Goh Chok Tong friendly with Chiam See Tong & Low Thia Khiang, but would not speak to Chee Soon Juan
He spoke candidly about his views on them.
Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong story is the biography of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong telling the story of Goh’s life and political career.
The book is written by ex-Straits Times editor Peh Shing Huei and published by World Scientific. You can buy a copy here or at all major bookstores.
Within each chapter, a Q&A segment detailing Peh’s interviews with Goh are also included. An excerpt from the Q&A in one of the chapters in his book, “From Nanny to Buddy”, is reproduced here, so these are Goh’s own words:
Interview with Goh Chok Tong
Would you be friendly with long-time opposition MPs like Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Khiang too?
I regard Chiam as a friend.
As a friend?
As a friend, yes. I have seen him at dinners outside. He would come to me and I would go and talk to his wife and so on. If I see the wife, I would ask her how Chiam is. He was a gentleman politician.
He had his own purpose in politics, which is to create a two-party Parliament. There is nothing wrong with that. We did not like it, but we said you try, so he tried.
Would that be the same towards Low?
It is the same with Low.
In fact, with most of the people, it is the same thing. We always watch. What is the purpose, their aspirations, their goals and would they bring Singapore down? Or would they be just difficult opponents for us? Then we got to be better than them.
So, if they are honest and honourable and want to do good for Singapore even though it is in a different way, well, we can have a debate on that.
But if your views are totally wrong in our view, like promising a welfare state and using the reserves, then we would fight you. We would fight you tooth and nail on your wrong-headed and populist approach.
So who would be someone whom you would not speak to?
Chee Soon Juan.
Is it because he was your toughest opposition opponent?
No. His character is so flawed, he cannot be a tough opponent.
To put it in a general way, the toughest opponent is actually PAP’s success. And the wish of the people to have alternative voices in Parliament. That is the toughest opponent because we have succeeded and won so many seats and the people, not just opposition, say, no, they want to hear alternative voices.
We could encourage, as we did, PAP MPs to be critical, to be honest in their criticism, to speak out. But the people say —— all of you are of the same mould; they want somebody different. That is the toughest opponent. In other words, it is a situation of success and total dominance.
So, if you ask which individuals would pose problems? They are not troublesome, but they are tough in a sense that they would fit the mood of the people.
So, Chiam would be tough to get out of Potong Pasir because he fitted the thinking of the people and is decent, a middle-of-the-road kind of an MP. If you want to campaign against him, it would be very difficult to get him out. So, it was tough in that sense.
Low would also fit that mould. Once he had won, it would be difficult to get him out. Politically, he is sharper, compared with Chiam. If you want to debate against him to get him out, it would be difficult. He is shrewd.
Chee is flawed. He tried so many times but people have sized him up. They would not want him. Chee flew all the way to Williams College to slam Singapore during my conferment.
On another occasion in the States, he went without an invitation to a by-invitation event where I was speaking. He entered the room midway through the forum and asked a question on Malays, how we treated the Malays. That is a troublemaker.
Francis Seow and Tang Liang Hong suffered more politically than Chee, but they were respectful and friendly. Chee Soon Juan, wherever he was, was my opponent.
Is there a second person whom you would not acknowledge?
Yes. One is bad enough, you know.
Top photo via Workers’ Party website, YouTube screenshot, Chee Soon Juan’s Facebook page.