“It saddens me to see how Tan Cheng Bock has lost his way” – former PM Goh Chok Tong

In a Facebook post on Sunday (4 August), Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong revealed that he was saddened to see how his friend of over 60 years Tan Cheng Bock has “lost his way”.

The former Prime Minister wrote this Facebook post a day after Dr Tan, his former People’s Action Party (PAP) colleague, officially launched his Progress Singapore Party (PSP) at Swissotel Merchant Hotel.

In the post, ESM Goh said, “Tan Cheng Bock was my classmate in Raffles Institution. I have known him close for over 60 years. It saddens me to see how he has ‘lost his way’.

He added, “He is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills,” which means attacking imaginary enemies, based on an expression in the Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes.

During a press conference last month, Dr Tan harshly criticised PAP for an “erosion of transparency, independence and accountability”.

He also revealed that the “many different Singaporeans” he had spoken to during his multiple walkabouts have “expressed a desire to have a credible alternative to the current ruling party”, as they “feel that the current system is imbalanced”.

“Many are concerned that a government with an overwhelming majority in Parliament is going to fail to take in different perspectives, different ideas and just push through their policies without due consideration of sentiments from the people and longer-term consequences,” added Dr Tan, who was a popular candidate in the 2011 Presidential Election.

He also pointed out at the party launch on Saturday (3 August) that he decided to re-enter politics “for country, for people”.

If that is not all, the veteran politician also recalled how Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had asked him to join PAP before, and in return it is his turn now to ask Singaporeans to join him.

In response to this, Mr Goh said, “Ouch! (Dr Tan) omits to say that I put his name up to LKY. Surely I deserve some credit – or rather, blame – for who he has become now? ‘For Country, For People’. He has conveniently left out ‘For Me’!”

This recent post by Mr Goh is seen as the harshest he has been towards Dr Tan, who was one of the three visitors apart from his immediate family allowed to visit the former PM when he underwent surgery for prostate cancer five years ago.

At PSP’s launch party, Dr Tan noted that his party wants to lower the voting age to 18, re-look at the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between Singapore and India, and increase the country’s low fertility rate, improve its healthcare delivery system, among other points. He also urged the people to vote the party into Parliament and to get rid of the ruling party’s two-thirds majority.

One has to note that CECA was headed by ESM Goh during his term as Prime Minister who announced the decision in April 2003 to establish a group with his Indian counterpart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee to study the potential benefits for closer economic ties between the two countries, and to launch a comprehensive economic partnership agreement within one year.

Goh reasoned that this would create a strong base for Indian companies in the ASEAN (Association for Southeast Asian Nations) region and, at the same time, boost the confidence of Singapore companies interested in investing in India. After 13 rounds of negotiation held in India and Singapore, the agreement was signed on 29 June 2005.

PSP is a new political party set up by Dr Tan Cheng Bock and it received formal approval from the Registry of Societies on 28 March 2019. Dr Tan had made the application to form PSP earlier this year on 16 Jan alongside “twelve likeminded Singaporeans” including “some ex-PAP cadres”. The symbol of the party which was unveiled in April is a red palm tree.