A state’s protocol list is a simple ranking of the seniority of govt officials which will then determine who they meet, where they stand or where they sit. In our case we have the President listed as number one followed by the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and other ministers. In a way it is also the pecking order of the house and taken very seriously. Don’t mix this with the protocol list coming from Caldecot Hill where Jack Neo can be listed as the President, Mark Lee as the Prime Minister or Zoe Tay as the number one.
With the changing of the guards after the last GE, things started to look a bit complicated and messy with the stepping down of some senior ministers to become officially just an MP. As MPs, their standing in the protocol list will drop several rungs and they will no longer be in the limelight. But this may not be true in our case and how much real political power they wield could only be seen in an official function.
The National Day Celebration was the first public event to see who is the top dog and who are just members of a team. I missed this event and did not witness the changes. Then we have the swearing in of the new President and I managed to catch a few glimpses over the news. I saw MP Lim Boon Heng sitting about 15 or 20 rows behind the ministers. I tried looking for MP Mah Bow Tan and MP Wong Kan Seng but failed to locate them. Probably blocked by other guests. Now where is MP Lee Kuan Yew. I think I did not see him either.
The one that was sitting in the front row together with the senior ministers was MP Goh Chok Tong ESM. So what did it say? His ESM is real, equivalent to a senior minister. So he is a minister and not an MP. So, is he getting paid as a minister too, and carrying out duties like a minister? He is definitely being paid a pension of a minister plus his MP allowance and or ESM appointment. Those who think that he is no longer a minister and will share the protocol ranking of Tin Pei Ling will be mistaken. Boon Heng, Kan Seng and Mah Bow Tan will now rub shoulders with Tin Pei Ling and other new MPs at the National Day Parade stand. But Chok Tong ESM will still rub shoulders with ministers of his ranks.
And his picture is in the ST today, shaking hands with President Lee Myung Bak of South Korea. What would the latter be thinking? Is he shaking the hand of a minister or an MP? Or an honorary minister?
Does our new protocol list say anything about who is really the bosses in our political structure? What is the official title of LKY? Ex or former Mentor Minister or MP? Today the ST addresses him as former Prime Minister.