ESM Goh Chok Tong urges voters to hold PAP, opposition, by same standards of integrity

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong during the annual Marine Parade National Day Dinner.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong during the annual Marine Parade National Day Dinner. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - Voters will end up with "Third World town councils in opposition wards" if they hold different standards of integrity for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and for opposition parties, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Friday.

Speaking to Marine Parade residents at the constituency's National Day dinner at Swissotel the Stamford, Mr Goh confirmed he will be standing in Marine Parade in the next general election, to safeguard a constituency he has served for nearly 40 years.

The WP has staked its claim on the five-member GRC, which has absorbed the Joo Chiat single seat which the WP lost by a mere 388 votes in 2011. The PAP's opponents in 2011, the National Solidarity Party, said they will stay out of Marine Parade in the interests of "opposition unity".

Saying that a general election is both about the individual's personal future and the country's collective future, Mr Goh added: "We are not electing officials of a debating society where grandstanding speeches have no impact on our lives. We are electing MPs to form an effective government.

"At the very least, they must be able to run a town council in a transparent, accountable, responsible manner. And voters too must demand accountability of all political parties."

"They cannot have two standards of integrity, one for the ruling party and the other for the opposition parties. If they do, they will end up with Third World town councils in opposition wards," he said.

Mr Goh, 74, admitted that this was a good time to wind down politically and contemplate retirement. "I do not have another 40 years to enjoy a quiet life," he said.

But he is staying on - to "stand shoulder to shoulder in the coming election" with Marine Parade residents, and to help, as an elder, with leadership transition of the country's fourth generation team.

"Smooth leadership succession is Singapore's unique strength to safeguard political stability and continuity of good government," he said.

Mr Goh also reminded constituents that just as Singapore leapt from Third World to First in one generation, it could also fall backwards in one generation.

In his speech, he outlined three messages to avoid this outcome and safeguard Singapore's future.

The first, is to keep planting new trees for the next generation - "put aside the best seeds and grow them in fertile programmes" - in areas from education to the environment.

The second is to manage the widening income gap by helping uplift those who are less well-off. Mr Goh pointed out that children from well-to-do families have a competitive advantage over children from families with less financial means, who can fall behind due to the daily struggles of life.

"We must not allow the size of a family's purse to determine their ambitions," he said, acknowledging "significant steps" taken by the Govenrment to do so over the years.

The last, is to grow Singapore's "heartware" - which Mr Goh said was his focus since he stepped down from the Cabinet in 2011.

Besides lobbying the Government to set up a fund for social science research on long-term challenges, Mr Goh has also launched community programmes such as WeCare@Marine Parade.

This year, it will launch a new programme that will require parents of lower-income families to be actively involved in the education of their children.

Called EduGrow For Brighter Tomorrows, it will start with 25 lower-income families in Marine Parade and be expanded to 50 later, Mr Goh said.

The WeCare model is also being replicated and adapted in other constituencies, he added.