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A Singapore’s “Alliance of Hope”: No, not with Goh Chok Tong

by Law Kim Hwee

Based on Facebook posts, there appear to be Singaporeans who are wishful of Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong doing a "Dr Mahathir" for Singaporeans to stand against the current People's Action Party in the next General Election due by 15 Jan 2021.

Let me state upfront: No! Not with Goh in the Dr Mahathir role.

It's an insult to Dr Mahathir's political charisma and recent tumultuous GE accomplishment to compare wooden (Lee Kuan Yew's adjective) Goh with him.

What do Dr Mahathir and Goh share in common that some think the latter can bring about a "new dawn" for Singapore? Two main ones, namely;

One, both share membership links with the dominant ruling political parties in their respective countries.

Two, both Dr Mahathir and Goh rose to be PMs.

Beyond the above, they diverge dramatically. And in the following key divergences lie the foundational differences that disqualify Goh for a similar Dr Mahathir role in Singapore politics:

– Dr Mahathir was always a maverick, one with a cause - and the courage. As a young politician, he penned "The Malay Dilemma", laying bare publicly his honest, uncomplimentary thoughts about "the behaviour of his own people..." Whilst Goh, from his words and actions, was, has been since resigning from cabinet, is always a PAP man. So, Dr Mahathir, a maverick. Goh, a PAP apparatchik, one of a very, very small handful enjoying his ex-ministerial multimillion $ pension.

– Dr Mahathir speaks his mind clearly, openly. Goh tries too darn hard to be sagely, with his philosophistry, his touches of ambiguous Facebook musings and posts on matters political. You know where Dr Mahathir is coming from and, as important, where he is heading. Goh, with his self-serving ambiguities, appears to hedge his bets in order to lean where the winds of change may blow - and then will he bet his place, maybe. If Dr Mahathir has been compared to a snake. Then he's a straight-shooting one. And the Malays, Indians and Chinese came out to curl around him because they all knew his yes is yes, his no, no.

– Dr Mahathir was branded a dictator and called all kinds of defamatory names. But he "never sued anybody". Says he, "the way of democracy...and in politics, of course, people will call you nasty names. That is normal." But Goh sued Tang Liang Hong, Chee Soon Juan, the New York Times etc... for libel. But when it came time for his PAP's colleague Loong, he lent total support to Lee's abuse of Parliament to try to clear the libellous "dishonourable" honorific that the latter's sister bestowed on him, instead of going to court. 

The above three differences are not exhaustive. But they tell us that Goh has not Dr Mahathir's political DNA in the seminal role required to bring about "a new dawn" for Singapore politics.

Now, let me remind Singaporeans how Goh Chok Tong gave or laid the foundations for many of what is presently wrong in Singapore;

– It was Goh who started the "asset enhancement" policy, forcing citizens to use an inordinate amount of their hard-earned savings into HDB (and also 99-year condos), depleting our retirement nest egg while filling up the state's coffers (some of which the PAP use to pay Temasek and GIC cronies million$ in salaries/bonuses with our direct/indirect CPF monies - with zero transparency or accountability).

– It was Goh who started the "mild India fever", the base policy Lee Hsien Loong replicated resulting in the Indian, Chinese, Filipinos, Westerners deluge. Many senior, middle-aged, middle-income Singaporeans are now either unemployed or under-employed, being the collateral damage of the sold-as-mild-but-secretly-executed-as-high fever of Foreign so-called Talents policy.

– Goh called Tan Cheng Bock a "close friend from school" but Bock, "after the last presidential election, he was and will be on his own". By the way, Goh voiced nary a word; neither against the rushed-through for-Malay only Presidential Election legislation nor Halimah's Indian paternal ancestry. Goh is a PAP apparatchik like no other. He probably would prefer Bock banished than his PAP lose overwhelming control.

– Finally, Goh gave himself and his ministers the once highest S$1.59 million salary and laid the foundation for the purportedly once highest gross 2008 windfall that included a staggering 20.4 months of bonus (over and above annual salary). If PAP hadn't lost a GRC, a first, in GE2011, would PAP have reduced their salaries?

It is not that Goh didn't do some good for Singapore. But that he is not the chosen one to go against the PAP. Just as he reasoned "as for Tang Liang Hong, he is not his brother", we can safely see, for all his political sophistry, that he will not hurt the PAP because PAP's dominance must supersede the longer-term interests Singapore. This, even against the self-evident truth that absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Dr M knows, understands and lives as a mamak. A maverick mamak - with a cause suited for the times - and the DNA to match. Goh sees himself as belonging to the natural aristocracy...who secretly believes that we peasant-citizens should be happy eating cakes.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Goh started the GST on 1 April 1994 as PM? Or that he was the one who started bringing untested SAF generals in the cabinet? Readers, please list more of Goh's "contributions" to most of what's wrong with Singapore today.

...But one should never say never in politics

The author of this article blogs at https://2econdsight.wordpress.com/ and can be contacted via email.