SINGAPORE — Entrepreneur and aspiring president of Singapore, Mr George Goh Ching Wah, has strongly dismissed insinuations that he is a “puppet” candidate, declaring such assertions impossible given his self-reliant nature.
Mr Goh took the time to address these rumors in a candid interview with Lianhe Zaobao at the Bedok Food Centre on Friday (16 Jun).
With a firm stance, he emphasized his independence from any political party involvement and association with grassroots organizations like the Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC).
Drawing on his personal journey, Mr Goh recounted his humble beginnings. At the tender age of 15, he left his hometown of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, and arrived in Singapore seeking employment opportunities.
Displaying resilience and entrepreneurial spirit, he started a business at 22 to pull his family out of poverty. His business acumen has since led him to list five companies and acquire two others, which are said to be valued at SGD$3.15 billion in total.
Recently, there has been a whirlwind of speculation that Mr Goh is contesting the presidency merely to give the People’s Action Party’s Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam a competitor, thereby adding more legitimacy to the president’s office.
Responding to these insinuations, Mr Goh was clear and firm. “People with our personality are less likely to do other people’s bidding. Or being someone’s puppet. We can’t do it,” he stated.
In 2017, Mr Goh agreed to serve as Singapore’s non-resident ambassador to Morocco.
When asked about his decision to take up the appointment, he drew a clear distinction between serving the State and a political party. He noted that his role was to foster better relations between countries and not to implement policies.
Having resigned from his ambassadorial role, Mr Goh pointed out that it was an honorary position devoid of any salary or benefits.
Bertha Henson, a media veteran and former journalist at The Straits Times, who currently advises Mr Goh on media matters, took to her Facebook page on Wednesday, emphasizing that Mr Goh is a “serious challenger”. She strongly dismissed any notion of him being a “patsy” or “proxy” candidate to bolster election legitimacy.
In an earlier statement, Mr Goh’s media team also reinforced his dedication towards his presidential bid. The 63-year-old’s decision to run for presidency wasn’t impulsive, they stated.
It is said that A team of professionals, including lawyers, have advised Mr Goh that his significant professional experience and the cadre of companies under his management would make him eligible for the presidential race under Article 19(4)(b).
“Mr Goh did not enter the contest on a whim. It was a decision made seven years ago after he observed that changes to the Constitution stacked the odds against a private-sector candidate, especially businessmen, contesting the election,” Mr Goh’s media team said, stressing that the final decision on his eligibility lies with the Presidential Elections Committee.
On Tuesday, Mr Goh collected his application form for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the Elections Department.
The next step lies with the Prime Minister, who must announce the Writ of Election for the presidential race. This race must take place before the expiration of the six-year term of President Halimah Yacob on 13 September, with specific dates for nomination and polling day yet to be fixed.
Should only one candidate qualify, they will be appointed as the winner by default, as was the case with Mdm Halimah in PE2017.
During that election, two Malay candidates were denied the COE by the Presidential Elections Committee, thus allowing Madam Halimah to win uncontested.