Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong spent his 78th birthday with a quiet meal with friends this year, compared to his big birthday bash last year.
Sharing photos from the gathering on Facebook, the former Prime Minister shared that “some friends treated me to a quiet fusion Peranakan birthday meal served in dainty morsels Japanese style at Candlenut, Dempsey Hill. Really enjoyed it.”
Last year, for his 77th birthday, ESM Goh hosted dozens of guests at his birthday party, including Dr Tan Cheng Bock who has since announced his intention to contest the next General Election against ESM Goh’s party.
Among other pictures from his bash, ESM Goh posted a photo with Dr Tan on Facebook last year and wrote: “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.”
The politician’s cryptic allusion to Malaysian leader Dr Mahathir – who left his party to unite the opposition and topple the government in a stunning election victory, last year – led many Singaporeans to express their desire to see the former head of government stand against the ruling party in the next election, the same way Dr Mahathir did.
Netizens also asked ESM Goh to join forces with Dr Tan against the ruling party. Dr Tan was already seen as an independent figure, despite being an ex-ruling party MP, given his involvement in the 2011 Presidential Election and the fact that he was barred from contesting the 2017 Presidential Election that the establishment favourite won by walkover.
Both Dr Tan and ESM Goh have been known to be close. In 2014, ESM Goh underwent a major surgery and Dr Tan was one of just three visitors who was 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 one of his most recent comments about Dr Tan, ESM Goh reaffirmed his friendship with Dr Tan in an interview that took place in 2016. He 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.”
Late last year, in the middle of the public uproar over high ministerial pay and the bonus pay package, ESM Goh quashed hopes that he might join his old friend to achieve a win against the ruling party.
Indicating that he is very much loyal to the People’s Action Party (PAP) and that he has no plans to “do a Mahathir”, the former PM wrote on social media: “Though retired from Cabinet since 2011, I continue to work for Singapore in various capacities and use my stature to help raise awareness and funds for different groups of disadvantaged Singaporeans.
“Instead of threatening to get up from my grave when things go wrong, I prefer to contribute while still alive but without getting in the way of the younger leaders. Moreover, I have no plans to do a Mahathir!”