In response to my article, PM’s son’s email saga a heartening development for Singapore, which I contributed to TheOnlineCitizen.com, a reader, Jon, asked some very pertinent questions:
1. If 2LT Li had followed the “proper channel”, what makes you think the 3rd senior officer up the chain of command will do anything?
2. Will Li Hongyi be charged if he merely sent his letters to everyone directly above him (ie, Defense Minister, CDF, CoA, Chief Signal Officer, etc)?
He recalled that there were two senior officers who were issued warning letters for not meting out the appropriate punishment when the offence was first reported to them by Li Hongyi.
These two officers were probably his OC and his unit CO (the same guy who told the whole unit the next day that they must follow the chain of command).
The “proper channels” that Mindef referred to probably would have required Hongyi to patiently go rung by rung up the ladder…CO, CSO, ACGS, COS, COA, CDF, Min. (I’m just guessing. I don’t know the hierarchy — there are probably more “crabs” and “stars” in between.)
If he waited just 3 weeks before before escalating to the next level, that’s 18 weeks before he can email the Minister. He was scheduled to disrupt very soon (he said it was his last email). So he would not have had the time to wait around.
Furthermore, 3 weeks may or may not be an appropriate length of time to wait for a response. If at any point he got impatient and decided to escalate up the issue too soon, he could have gotten charged for not following the chain of command.
So I think he would never have gotten the Lieutenant to face court martial had he not shot the email all the way up to the CDF and Minister.
Now, about the Cc list, which probably included all the enlisted men, drivers, clerks, etc in the whole unit — If he didn’t cc all of them, the letter would never have leaked, and no one would have blogged about it in the first place. In which case, there would be no public pressure on Mindef to act.
So my conclusion is that the outcome — LTA charged, OC and the other senior officer (probably the CO) warned — would not have happened if Hongyi didn’t shoot both up and down.
Perhaps this is what Hongyi himself calculated before he even sent out the email. If so, then maybe he wasn’t so brash after all.