Source: National Archives.

Tale of two RI classmates who joined PAP

At the launch of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on Sat (3 Aug), Dr Tan Cheng Bok, who had said that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has lost its way, teared up when he said he re-entered politics “for country, for people”. Recounting the time when Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew invited him to join the PAP, Dr Tan said it was now his turn to ask Singaporeans to join him.

Yesterday (4 Aug), ESM Goh Chok Tong decided to post a message on his Facebook page taking a dig at what Dr Tan Cheng Bok said at the PSP launch.

“Tan Cheng Bock says that Lee Kuan Yew invited him to join the PAP. Ouch! He 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?” Goh wrote.

“‘For Country, For People’. He has conveniently left out ‘For Me’!” exclaimed Goh.

“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 is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.”

Goh’s comment on Dr Tan, seems to suggest that the ESM was trying to “get back” at Dr Tan for saying that “PAP has lost its way”.

And while it may be true that it was Goh who introduced Dr Tan to Lee Kuan Yew but surely everyone knows that it would be up to Mr Lee, as then Secretary-General of PAP to decide if Dr Tan should be invited to join the PAP? At the point where Dr Tan entered PAP, Goh was just the Senior Minister of State for Finance. So what Dr Tan said was not wrong.

Both invited to join PAP but care for different things

Goh himself, was of course invited to join the PAP by Mr Lee earlier and was voted into Parliament as MP for Marine Parade Single Member Constituency in GE 1976. Dr Tan entered into politics the following GE in 1980, and was voted in as MP for Ayer Rajah Single Member Constituency.

Even though both men joined the PAP, they seem to care for different things.

Even as a member of PAP years ago, Dr Tan would like to see more oppositions in Parliament as it was heavily lopsided and was not healthy for Singapore in the long run.

For example, at a Parliamentary sitting on 29 Jul 1988, Dr Tan as MP asked then First DPM Goh whether the Government recognised the desire of Singaporeans to have an opposition in Parliament even though they might want PAP to be in-charge of the Government.

Dr Tan also questioned if the Town Council scheme would frustrate this desire as voters might be reluctant to vote in opposition MPs whose administrative skills might still be untested.

Goh, on the other hand, was less forgiving when dealing with members of opposition. In 1997 after the elections, he together with others sued opposition candidate Tang Liang Hong for defamation. They accused Tang of making statements during the election campaign which falsely questioned their integrity.

In the Particulars of the Statement of Claim served on 21 July 1997, the late Lee Kuan Yew conceded for the first time that he and ESM Goh Chok Tong had procured the release of the police reports. The ESM Goh made a similar admission in an affidavit he swore in August 1997.

In defence of the allegations, Mr Tang’s lawyer George Carmen’s statement to the High Court pointed out the ‘fundamental error in the case’. He noted that while under oath, PM Goh has admitted in Court that he has authorised Mr Lee Kuan Yew to release Mr Tang’s police reports to The New Paper, which led to the basis of defamation by the PAP MPs.

At 79, Dr Tan is still trying to make himself useful to Singapore, fighting for his beliefs despite challenges and potential financial cost to him. Meanwhile, Goh at 78, continues to insult people who support alternative causes.