Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong seemed taken aback that his remarks about Ministers’ pay and mediocre people have drawn such stinging criticism and condemnation.
It just shows how out of touch he has been. It is probable that 10 to 15 years ago, such remarks would have gone largely unnoticed and even if noticed, would not have drawn such adverse reaction.
But we are in the age of the Internet and society has shifted and evolved since his tenure as Prime Minister 14 years ago. Then, they delighted in lording it over the people and it was always their way or the highway.
Today, there are signs that the people are dispensing with their sheep mentality and there is a newfound awakening.
It’s been almost a week since the public uproar over ESM Goh’s remarks and his colleagues have stayed away from the fray. Will PM Lee Hsien Loong come to the defence of his predecessor or will he leave Goh out in the cold?
Do not discount the latter.
But one suspects that the views expressed are not that of ESM Goh’s alone.
There have been signs that the collective leadership is still stuck in the “we know it best, we know it all” mode and are hell bent on doing it their way, disregarding public sentiment.
The shenanigans of the Elected Presidency are still resonating and #notmypresident has become an entrenched mantra.
Have they into account the overwhelming feedback that CareShield Life is too market and profit driven? Have they sensed the mood that a GST hike is uncalled for and would accelerate cost of living?
Unless push comes to shove, it is not easy to get off from the perch and comfort zone of the ivory tower.
The whole episode also shows that social media, if vigilant, reasoned and civil, can be a force to be reckoned with. News of ESM Goh’s remarks broke out on social media, The Online Citizen being among the first to jump on the bandwagon.
Mainstream media ignored it until it was left with no choice, and even then, it did not initially report the adverse public reaction.
So not only is the political leadership in an ivory tower, so too, the mainstream media which mistakenly thinks it can stay above the fray and err on the side of caution. It runs the risk of being sidelined and made redundant.
PM Lee Hsien Loong spent much of his last National Day Rally taking about the war on diabetes. He should not be short of topics for the coming rally on August 19.
ESM Goh has thrown a spanner in the works and there are many things PM Lee could address, starting with Ministers’ pay and whether low pay attracts mediocre people.