about the affair on Saturday. Of course TNP told its political master and didnt publish

    • 22 spot-on 14 December 2012 at 13:08

      you’ve hit the nail on the head. all these details being released are drawing attention away from Palmer and to Ms Ong, painting her out to be the instigator. suddenly he’s the poor victim. Something is definitely being hidden here.

  13. 23 Fear itself... 14 December 2012 at 09:55

    Besides these 7:

    wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

    We are motivated by fear. To accomplish many things because of fear.
    and that is what works the most in Singapore. Not greed.

    We fear losing
    We fear being isolated
    We fear being outcast

    We are even fearful of imaginary threats.
    We are so ill informed & uneducated that confidence and belief is absent.

    Who amongst us have the courage to stand and speak?
    Who amongst us are brave to tell the truth?
    Who amongst us?

    Alas! Tis not time yet?

  14. 24 is that Minister K Shanmugam? 14 December 2012 at 10:03

    Is that Minister K Shanmugam? The one who send you lawyer letters one or twice? Hahaa

  15. 25 Png Kiok Khng 14 December 2012 at 10:36

    Casting aside conspiracy theory, Palmer still has to resign as a consequence of extramarital affair. The affair itself is not the crux of the problem but the poor judgement exercised during his past dealings with PA in his capacity as an MP is a great concern. This vulnerability could have been exploited in more ways than one. Just because the cold war days are over does mean Singapore has ceased to be a place for espionage. Palmer’s position as Speaker of Parliament is an important that if he is being compromised, national security is at stake. This is especially so if he needs to deputise for the President.

  16. 26 faber 14 December 2012 at 10:36

    I agree with fpc that YSL did the right thing by not confessing. There are spouses and children involved if the rumours are true. Also an unborn child. He was rightly expelled and paid for all his actions or inaction. No injustice here.

    MP also did the right thing by confessing. Running away was not an option. He was the SPEAKER. And paid the price for his indiscretion.

    The issue now is whether the confession is full and not economical. And, it now runs the risk of possible further expose. So far, official statements are silent on possible conflicts or malfeasance. Just an affair.

  17. 27 skponggol 14 December 2012 at 10:52

    Another difference between Palmer’s case and and Yaw’s case: unlike Palmer who was not a top party leader and did not worked long or closely with PAP leaders, Yaw was a top party leader who had worked closely with party top hierarchy for a very long time. In fact, by giving him the important symbolic Hougang seat, the party was designating him as the future party leader.

    It reflect that WP’s leaders have very poor judgement of character on selecting a party leader despite working so closely and so long with him.

  18. 29 skponggol 14 December 2012 at 10:59

    On of the sour taste of the Yaw’s case is that, by not naming and explaining the female party members involved in the case, it dragged all the female party members (and their families) thru the mud as the public and tabloids have a good time guessing and smearing those female party members.

    However, by swiftly naming the female party involved in the Palmers’ case, though perhaps cruel and unfair to her, it has saved all the innocent female staffs (and their families) at PA all the unnecessary embarassment and unwelcome attention.

    Again, it reflect WP’s very poor crisis management skill and their utter lack of concern and empathy on their female party members / families.

  19. 30 Raymond 14 December 2012 at 11:27

    Aren’t our ministers known to ask probing questions whenever a member of the opposition is accused of wrongdong? Where’s Khaw Boon Wan? Teo Chee Hean?

    And what’s all this crap about tears from the supporters of Michael Palmer when he went to the ward to apologise and say goodbye? As an MP and a Speaker of Parliament, he’s committed a very serious offence but why is he getting so much sympathy. A wrong is a wrong is a wrong, especially from someone in his position.

    Yes, there’re many questions indeed. Did Laura get any preferential treatment from PA as a result of her association with Michael Palmer?

  20. 31 Jake 14 December 2012 at 12:05

    PM Lee’s repeat performance at dithering over a by-election negatively affects his image as a national leader. This would not only have repercussions domestically but internationally as well. Imagine what foreign leaders would make of his indecisiveness. They would probably treat Singapore less seriously given their perception of PM’s indecisiveness.

    • 32 Lye Khuen Way 15 December 2012 at 07:47

      Am afraid, the PM and his party could not care less. They believed the while world has nothing but good perceptions of Singapore and the PAP…..

  21. 33 Samba 14 December 2012 at 12:39

    We’ve had a really lusty year haven’t we?

  22. 34 Anon 7fGw 14 December 2012 at 13:21

    This is the million dollar question that needs to be answered:

    Recently, two senior civil servants were charged with receiving sexual gratification to further commercial interests. A NUS Law lecturer has also been charged with receiving sexual gratification for better grades. Ms Laura Ong was previously a People’s Association Constituency Director who worked with Mr Micheal Palmer. Mr Palmer was therefore in a position to advance the career of Ms Laura Ong. Did Mr Palmer receive sexual gratification and advance the career of Ms Laura Ong?

  23. 35 Duh 14 December 2012 at 13:31

    I think there are two issues that concern many Singaporeans over this Palmergate issue:

    i) Equality of treatment. When Yawgate was exposed, the PAP and MSM were relentless in their criticism against the poor man. Hounding him, exposing him, insinuating his dishonesty, lack of morals, letting voters in his constituency down etc etc (i.e., I didn’t realise that voters wanted a Pope to be an MP representing them, If so, they should had invited someone from the Vatican). Why now the DPM’s comments and the MSM’s rather benign coverage about giving Palmer space and not delving into the details? The details ARE important in this case.

    ii) Potential case for misuse and abuse of power and office. People have known that the PAP and PA are closely tied but now there is further reasons to believe this with Palmergate. Of interest is the highly ambiguous sms Palmer had sent to Laura saying “Or things I do for you.” What ‘things is Palmer referring to? Do these ‘things’ include breaches of trust and corruption? The DPM’s defense of not going into the details adds further speculation of foul play. Afterall, wasn’t the whole expose on the sex-for-contracts legal battle about this as well? Why now the the double standard for Palmer?

  24. 36 G 14 December 2012 at 13:32

    I take issue with your point:
    “Politicians should not be expected to be saints. If we narrow the qualifications for office to such throttling moralistic standards, then we deprive ourselves of possible talent.”

    If the man cannot handle his own physical urges, how are we to expect him to resist monetary other non-financial excesses? Yes, it is a slippery slope… IF we stop holding them up to high moral standards, not the other way round.

    Talent without morals is what trash is made of.

    • 37 Tan Kok Tim 14 December 2012 at 19:24

      Sexual impropriety of MPs and top govt officials, etc. We have been told, “When we live only to satisfy the desires of the flesh, we are nothing more than the meat on our bones. How sad, for as meat, human flesh is inferior to horse meat!”. In this fast-paced and populated tiny island of 700 sq km, how should we remain squeaky clean? Can we close our eyes to the sexual misconduct of high-profile public figures? There must be ways to help those who are vulnerable or exposed to high occupational hazards from being entrapped in difficult compromising situations with the opposite sex. Or should we take the risk and hope that it will not lead to, for example, corruption, blackmail, or possible compromising of state security, etc. It is imperative that ISD and their eyes out there in public should conduct more periodic surveillance to identify the unprincipled individuals having clandestine immoral relationship.

  25. 38 Jammie Wong 14 December 2012 at 13:50

    so, Alex, what you are saying is …there could be more than a simple “adultery” for Palmer to resign. Because if it is ‘only’ adultery, Palmer’s resignation is inconsistent with -..not PAP’s but, ..your own ethical standard.


    • 39 yawningbread 14 December 2012 at 15:29

      No, because if the standard is only adultery, there will be few people left to hold political office. Short term moralism begets a larger price to pay for the national interest.

      In any case, while I recognise the private pain that can result, what’s the big deal about adultery in the public dimension? It is NOT a crime — and there’s a reason for that.

      • 40 Tan Kok Tim 14 December 2012 at 19:26

        Many must have turned in their graves realising that many young and high-profiled people with super intelligence in or around the 40s are sowing wild oats in tiny red dot of 700 sq km [a population of some 5m people] rather indiscreetly thinking that their acts would not be discovered, seen or exposed. I hope the founding socialist values and ideals of the PAP will not be easily forgotten by the present team and future teams, but be upheld by them to stay relevant and able to continue to govern effectively.

      • 41 Jake 15 December 2012 at 12:48

        PAP themselves have forgotten the “founding socialist values” you spoke of. Now anything remotely pro-people is labelled under their collective wisdom as “populist”. Asking profitable companies to shoulder the load of salary increases instead of passing the costs to people is “populist”, so said Minister Lui.

  26. 42 Commentator 14 December 2012 at 15:20

    You must understand the politics behind the matter. Michael Palmer was the person to announce Yaw Shin Leong’s expulsion from the Workers party in Parliament. If he does not resign, he would be called a hypocrite. Further, Many of the Ministers were quick to capitalize on the Workers party for Yaw’s mistake. Michael Palmer has made these Ministers slap themselves on the face by his actions. You cannot expect him to keep his job.

  27. 43 K Das 14 December 2012 at 16:04

    In highlighting a court’s apparent ruling that by-elections are almost entirely a matter of discretion for the prime minister, Alex wrote: “I know a court has ruled that this is the law (but is being appealed), but I’ll say this: the court is wrong and deserves all the disrepute it gets for having said what it said.”

    I can’t agree more. If law is a simple process of interpreting the operating words, formally, simply and literally, you don’t require judges to do this job. Any average educated man can do this. It has to be scrupulously scrutinised and studied taking into view several factors like the exact text, its legal meaning, the intent and the spirit of it, precedents, international norms, relevance of the time, the progressive evolution of laws and the contextual nature of the case.

    I get goose bumps whenever I read rulings and judgments like ‘one man standing constitutes an illegal assembly’ and ‘unlawful people being in a polling station is not unlawful’.

    It is reported that Palmer’s infidelity dates back to at least one year, which means there is more to it than what we are made to believe. A picture can tell thousand words and I saw the photograph in the press showing Palmer seated worried, docile and timid next to DPM Teo as though he is under the latter’s leash.

    The argument that having a sexual affair is a common human failing and therefore we cannot expect our MPs and Ministers not to fall prey to this weakness is not tenable. As a leader of the people, you have to set an example by having and maintaining high moral and ethical standards in behaviour and conduct. Don’t let greed, power, position and perks blind you. If you have an on-going affair or seduced into one, for heaven’s sake, just resign before others find out resulting in you being booted out with public shame. What is so difficult about this? Hoping it to be concealed is an added calumny to one’s character.

    • 44 Valentino Romanis 14 December 2012 at 21:36

      Let’s not tar every case with the same brush. We are talking about Justice Pillai’s decision. Was it wrong or did he just look squarely at was placed before him in the constitutional amendments/ [sorry something wrong with my shift button, so I can’t seem to type question marks – so a / means that]
      You seem a bit contradictory, on the 1 hand you want a judge to look at the exact meaning and spirit of enactment [by parliament] and on the other call for ‘international norms’, relevance of time etc. Of course the contextual nature of the case has to have some bearing as you further point out.

      Before we go further, we have to decide firstly whether we want the courts or parliament to make laws. I think all reasonable persons would definitely go for the latter. The Courts shouldn’t decide what Laws to make or approve, unless it’s a wrong law. Here parliament has squarely decided through legal means to change the constitution and give discretion entirely to the PM.

      • 45 Valentino Romanis 14 December 2012 at 22:04

        So if Justice Pillai ruled otherwise, he would be going against the principle of separation of powers, that only the legislature is entitled to make a law or amend it.
        Worse if he used international norms in this case, which incidentally would against the concept of contextuality, as he would be ignoring the latter in favour of the former and stating that Singapore was duty bound to follow other countries methods in making its’ own laws, denying its legislature the independence and power to do so.

        I’m afraid we can’t blame the judge for this ruling, his hands were tied by his oath to uphold the law – a law that gives parliament the power to make and alter laws. Not that I agree with this amendment, far from it, I oppose it, but similarly I do not want judges to start deciding which laws they want to adhere and which they want to ignore. I want them to judge cases independently without fear or favour according to the law.

        What I rather prefer is parliament to make sound laws that express the will of the people, not become the rubber stamp of the PAP and make laws that perpetuate their hold on power without regard to the people’s wishes.

        It’s coming to almost 50 years of independence, and even longer – the dominance of the PAP. But instead of going through all the past once again, let’s instead look to the future. Some laws made then for whatever reason, let’s leave it at that, instead let’s see whether they are relevant now in modern Singapore. No by-elections may have been a good idea in 1965, but is it just as good now/ I don’t think so. Plus given their dominance in the House we are powerless [in this case even the courts], to stop them from implementing whatever laws that would inevitably benefit them and them alone.

        It’s high time to relook the constitution and to take in modern Singapore views on our basic rights and amend them accordingly. A new and independently voted constituent assembly should be assembled to study this and make recommendations that should be voted on, in the form a referendum. Once a new Constitution is decided, a law must be made to protect it from being amended at will by any party for its’ own benefit. Any change to certain portions like elections should only be allowed after approved by a referendum of all the people. This referendums can easily be put in place during a GE, like they do in the USA, where questions are also put on the ballot paper during elections.

        In closing, i do not blame the judge for his ruling, he was bound to follow his oath and recognise parliament’s ability to make and change laws. Instead it’s high time people start looking at these things and decide if it’s really very good to give 1 party unfettered power to do as they please. Is it correct to give them a blank check and only be allowed some token ability every 5 years, where during the heat of an election campaign, issues like these are secondary to more pressing urgent needs like jobs, housing etc. All talk of transparency is meaningless if the people have no power in determining their elected representatives, in a level playing field that gives every party [or person] an equal chance in being voted in.

  28. 46 mike tan 14 December 2012 at 17:07

    We are watching Main Stream Media tearing Laura into pieces now .ie as i write.

    She’s the lusty witch !
    Poor Palmer the victim who every in his SMC love !

    : (

  29. 47 Duh 14 December 2012 at 17:45

    It’s amazing how many people here subscribe to the same logic espoused by the PAP on how if a person commits morally indiscreet acts, s/he has questionable integrity as a political leader. The concept that people are all-or-none moral and ethical agents over all dimensions of their lives is naive and simplistic at best. That is, if a person commits a morally indiscreet act, s/he will likely cheat, lie or perform other morally indiscreet acts – human motivation does not work this way. History is rife with examples of well-known political figures who are revered as such but had moral indiscretions in their personal sexual/romantic lives. Bill Clinton, the ex-president of the US and also, Sun Yat Sen – the Father of Modern China.

    Sun Yat Sen married one of the Soong sisters in Japan without divorcing his first wife in China. What does that tell you about his respect for women’s rights? Not very modern given a person with a Western education and a baptised Christian isn’t it? If people had the same ridiculous moral benchmark as some Singaporeans and the PAP, I guess political leaders like SYS will never had made their mark in the political arena. I would envision a guess that there will be no eligible candidates to be politicians because no one is morally spotless – not even Catholic priests and their young male proteges.

    People who support such ideas have simplistic notions of human behaviour regurgitated from PAP propaganda used to justify PAP’s ridiculous salaries. How unimaginative to swallow and spit these arguments without much thought and analysis. Ah, the wonders of a model answer educational system in Singapore.

  30. 48 Authority 14 December 2012 at 17:48

    The grassroots organisations and association work in mysterious ways. Almost every grassroots leader or association worker has a vested interest. The network of businesses owned by family and husbands serve across constituencies to avoid easy connection .From grassroots event caterings, souvenirs, banners or even cleaning services, everyone is getting a share of the pie. To say it simply, membership has its privileges. Coincidently did someone mention that the ex-husband had a roller blading company and souvenir business. How convenient.

  31. 49 Alan 14 December 2012 at 19:17

    Now we read from the MSM that Laura is the one who is flirting with 2 persons at the same time. And then on the other hand the papers are also quoting her friends & colleagues as saying that she is such a nice person.

    Why then paint her as a two-timing flirt then ? On the other hand, why our DPM need to insist that no need to dealt with the details about Palmer’s affair then ?

    Why can’t our PAP leaders be more realistic ? If you are fucking the same spouse for a certain no. of years, how can anyone tahan not looking for new excitement ? You mean to say all our PAP leaders will be fucking only their wives for 30 years or so ?

    • 50 Saycheese 15 December 2012 at 02:10

      I would think so otherwise why should we entertain LHL’s insistence on sky high pay? The pay of POTUS is so much lower such that the American public can forgive Bill Clinton. But having paid through our noses, the 60.1% screwed us by voting in idiots from GRCs into government.

  32. 51 Tan Kok Tim 14 December 2012 at 19:29

    Many politicians have reacted to the resignation reasonably well. It is: politically speaking. Politicians speak politically all the time. But not all are able to do so with a straight face and not be caught with mouth wide open by being overly frank to a fault. There is always the correct time and space to utter this or that in public. But not all politicians have the maturity of mind or political experience and acumen concerning time and space to hold back their horses as there could be sensitivity in what they say at the wrong time and place. Politicians have to pay the price when face with a ground-swell of public opinion reacting unfavourably to their utterances in public. I hope many politicians will know how to hold their ground well as MPs or ministers and not be caught red faced.

  33. 52 Tan Kok Tim 14 December 2012 at 19:43

    Strictly politics at work when one is down, one is out. Some of them have to re-read the Art of War by Sun Tsu. Even while in high office, those sowing wild oats need this Art of War and Deception to stay undiscovered. But some were caught with pants down due to failing to follow the Art.

  34. 53 yuen 14 December 2012 at 19:50

    taking up your point “if the standard is only adultery, there will be few people left to hold political office” – I cant say about people in general, but feel quite sure that most of my academic colleagues in the NUS department I worked in have not had affairs, and none got divorced during the 28 years I worked there; perhaps we were too dull and cautious; perhaps our lifestyle did not give us opportunities to meet people in a sexually charged atmosphere.

    For people in my age bracket in particular, sexual freedom simply passed us by; during the years when we were struggling to move up the career ladder, affairs and divorces could be very damaging to work and social life; by the time that phase was over, we were too old to get attractive partners easily; in short, moral issues aside, the cost benefit calculation favoured monogamy;

    since the older members of the cabinet are somewhat near that age bracket, I would guess their experiences would have been similar

    • 54 yawningbread 14 December 2012 at 22:29

      “None got divorced” is not the same as none had extra-marital affairs. And if they did, would they be telling the world?

      • 55 Spectator 15 December 2012 at 10:16

        I agree with yawningbread. I don’t thats a far comment to say that no divorce means none has affairs. I don’t think they will really tell you about all these things. In the past there were no such thing as the internet.So you mean the NUS department people are ‘angels’ then. Do remember that even thinking, imagining or watching the opposite sex also constitute a sin if you do know. So do not make it sound like your department is so pure and clean. IF things really do happen last time, the mouths just needs to be shut and life goes on. But now with technology, the things have changed. Information gets around faster and if you are in the public eye it’s even faster. Love is such a wonderful thing yet at the same time a fearful one. Emotions sometimes can or cannot be managed well depends on what happens at home or at work. Most importantly is that we do our best to manage it well.

    • 56 Duh 15 December 2012 at 00:50

      Your argument is fallacious – argument from ignorance ( There are. Of course they don’t go trumpeting around with a placard round their necks announcing their affairs with other colleagues, or even *gasp* students. Yes, you heard me, undergraduates. I do know of such cases. That much publicized NUS law professor sex-for-grades case was not the only one.

      AND I have not even started talking about sexual harassment cases by NUS academics. Oh, you thought there aren’t any as well? LOL

      • 57 yuen 15 December 2012 at 18:03

        maybe you guys have not read what I said carefully

        –I feel quite sure that -most- of my academic colleagues in the NUS department I worked in have not had affairs, and none got divorced during the 28 years I worked there–

        it is so easy to speculate and make innuendos; I at least base my views on actual observation, limited as it might be

        I dont think amorous secrets are so easy to keep; I often heard people in the department gossip about this or that male staff member having too many visits from young females (no gossip about women staff member ever came to my ears); there is no need to advertise; however, usually such gossip amounted to little, and did not affect my belief that -most- of my colleagues did not have affairs

      • 58 Tan Kok Tim 15 December 2012 at 21:02

        Let the people decide with their votes at the BE on Palmer’s political fate. It will be one of the tests to see whether our modern society has really changed for Singaporeans to accept and vote in a person who has cheated on his wife and have made a grave error of judgement in having an illicit sexual affair while in office as Speaker of Parliament. It will be a good test.

      • 59 Duh 16 December 2012 at 00:46

        yuen, clearly you still do not understand why argument from ignorance is a fallacy (wrong argument) and I do not want to go at length to lecture you on this.

        But get this – it is wrong to argue that ‘I do not know of any affairs and divorces in my department, hence there are none’. Period. You are stubbornly sticking to this type of argument that just doesn’t hold water.

        I have never actually seen Pluto too (except in pictures) so I should conclude that it does not exist? See the same pattern of argument?

      • 60 yuen 16 December 2012 at 16:54

        the argument is more apt the other way: what evidence do you guys have that -most- people have had affairs? this is the implied by “if that’s the criterion, few people are qualified for elected office”; maybe you can tell me how prevalent affairs are among your friends, neighbours, relatives and colleagues, and how do you know about these

      • 61 Duh 20 December 2012 at 01:52

        yuen, pls re-read all my posts – I said that there are affairs among academics when did I say that MOST academics have affairs?

        The problem I pointed out was YOUR fallacious argument from ignorance that you love to use (even with your latest post – showing a stubborn streak to not learn). Just bcos one cannot prove to one’s limited knowledge whether most academics have affairs it does not imply that most academics DO NOT have affairs. Just bcos I do not know whether MOST academics have affairs doesn’t mean that they DON’T. The fallacy stems from limitation of human experience (unless you are an omniscient deity?). One simply CANNOT argue about reality (what exists and does not exists in the world around us) from one’s own personal experience of things. That’s why Science has replication and validation from various multiple sources.

        For crying out loud yuen… This is starting to sound like a broken record (i.e., repeating the same thing over and over again to you).

        The argument I gave was that if humans were all-or-none ethical agents then few would qualify for political office. By ‘all-or-none ethical agents’ I meant that IF one person commit ANY SINGLE IMMORAL act (be it sexual or theft or whatever) then that person is totally IMMORAL on all dimensions of his/her life. For example, if Mr. X cheats on his wife, then he cheats on EVERY OTHER THING in his life as well (e.g., card games, social conversations). THAT was my argument – you also have reading comprehension problems as well. /sigh

      • 62 yawningbread 20 December 2012 at 11:45

        Here are the stats:

        Over a six-year period from 2006 to 2011, there were 149,970 marriages in Singapore. Over the same period there were 43,370 divorces — that’s about 28.9% of marriages.

        Of course, adultery is not the only reason that leads to divorce — so one may say the above figures overstate the incidence of extra-marital affairs. But it’s probably a very common reason. On the other hand, extra-marital affairs may be forgiven and not lead to divorce — so the above figures may understate the incidence of extra-marital affairs.

        Still, the figures give us a picture that extra-marital affairs are common.


      • 63 yuen 20 December 2012 at 13:06

        do remember that the discussion started with “if not having affairs is the criterion, few people are qualified for elected office”, implying that few people have not had affairs, for which concrete evidence is lacking; if the rate of divorce is a useful indicator of adultery, then the lack of divorce among my colleagues is a useful indicator of low adultery

        since Duh says “Science has replication and validation from various multiple sources.” he can start by applying it to a sample of his friends, neighbours, relatives and colleagues to determine how prevalent adultery is among them

  35. 64 Tan Kok Tim 14 December 2012 at 20:13

    Some disagreed that he should have resigned.

    Should there be a BE, Palmer should stand as an independent and let the people of Ponggol decide.

  36. 65 Francis 15 December 2012 at 14:44

    You have not touch on the mass media fixation that there were no signs of corrupt act despite close work relation between those 2.

  37. 66 123456 15 December 2012 at 21:08

    You are quite wrong to say that about Michael Palmer’s actions.

    “Political figures owe us their living; they derive their pay, their parliamentary privilege, their prerogative of office and their status directly from their constituency’s mandate. Palmer advocated public entrustment of these powers unto himself on the basis that he would serve as an adequate leader and representative to his fellow citizens.

    He has broken that (un)spoken pact.
    He has compromised his own reliability.
    He has sown doubt into the people who expected him to behave in a manner more appropriate for a representative of our Nation.

    His right to privacy comes secondary to the public interest.
    If he can’t remain faithful to his wife- with whom he undoubtedly shares an emotional and personal connection- then how can he be expected to remain loyal to nation and fatherland; abstract concepts too often wrongly construed and even ignored. If the people have no right of say in examining and balancing the excesses of the people who carry the most risk in guiding the Republic forward, then who does? Intra-party strife in chamber can only go so far, and the fact that his affair has gone unnoticed for so long points to said former-MP’s own reluctance to come clean without adequate pressure.” -Panzerjäger Fitz

    True, talent is crucial for the selection of governance. However, morals and ethics come before it, for they are the necessary requirements that display the fundamental principles in the service of leadership. Trust, loyalty, faith…ALL can be easily breached by just ONE act, that’s how serious politics can matter. I found it rather appalling for you to say moral standards as troubling or narrowed.

    And besides, Michael Palmer came out with the announcement of his own accord. The initiative was all his, and no comparison can be made with the freedom with which he acted and the earlier YSL scandal.He did it out of his own conscience, because he knows that before he was a politician, he is a human, and a husband at best. No matter how much political talent a person has, he is nothing without virtue. An ignorant fool at best.

  38. 67 walkie talkie 18 December 2012 at 10:37

    I refer to this comment:

    “If he can’t remain faithful to his wife- with whom he undoubtedly shares an emotional and personal connection- then how can he be expected to remain loyal to nation and fatherland;…True, talent is crucial for the selection of governance. However, morals and ethics come before it, for they are the necessary requirements that display the fundamental principles in the service of leadership.”

    Why must the so-called sexual morality of the conservatives be the correct moral standard to use? There is no rational arguments that can show sexual exclusiveness per se to be moral while sexual-openness per se is not.

    Both can be moral and both can be immoral. In fact, if one were to think carefully on what is morality, then what is moral or immoral has nothing to do with whether a married couple have sex with others outside their marriage.

    People commonly assumed their own personal so-called moral codes are the correct criteria that everyone else should adopt.

    This is not to say there is no universal morality. There is. But a married person having sex with others happens not to be an issue within the category of morality if one were to understand morality clearly. Often people assumed their own personal codes of conduct to be equivalent to morality and then when another person do not follow their personal codes of conduct, they then label that person as immoral.

    • 68 T 18 December 2012 at 18:11

      It is interesting to see how Alex and several respondents propose that the presence of extra-marital affairs in itself should have no bearing on whether “guilty” politicians remain in office. Leaving aside moral considerations for the moment, such discourse can inadvertently perpetuate (unequal) patriarchal relations whereby adultery, as a phenomenon in which women are more likely than men to be victims of, loses its significance in the discussion of ethical politics. Subsequently, opportunities are lost in questioning the (gendered) assumptions of both liberals and conservatives when it comes to associations between private conduct and competence in professional/public duties.

      Beyond issues of gender however, there could be more attention paid to how national policies and state-controlled mass media practices may vary according to the election cycle. One example of this is the current “National Conversation” in process. Through public (and publicized) consultations with ordinary citizens, the Government could be trying to extract novel methods of framing socio-political issues in ways that are favorable to its interests/ideologies and which resonate with many people for the first third of the 2011-2016 cycle. This is regardless of whether endeavors like the “National Conversation” will translate into actual, appropriate and effective policies on the ground.

      On a broader level for local critical commentary, such national exercises and their diffused, varied effects on and across Singaporeans are often a neglected area of analysis, understandably so due to the sheer complexity involved. Paralleling this trend however, the tendency to be critical of national affairs primarily according to one’s own political ideals, admirable it may be in its level of scrutiny and discernment, can neglect a) how others may view a particular issue differently and b) how others view one’s perspective on that issue. In other words, the critical liberal may just be as guilty as the conservative in not fully appreciating the dynamics of a pluralist society, with this having debilitating effects on translating critical analysis into productive social change.

    • 69 Anonymous 19 December 2012 at 18:44

      What is morality then? Or rather, what is true morality then?

  39. 70 Kthemc 18 December 2012 at 15:49

    The affair must have been about to be exposed and pap wanted to above reproach by making sure palmer resigned. After all yaw of wp was given such a hard time and resigned. In other countries politicians can retain office if the affair did not result in something really bad like leaked military secrets .

  40. 71 Anon w0tt 18 December 2012 at 22:59

    YSL’s disappearance protected the purported lady and her family. MP’s “confession” with PA’s “public interest” declaration of the identity of the lady in question left her hung out to dry. Which lady would you prefer to be?

  41. 72 What goes round comes round 24 December 2012 at 11:17

    Is this Karma at work again ? When Yaw Shin Leong resigned, it was Michael Palmer who did the “announcement” of the vacated seat in parliament. Now the announcer has become the subject of the announcement ! Bet the next person who is assigned to do the announcement re Michael Palmer will be trembling in his pants now…….

  42. 73 wikigam 30 December 2012 at 23:19

    My summary conclusion is ” Do not join political (as MP etc) if you are prepare to be a nice guy”.

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