Apply same standards of integrity to all political parties: ESM Goh

Celebrating Singapore's 50th birthday at the Marine Parade National Day dinner yesterday were the likely PAP candidates for the GRC: (from left) Edwin Tong, Seah Kian Peng, Tan Chuan-Jin, Goh Chok Tong and Fatimah Lateef. Also present were Mountbatte
Celebrating Singapore's 50th birthday at the Marine Parade National Day dinner yesterday were the likely PAP candidates for the GRC: (from left) Edwin Tong, Seah Kian Peng, Tan Chuan-Jin, Goh Chok Tong and Fatimah Lateef. Also present were Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan (second from right) and event organiser Nancy Kua. Mr Goh said PM Lee wants him to help in the leadership transition to the fourth-generation team as an elder.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong called on voters to hold all political parties to account by the same standards at the general election, as he confirmed yesterday that he will stand in Marine Parade GRC.

He also took a sideswipe at the Workers' Party, which will contest the area he has represented for nearly 40 years.

Voters will end up with "Third World town councils in opposition wards" if they hold the People's Action Party and opposition parties to different standards of integrity, said Mr Goh, in a reference to the WP's 2011 election slogan: Towards a First World Parliament.

In a speech at his constituency's National Day dinner at Swissotel the Stamford, he said a general election is a critical moment for the country to take stock of where it wants to go.

"It is about your personal future and the country's collective future," he said.

"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."

He was referring to accounting and governance lapses at the WP's Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

Mr Goh, 74, said now was a good time for him to wind down politically and contemplate retirement.

But he had a long chat on Tuesday with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who wanted him to carry on and help in the leadership transition to the fourth-generation team as an elder.

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

And having spent 40 years on building Marine Parade with residents, Mr Goh said, he agreed to stay on, to "stand shoulder to shoulder in the coming election" with residents.

The announcement was met with rousing applause from the more than 1,000 residents, with several tables giving him a standing ovation.

Technician Abdul Mutalib, 55, who has lived in Marine Parade for 25 years, said Mr Goh is highly respected in the area.

Also applauding the news were Mr Goh's fellow teammates in the GRC, who cited his track record and his experience.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said despite the opposition challenge to the GRC, "we continue to serve and stay focused on our residents and their needs". He added that politics was "not just coming in, making speeches and running reserves down".

Mr Goh said just as Singapore leapt from Third World to First in one generation, it could also fall backwards in one generation. He outlined three messages he felt were key to avoid this outcome.

One, keep planting new trees for the next generation - "put aside the best seeds and grow them in fertile programmes like education, housing, health, transportation, green environment and fulfilling lifestyles".

Two, re-tilt to level the playing field and uplift the less well-off, to manage the widening income gap and ensure those at the bottom are not left behind. Children from well-to-do families have a competitive advantage over those from less endowed families, who may be weighed down by life's daily struggles, he noted.

"We must not allow the size of a family's purse to determine their ambitions," he said, adding that the state had intervened to give poorer students additional help.

Three, the community could do more to grow Singapore's "heartware", something he had focused on since leaving the Cabinet in 2011. To this end, he was glad that a programme started in Marine Parade to bring about a more caring community was being replicated and adapted in other constituencies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Apply same standards of integrity to all political parties: ESM Goh'. Print Edition | Subscribe