Veteran politician Tan Cheng Bock has drawn widespread praise online for refusing to talk about his friend, Goh Chok Tong, in public despite Mr Goh’s snide remarks towards him.
ESM Goh and Dr Tan have been close friends for nearly 60 years – in fact, Dr Tan was one of just three visitors who were permitted to see the ESM apart from his immediate family when the former Prime Minister underwent a major surgery in 2014. Just last year, Dr Tan was among a select group of friends at ESM Goh’s intimate 77th birthday bash.
What appeared to be cracks in the friendship between the two politicians arose soon after Dr Tan – a former ruling party parliamentarian – announced the formation of his own opposition party to seek accountability and transparency from the Government.
Since then, ESM Goh has made digs that seem to be aimed at Dr Tan. In one post he said that people must be “sceptical of any veteran politician’s practised words” before asserting that “trying to make a come-back in politics” is not necessary in Singapore, in another post.
These jibes soon turned more pointed. When Dr Tan said that the ruling party has changed and has “lost its way” during his Progress Singapore Party’s official launch in August, Mr Goh sniped on social media:
“Tan Cheng Bock says that Lee Kuan Yew invited him to join the PAP. Ouch! He omits to say that I put his name up to LKY. Surely I deserve some credit — or rather, blame — for who he has become now?”
He added: “Tan Cheng Bock was my classmate in Raffles Institution. I have known him close for over 60 years. It saddens me to see how he has “lost his way”. He is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills” Derived from the novel ‘Don Quixote’ by Miguel de Cervantes, the phrase ’tilting at windmills’ refers to wasting one’s energy fighting imaginary enemies.
The very next month, Mr Goh posted photos of PSP members reaching out to residents at Marine Parade GRC, ESM Goh wrote on Facebook: “PSP eyeing Marine Parade. ‘Et tu, Brute?’” ‘Et tu, Brute?’ is a Latin phrase from William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar that is used today to signify an unexpected betrayal by a friend.
Despite ESM Goh’s persistent attempts at putting down his “very close friend,” Dr Tan continues to take the high road. When reporters asked Dr Tan about ESM Goh’s comments that he has “lost his way” last month, Dr Tan asserted:
“I will never talk about my friend in public. That’s my answer. I won’t go into that as respect for my friend.”
Netizens responding to Dr Tan’s silence in the face of ESM Goh’s persistent digs have praised the opposition party leader for being “classy” despite the adversity he has received from an old friend: