How Ho Peng Kee won hearts and votes

Professor Ho thanking guests after Emeritus Senior Minister Goh unveiled Prof Ho's book, My Journey In Politics, at the National Library yesterday. With them is publisher World Scientific Publishing managing director Max Phua.
Professor Ho thanking guests after Emeritus Senior Minister Goh unveiled Prof Ho's book, My Journey In Politics, at the National Library yesterday. With them is publisher World Scientific Publishing managing director Max Phua.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Ex-senior minister of state shares his 20-year career in politics and view on drug policies

Within two weeks of joining the home affairs and law ministries in mid-1993, law don Ho Peng Kee had to tackle the "dire" surge in drug addiction here.

The ex-senior minister of state, who retired from 20 years in politics in May 2011, said: "There were so many good-hearted people in many ministerial agencies working with me in this. I was just a catalyst."

Associate Professor Ho, who turns 63 next month, recalled his experiences in an interview with The Straits Times yesterday, before the launch of his memoirs, My Journey In Politics. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong launched the book at the National Library in Bugis in front of about 110 other guests.

The father of three's 168-page book, published by World Scientific Publishing, hit bookshops last month and is into its third print run.

His two bosses over 18 years, former deputy prime ministers S. Jayakumar and Wong Kan Seng, entrusted him with tough policies.These included measures to curb youth crime.

Mr Goh called Prof Ho "a successful example of how to serve as MP", noting how he won his Nee Soon East single seat comfortably in the 2001 election despite a run-in with some temple leaders there. That led to then senior minister Lee Kuan Yew stepping in to cool things down. "Although there were rumours that the vote was 50:50... I won 73.68 per cent of the vote," Prof Ho said.

BIG WIN

Although there were rumours that the vote was 50:50 between me and the Workers' Party candidate... I won 73.68 per cent of the vote.

PROF HO PENG KEE, on winning his Nee Soon East single seat in the 2001 election.

Mr Goh added that life as an MP would be fulfilling only if one focused on improving the lives of others, as Prof Ho had. Voters, he said, could tell the difference between "authentic leaders and pretenders" and challenged current and future Singapore MPs thus: "Is it good enough to be doing the same things over and over again?"

Asked about the Government's latest plans to review its strategies for the war on drugs, Prof Ho said "the building blocks" he helped put in place are still sound, but enforcers also have to know how the minds of the youth operate these days. "Many think designer drugs like amphetamines... will not lead them to hard drugs. But it's a slippery slope. It's important not to even experiment with fashionable drugs," he said.

Yesterday, ex-constituent Raquel Yoong, 22, handed Prof Ho a letter to thank him for finding support for her and her mother after her parents divorced when she was 10, saying: "He cares very deeply for everyone who comes to him for help."

Prof Ho said: "Even the smallest pebble dropped into a pond creates ripples. If you drop five pebbles, there will be ripples big enough to influence others."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2017, with the headline 'How Ho Peng Kee won hearts and votes'. Print Edition | Subscribe