Credit to opposition? It's just a rooster's boast: ESM Goh

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Opposition parties and some Singaporeans believe that having more alternative voices in Parliament after the 2011 General Election led to the Government adopting more redistributive and inclusive policy measures.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday countered this view, likening it to the fable of the rooster which crows when the sun rises. "The rooster goes around boasting that its crowing causes the sun to rise," he said at a press conference to announce the PAP line-up for Marine Parade GRC.

"That's what they are doing."

Asked about this at a press conference to introduce Workers' Party (WP) candidates in the afternoon, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said: "I think we leave it to Singaporeans to judge whether they feel the Government has become more responsive since 2011." The WP won five-MP Aljunied GRC in 2011.

Mr Goh, who was prime minister from 1990 to 2004, said that policies and programmes change over time to adapt to new situations and meet the changing needs of people.


Opposition parties come and go like nomads. Nomads will not have interest in the people's welfare. They are looking for plunder.


He noted his predecessor, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, was focused on building Singapore's reserves for a rainy day. But when Mr Goh took over in 1990, he assessed there were sufficient reserves and budget surpluses could be shared through schemes like Edusave, Medifund and estate upgrading. And by the time Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took over, the reserves had grown.

"So it is quite right that PM started, not after 2011, but from the day he took over, to have more schemes to benefit the people," he said.

"After 2011, he did more. But is it because of more people from the opposition in Parliament? Or because the needs of the people have changed? PM understood, you see, that there are many problems: ageing society, aged population, family size being kept small, and so on."

Mr Goh added: "What have they offered? If they have offered alternatives which we adopted, we copied, then you can say we did what they told us to do. They have not done so."

As for the view that more opposition will mean more checks and balances on the Government, Mr Goh said the PAP Government was its "own check".

"For many years, the PAP was the only party in Parliament. Has the PAP gone corrupt in those years?"

Referring to the accounting and financial lapses in the Workers' Party's Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), he said: "You just look at the town council in Aljunied. One term, no check, what happened?"

"The integrity of our leaders, of our MPs, that's where the check comes from. Not this seductive line of check and balance," he added.

"They are seducing the people and if the people are not careful, they get seduced and you know what happens when you are seduced. You will pay a price."

In the 2011 General Election, the PAP team in Marine Parade GRC got 56.6 per cent of the votes against a relatively unknown National Solidarity Party (NSP) team.

This time round, the WP is set to challenge the incumbents, and the GRC is seen as a keenly contested electoral battleground.

Asked about this, Mr Goh said: "Opposition parties come and go like nomads. Nomads will not have interest in the people's welfare. They are looking for plunder."

"In Marine Parade's case, since the 1990s, there were three or four parties which have come and gone. Now a new tribe is coming. Do they really have interest in Marine Parade's people's welfare?"

"I've spent 40 years there. I built up a community," he said, adding he would leave it to voters to decide whether he had done a good job.

As for the prospect of a contest from a stronger WP team, Mr Goh said: "Strength is relative. They are stronger than NSP, there's no doubt about that.

"But there's a certain arrogance in them. They came: NSP, out you go," he added, referring to how the WP brushed aside NSP's intention to contest the GRC.

"Would that same arrogance be able to replace me and my team in Marine Parade? Let them try."

Jermyn Chow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Credit to opposition? It's just a rooster's boast: ESM Goh'. Print Edition | Subscribe