HOLDING high public office and having extramarital affairs does not jive. It is taboo and those caught with their pants down not only appear in the morning papers for the wrong reasons, but more importantly, they lose their jobs or get demoted.
The recent incident involving the ex-director-general of health is a case in point and the Public Services Commission and Public Service Department acted swiftly.
Extramarital affairs know no bounds, where even men of religion, such as a former High Court Syariah judge in Ipoh who was removed for committing khalwat, succumb to its attraction.
Singapore's parliamentary speaker, who was recently outed for having an affair, not only resigned from his post, but resigned from his party and as a member of parliament.
What can be done to overcome the inclination of men in high public office to have affairs? Is it power, status or sheer loneliness for being up there?
The late American president John F. Kennedy admitted to British prime minister Harold Macmillan that "if he did not have a woman every three days, he would have a terrible headache" (Robert Dallek, John F. Kennedy, 2004).
Did Kennedy's compulsive womanising distract him from public business? Here's the answer: "Kennedy had little reason to believe that his philandering was an impediment to his ability to govern and lead" (ibid, pg 480)
Does sex and decision-making at the highest level have a direct correlation? Perhaps the Public Service Department's Psychology Unit should make a comprehensive study to ensure heads of departments are not involved in affairs as they damage themselves and the department.
As heads of department, they must exhibit integrity of the highest level. They must not succumb to sexual temptation.
It is easier said than done for the devil has its own way of winning the hearts and minds of a man and destroying him, especially a lonely man with money, position and power.
The best thing that heads of department can do is ensure they are always accompanied by their wives to official functions and overseas trips. Other than that, they should keep busy with work or sports and not favour pretty officers or staff at the office. As for secretaries, it is best to have a male secretary, for some of them can make tasty coffee.
Let's remember what Ernest Hemingway said: "I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."
Hassan Talib, Gombak, Selangor | firstname.lastname@example.org New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 21 December 2012