The question on everyone's mind is undoubtedly whether the consequences would differ were the act committed (i.e. bypassing the chain of command) by a 'normal' citizen. By normal of course I refer to one unfortunately not in the immediate nuclear family of the Godfather.
Regardless of who he is, though, what Li Hongyi has done is a resonant indication of his attitude about who he is and what he is doing.
First, the idea of approaching a Minister directly is certainly not one that comes to the mind of a 'normal' NSman. We know the consequences and the probability of being whipped inside out far outweighs the chance of exoneration. Who would do this? Perhaps someone for whom the rules of probability don't quite work the same way. Rockson says it best:
"You and me we are the hokkien peng, must diam diam, don't so hero, or else sure kena mark one, sure no canteen break one."Second, what is the difference between (1) emailing a Minister directly, and (2) emailing a Minister directly and copying the email to entire battalions for posterity? Objectively, the writer wishes to be heard. He believes his concern to be important. He wishes for transparency in the process. He is proud of his role as an informed citizen watchdog. He is bringing a fundamental flaw to everyone's attention.
I support his gesture. The appropriateness of his punishment notwithstanding, I think it was right for him to have broken the Holy Chain of Command. (I've never been one for bureaucratic mazes anyway.) However, there is a part of his email I'm particularly interested in:
"Firstly in our country we do not mitigate punishments based on past achievements, Durai was not excused despite the amount of money he helped NKF raise, and a doctor would not be excused from molestation no matter how many lives he has helped save. Secondly such mitigation is nothing more than justified corruption and no different from a criminal paying off the police to escape arrest, the very thing we fight so hard to keep out of our society."As Durai's punishment was unaffected by the huge financial success he brought to NKF (at whose expense, we shall not go into detail), perhaps Li Hongyi's punishment ought not be affected by the huge economic success his Family has brought to Singapore. Li Hongyi says it best: it would be no more than "justified corruption". It is "the very thing we fight so hard to keep out of our society". I am sure, however, that the conclusion to this episode will be an appropriate one.