Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong threw shade at Dr Tan Cheng Bock in a seemingly unrelated post, today. Posting photos of himself at a Lunar New Year Lunch organised by Touch Community Services, Goh wrote:
“TOUCH Community Services hosted a Lunar New Year lunch for some of its senior citizen and special needs clients. I too try and touch the lives of our vulnerable citizens, old and young. At 78, I find this a more meaningful way to continue working for a kinder and gentler society than trying to make a come-back in politics. Unlike in Malaysia, there is no need to do a Mahathir in Singapore.”
Goh’s post comes a week after Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who is a year older than Goh, announced his return to politics. A former PAP MP, Dr Tan has now decided to stand against the ruling party and has applied to register his own opposition party with fellow ex-PAP cadres.
It is curious that ESM Goh would throw shade at an ex-colleague while asserting that he is “working for a kinder and gentler society”. It is even more interesting that he would make this dig, since he has described Dr Tan as a “very close friend” in the past.
In 2014, ESM Goh underwent a major surgery and Dr Tan was one of just three visitors who were permitted to see the ESM apart from his immediate family. Describing Dr Tan as a “very close friend”, ESM Goh later wrote on Facebook:
“I also had an almost hour-long chat with Tan Cheng Bock, my very close friend from school. We talked about mutual friends, health issues and families. Thanks, Bock. I am glad to see you in good health and keeping yourself busy.”
In a more recent interview where he was asked about Dr Tan’s intentions to contest the 2017 Presidential Election, ESM Goh had said: “Indeed, he is an old friend. I’ve known him for over 55 years. What he did was in keeping with his character. Once he has decided to do something, (he) will do all he can to achieve that goal.”
“In the past, we would have spoken to one another. But after the last presidential election, he was and will be on his own. We are still very good friends, still go out with each other, but I will not try to influence him…I will just wish him good luck.”
Then, Dr Tan made an appearance at ESM Goh’s 77th birthday party. The celebration had been an intimate one – current heavyweight politicians from the PAP were not present at the party – and so, Dr Tan’s invitation raised eyebrows.
In a Facebook post on that same birthday, ESM Goh shared photos of Dr Tan at his party and alluded to 93-year-old Malaysia Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s stunning election victory across the causeway: “Age is just a number, as Mahathir has proven. But it is family and friends who make that number light, meaningful and memorable. Thanks, all my friends out there.”
Mahathir had come out of retirement to unite the opposition in Malaysia and led them to victory against his former party, which was toppled in the nation’s first transition of power since independence.
Interestingly, calls for Dr Tan to “do a Mahathir” were resounding when ESM Goh invited Dr Tan to his birthday party and alluded to Dr Mahathir. When ESM Goh shared the picture of Dr Tan at his party, many Singaporeans believed that he might join Dr Tan against the PAP.
Months after his birthday, ESM Goh quashed rumours that he might join Dr Tan to “do a Mahathir” and seemed to re-affirm his relationship with PM Lee when he invited PM Lee to speak at his biography launch. Both leaders had wonderful things to say about one another.
Interestingly, ESM Goh’s latest dig at his “very close friend” Dr Tan and his wishes to work to build a “kinder gentler society” comes as rumours that he will be lifted out of the Marine Parade GRC team in the next election resound.
It is curious to note that rumours that 78-year-old Goh will be phased out in the next election are circulating even though Goh’s predecessor and Lee’s father, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, remained an MP until his death at the age of 91.