by Yoong Siew Wah
It emerges like an Agatha Christy’s sensational novel on the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.
When presidential hopeful Tharman Shamugaranam was lamenting the lack of a contestant, divinity seemed to respond by parachuting a most unimaginable omnipotent contestant in the person of the personable charitable George Goh Ching Wah.
To many people, this was the first time that they had heard of this philanthropic entrepreneur who came from a humble beginning. His rags-to-riches story is so colourfully portrayed that it is hard to believe that he had undergone such unimaginable hardships to eke out a living in his young days. He could not have received even basic education.
What inspired him to come out to contest the presidential election is a reflection of the man’s altruistic character. The State has enabled him to overcome his abject poverty to become a man of wealth, and he wishes to redeem his debt to society by doing good deeds to the people. And he thinks that he can, with God’s help, humbly accomplish his mission by becoming president.
It was a very brave move on his part, considering the overpowering stature of his hopeful opponent Tharman Shamugaratnam whose local and international reputation can easily send his opponent to bite the dust.
Tharman stands out prominently as a deeply-tainted establishment figure with all the political baggage trying to masquerade as an independent.
George Goh represents a crisp face that could bring a gust of fresh air to sweep out the mustiness of the establishment. So far, he has turned out to be a more animated individual than Tharman, with his inimitable style of portraying himself to the people.
The choice before the people is whether they want a dyed-in-the-wool establishment figure with all the political baggage to represent them or they really want a crisp independent face to bring some semblance of ideological integrity to the presidency. The Malay would say: do not memterdayakan (cheat or trick) the akal (intelligence) of the rakyat (people). Let the rakyat decide.
There seems to be some kind of imminence of disqualification of George Goh but he seems to be confident of being quallified.
This was first published in “Singapore Recalcitrant” and reproduced with permission. Mr Yoong was the Director of Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) from 1971 to 1974. He was Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in the 1960s, and had a distinguished career in the Singapore Special Branch in the 1950s.