SINGAPORE: Re-asserting his independence from the ruling party, presidential hopeful George Goh Ching Wah denied the claims floating online that he is a senior leader within the People’s Action Party-affiliated grassroots member.

Mr Goh, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, has so far positioned himself as a fiercely independent prospective candidate. His only link to the Government was his role as Singapore’s non-resident ambassador to Morocco – a role he resigned from on 9 June to make a bid for the presidency.

But some skeptics have claimed that Mr Goh shares a deeper link to the ruling party. After Mr Goh collected his eligibility application forms on Tuesday (13 June), WhatsApp and Telegram chatgroups were abuzz with the claim that Mr Goh used to be a grassroots leader.

The message contains an image of a Singapore Government Media Release of a Speech by Mr Mohamad Maidin Bin Packer Mohd at the opening of the upgraded Kampong Ubi Community Centre on 1 Oct 2000.

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The media release refers to a Mr George Goh, the Chairman of Kampong Ubi Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC). The viral WhatsApp message claimed that this was the same George Goh who wished to run for President.

Mr Goh’s team debunked the claim in a statement on Wednesday (14 June), pointing out that the image in the WhatsApp message referred to a Mr George Goh Tiong Yong, and not Mr George Goh Ching Wah.

The team clarified, “Mr George Goh Ching Wah was never a CCC member, let alone chairman and has no political affiliations – past or present.”

Mr Goh has reiterated the need for an independent President, not affiliated with any political party since he made his presidential aspirations public this week. Asserting that he does not sit on any government body or government-linked company, nor is he a member of any political party, he told the press yesterday that past contested presidential election results show that the people want a truly apolitical head of state.

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Referring to the very 1st presidential election in 1993, when former Deputy Prime Minister Ong Teng Cheong stood for elections against retired civil servant Chua Kim Yeow, who earned 41 per cent of the vote, Mr Goh told the press yesterday:

“The voters said we don’t want an establishment candidate. Forty-one per cent.’’

He also pointed out that 65 per cent of voters did not vote for another ex-DPM Tony Tan in the four-cornered 2011 presidential election – the most recent contested presidential election – Mr Goh said: “It was very clear. The people gave the non-establishment candidates 65 per cent.’’

With the cost of living pressures weighing on the people today, he said they would be more inclined to give a non-establishment candidate a chance.

Mr Goh indicated that he is not worried about the possibility of running against another ex-DPM, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who has also made a bid for the post.

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He said he was confident that the 65 per cent of citizens who did not vote for Dr Tony Tan “are still here today’’. He was also confident that the rest of the electorate would think it was time for an independent President.

Sharing that this is a change he cannot effect on his own, Mr Goh appealed: “I need everybody. I need you. We win when we stand together. ‘’