Nobody saw it coming. It was something of a sexual nature. The allegation was admitted. And NKF's Edmund Kwok was sacked almost immediately.
Edmund is married with two children. It is said that he had committed a reportable offence against a male colleague. It was serious enough for immediate disciplinary action. Police are investigating.
The NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong in fact said this "He's one of the best CEOs I've worked with...He was a great CEO, he was always concerned about his staff. It is quite sad that he has to go because of this."
Under his helm, NKF's patient numbers grew by a third, to about 4000. His colleagues remember him as a dedicated and caring boss "who made himself accessible and available."
Edmund is also an elder at the Zion Serangoon Bible Presbyterian Church and his pastor Reverend Yap said, "We are doing our best to support Edmund and his family through this difficult period."
The president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation Venerable Seck Kwang Phing has this to say: "We have to separate a personal indiscretion from an organizational problem. If it's a personal problem that affects his behavior, I don't think this will affect donor confidence or our confidence (in the NKF)."
Lesson? Some lessons can't be taught, it has to be confronted. And what I will be writing has nothing to do with Edmund. I earnestly wish him and his family well. The man has admitted to it, most likely repented of it, and he needs his privacy with his loved ones to heal.
My point is aptly captured in a verse in Psalm which reads: "Search me, O Lord, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
The papers of late have been reporting about fathers sexually assaulting their own daughters, murders committed by friends, ex-lovers and even father and son, and respected individuals in society caught in some wholly uncharacteristic one-off criminal acts.
I wonder, what is our trigger? What would cause us to lose it completely? Is it, as Reverend Seck puts it, a personal indiscretion, something personal to us that is left un-dealt with or un-searched (as Psalm puts it), or is it circumstantial, something that becomes combustible - that is, uncontrollable regardless of our denial of it - when a particular insidious opportunity avails itself - whether through our own conscious or unconscious making/crafting?
History has shown that the infamous fall from grace happens to everyone. Pastors. Priests. Politicians. People in power, in charity, in cherished leadership. People whom others look up to, admire or emulate. No one is exempted. We are all vulnerable.
So I believe it is an insidious mix of both - personal aberration and circumstances or opportunity - that cause our fall. When the time is right, the setting is right, and the opportunity is right, we are all liable to do wrong.
Alas, it is when we feel most invulnerable that we are most vulnerable. It is when we feel most unlikely that it is most likely. Even the most self-perceived fortified mental rock wears off with time when it avails itself to the constant drops of temptation, which is harmless in isolation, but fatal by accretion.
We underestimate personal deviation and circumstantial trapdoors at our own peril by overestimating our individual resolve to keep it under wraps.
That is why as Christians we invoke Psalm often to search and guard our heart, to leave no secret chambers of our mind untouched, to offer our unconscious realms up for scrutiny, and to flee from even the slightest, fleeting shadow of temptation.
At all times, we need to be open about our weaknesses, honest about our fragility and confront our moral and mental struggles - whether it is lust, anger, sloth, greed or envy - without marginalizing or closeting them.
Let me end with what the great soul Mahatma Gandhi said: "Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart."
I guess a leader in denial is a leader who confronts everything else with great success except his own wayward heart. Cheerz.