ESM Goh Chok Tong says Singaporeans must decide type of city and its values

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (centre, on stage) flanked by Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor (with back to camera) and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (centre, on stage) flanked by Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor (with back to camera) and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

As Singapore moves into the next chapter of its history, citizens must play a part in deciding the kind of city it should be and the values it should hold, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

He presented two paths the country could choose to take: "Do we want to be a global city, or should Singapore be a regional centre?"

As for values, he said: "Should we have more cosmopolitan values in society? Because that's what we are now, more cosmopolitan. Or do we revert to just merely Singaporean, meaning Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian?"

Mr Goh, who posed these alternatives at the government's feedback unit Reach's forum, noted that in previous waves of immigration, most newcomers were from India, China and Malaysia.

But now, migrants from other places have chosen to settle here, he said in opening remarks at a closed-door dialogue with 170 regular contributors to Reach.

Citing Marine Parade GRC, where he is an MP, he said there are Australians, Italians, Britons and Cambodians living there.

Mr Goh founded Reach's predecessor, the Feedback Unit, in 1985.

Reflecting on it, the 72-year-old former prime minister said: "I've written my chapter. It's now up to Amy Khor, Yaacob and others to write the next one with you."

He was referring to Reach chairman and Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor, and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who were present at the forum.

The theme of the forum was "Embarking on a new chapter of the Singapore story."

ESM Goh also noted that Singapore's future and its challenges are more complex than they were during his time as prime minister.

Picking up on it, Dr Yaacob said: "The question now is 'how can we choose the path that all of us can agree on?'"

Dr Khor said many forum participants, who had earlier been asked to send in their comments on the dialogue's theme, had zeroed in on the issues of values and identity.

They had asked "how Singapore can be a more compassionate society, where more can be done to help those in need, instead of having a 'me! me! me!' culture", she said.

twong@sph.com.sg