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Singapore

Public servants have moral authority to uphold: MPs & public

Members of the public and MPs say they are shocked by news that several public servants are involved in an on-going investigation into an online prostitution ring, including an ex-police officer and ex-principal.

SINGAPORE: Members of the public and MPs say they are shocked by news that several public servants are involved in an on-going investigation into an online prostitution ring, including an ex-police officer and ex-principal.

They said that public servants, especially those in senior positions or who work closely with minors, have a moral authority to uphold.

Hot on the heels of a recent corruption probe involving two senior civil servants, public service officers are again in the spotlight, this time, over suspected involvement with an online prostitution ring.

Public reaction has been one of dismay, especially over news that an ex-principal may be involved.

"I recognise the fact that this may be his personal life, so what he does outside school is really something between him and his family. But nevertheless, the fact is that he's leading a group of teachers who are expected to be examples, good models for our students. I think it'd be difficult for the teachers to look up to him, if there are moral flaws in his character," said Lim Biow Chuan, Government Parliamentary Committee Chair for Education.

The former principal, who's said to be 39 years old and married, resigned unexpectedly in December.

It's believed that teachers at the popular primary school were informed of his resignation, but were not told the reason for his departure.

It's understood that the new school principal told teachers not to speak to media.

One teacher who works at the school in question, said the former principal was very well liked by teachers and students, and most were "crushed" when they found out about the news.

Described as "warm" and "friendly", the former principal was also said to be a champion of student and teacher welfare, trying to alleviate their workload as much as possible.

It's understood he also pushed for sports excellence at the school, due to his love for sports.

The Education Ministry said it expects all educators to uphold high standards of professional conduct, and be a role model for the values it seeks to inculcate in students.

Responding to queries from MediaCorp, the ministry added that it takes a serious view if an officer is proven to have behaved in a way that has brought dishonour and disrepute to the education service.

School leaders and teachers who fail to uphold the professional conduct of the teaching fraternity will be subjected to disciplinary action, said the Education Ministry.

The Education Ministry said it is unable to comment on the case or respond to questions relating to the case as police investigations are on-going.

Some Singaporeans Channel NewsAsia spoke with felt civil servants have to maintain a high standard of conduct.

"I think it's morally not right and these public servants should be sacked on the spot. They make lousy role models for children of our generation," said one member of the public.

"Depends on what position (they're) holding. If they are in the Education Ministry or are senior MPs or ministers, then I think it's not appropriate," said another.

Mr Lim said he doesn't think the situation is a widespread issue. But he noted that the Education Ministry may need to review its selection process and see if there are ways to improve the appointment of top leaders in schools.

Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, Government Parliamentary Committee Chairman for Law and Home Affairs, Hri Kumar, said: "Civil servants should be expected to uphold the reputation and integrity of the civil service, and do nothing to undermine public confidence."

And while he does not think the recruitment process of public servants is flawed, he noted that "there must be a regular and robust assessment process, and disciplinary issues which surface are dealt with fairly and quickly".

In 2010, the Public Service Commission disciplined five officers for inappropriate or immoral behaviour.

According to PSC's annual report for the past five years, immoral or inappropriate behaviour was among the top three reasons for disciplinary action.

Authorities have remained tight-lipped over how many public servants are involved in the probe, or how they will be dealt with.

They said that as investigations are on-going, it is not appropriate to provide further details.

Source: CNA/cc

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