Home-grown international publisher World Scientific brings us a new book documenting the story of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s life and career entitled “Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story”
Written by Singapore Literature Prize-winning author Peh Shing Huei, and published by World Scientific, Tall Order finally gives us the other side of the story, told from Goh’s perspective which details, among other things, his relationship with the late Lee Kuan Yew who he calls his ‘mentor, master and teacher’.
The biography reveals how Singapore’s second Prime Minister rose through a combination of strength, wit and political will that even he didn’t know he had – overcoming and exceeding expectations set upon him for his ‘wooden’ communication skills and shyness – to create a political career filled with both success and humiliation.
He was the man who first made Neptune Orient Lines, Singapore’s national carrier, profitable, before entering politics. The stellar corporate stint was followed by his many novel policies and institutions that have since become household names in the country: Medisave, Total Defence, Residents’ Committee and Nominated Member of Parliament. But the highlights were counterposed by setbacks, including overseeing the People’s Action Party’s first electoral defeat after independence at the Anson by-election.
ESM Goh’s first biography was launched yesterday evening in the presence of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as Guest-Of-Honor of the book launch. Other than PM Lee, various past and current Ministers of the Singapore cabinet, top civil servants and his long-supporters at the grassroots were there to grace the event.
Initially, ESM Goh wasn’t keen on writing a memoir. At the launch, he recounted that he had not kept any diary of conversation and interactions, so the author and his team had to rely on the meticulous notes of his meetings instead. “Historians would not be bereft of materials,” he added.
ESM Goh talked about receiving a note from Lee Kuan Yew and being urged by the grassroots and his friends to tell the story of Singapore through his eyes, a sequel to Singapore’s story. Finally, after persistent persuasion, Goh relented and chose Peh Shing Huei to be the author to his biography. He also shared that he had chosen the Oei Tiong Ham Building as the venue to launch his book because he had studied in the same building.
During his speech, ESM Goh said he was not a born politician, but he was fortuante enough to be mentored by Singapore’s old guard, Lee Kuan Yew, S Rajaratnam and more. So the book not only tells the story of Singapore’s first political succession, but it also underlines the importance of political mentoring. A notion shared by PM Lee in his speech at the launch as well as he recounted how ESM Goh mentored him during his early years in politics.
There was no autograph session by Goh at the official launch as there would be another event on 21 Nov which he would be raising money for two disadvantaged groups where he would be signing the books.
Mr Max Phua, Managing Director, World Scientific, said, “This book gives Singaporeans a glimpse of Goh Chok Tong’s life and career. There are many interesting nuggets of insights and truths that we can glean from the various interactions that he has had, particularly with our former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. Shing Huei has done a great job in putting everything together in a succinct and well-written manner and World Scientific is proud to be part of this publishing effort.”
In his speech, PM Lee Hsien Long said the book was a page turner adding, “I sat down and read it in one sitting”. He went on to hint at a second volume of Tall Order.
Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story is available at all major bookstores including Kinokuniya, Times the Bookstore, MPH, Popular and retail stores at $56 (hardcover) and $37 (paperback). Check out worldscientific.com for more information about the book.