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ESM Goh reveals he approached Ho Ching to join politics but “Lee Hsien Loong and Singapore would be against it”

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Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has revealed in his recently released biography that he once approached Ho Ching to join politics but that he did not approach her again after her marriage since Lee Hsien Loong and Singapore would be against it.

Written by author Peh Shing Huei, the authorised biography entitled Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story covers Goh’s life until the point he becomes the nation’s second Prime Minister in 1990. A second part is expected to cover the rest of Goh’s life and career after he succeeded founding PM Lee Kuan Yew to become head of Government.

Besides writing the foreword and the afterword for the biography, ESM Goh also answers certain questions the author poses in the biography. Peh Shing Huei, a former Straits Times journalist, asks the ruling party leader extensively about his relationship with Lee Kuan Yew and the members of his family.

When Peh asked Goh whether he spoke “to Ho Ching at any point about joining politics,” Goh responds that he did and that she would have made “a good minister, a different kind of minister.”

He added that Ho Ching did not say no to him when he approached her to join the ruling party but that she said that she was not ready for politics then.

ESM Goh, however, did not approach Ho Ching again when she got married to current PM Lee Hsien Loong. He says that neither Ho Ching, her husband, nor Singapore would have wanted her to join politics after her marriage to his successor:

“I knew you would ask! I did approach Ho Ching and ask her if she would be interested in politics. It was quite early on. She was about 28, 29 or 30, before she married Hsien Loong.

“I spotted her in Mindef and thought that she had the intellect and attributes we were looking for. I knew she was a President’s Scholar, but I didn’t know her well – only superficially because she was in the science part of Mindef.

“Through briefings and so on, I could see that she had a lot of substance. She would have made a good minister, a different kind of minister.

“She did not say no. She said not at this stage. She was still young. After that, I was overtaken by events! She and Hsien Loong got married.

“As she was part of the Lee family, I never approached her again. I would not have asked her to be a politician. Hsien Loong would be against it. She would be against it. And Singapore would be against it.”

Ho Ching went on to lead Singapore sovereign wealth fund, Temasek, and still serves as CEO of the Government-linked entity.

This year, Ho Ching will complete 16 years at Temasek. She joined the organisation, then called Temasek Holdings, as a director in January 2002 before she was promoted to executive director just four months later, in May. Two years after she joined Temasek, Ho Ching became its Chief Executive Officer on 1 January 2004 – a role she has held for the past 14 years.

Interestingly, next year (2019) will not only mark a decade and a half since Ho Ching took the reins of Temasek, it will also mark a decade after leadership succession plans for a new CEO to replace Ho Ching fell through in a boardroom bust-up in 2009 – just three months before the new CEO was supposed to take over.


Published by World Scientific, Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story is now available at all major bookstores in Singapore. The biography can also be purchased for $56 for the hardcover version and $37 for the softcover version online directly at World Scientific’s website.

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