By: B. Goode
The man formerly known as PM, SM, the Third Choice, Seat Warmer, who is now known as Emeritus Senior Minister (whatever that means) and who is still affectionately known as Panjang, Goh Chok Tong has just released his autobiography.
There are no surprises there. When you’ve reached a certain age when you know that your time on this earth is almost up, it can get pretty depressing. It affects all of us regardless of creed, class, wealth and fame.
Time + Biology = One hell of a bitch.
Of course different people have different ways of dealing with it. Some will get religious. Some will get wild. Some will commit suicide. Some will just lay in their bed listening to Simon and Garfunkle `Sound Of Silence’ on loop. Some will get cranky. Some will try to check as many items off their bucket list. Some will literally bring a bottle of shit to a symposium. Some will become philanthropists. Some will become philanderers.
Whilst others like Goh Chok Tong will try to set the tone for his legacy in history by writing an autobiography.
But here’s the thing about autobiographies. They never tell the full story.
In my book at least, Goh Chok Tong will be known as the one who introduced GST. The one who threw Singapore to the vagaries of globalization. The one who coined the term `Foreign Talent’. The one who flooded Singapore economy with cheap labor to suppress wages. We are now seeing the result of this policy where more young Singaporeans are having to earn a living by being dispatch riders, food deliverers and cleaners because companies don’t find the need to train them as they can just import ready-made cheaper alternatives. Many of whom don’t even know how to speak English.
Goh Chok Tong was also the one who was so confident about the success of buying foreign `talents’ that he envisaged Singapore going to the 2010 World Cup. He did however managed to import China’s Table Tennis second team that had some success in the international sporting arena but that success no true-blue Singaporeans felt proud off.
He was also the one who opened up HDB’s resale market including shophouses, coffeeshops and hawker centres causing massive profiteering and resale prices spiraling out of control. He privatized public health services making them profit-oriented rather that public-service oriented outfits resulting in us paying more via our CPF causing the government having to withhold a chunk of our CPF payouts to way beyond the agreed 55 years of age.
He also privatized public transportation and the adverse effect of that policy could be felt up to this day.
But all those policies could be seen as necessary if it could be argued that the pros were more than the cons.
But there was one policy of his that had coloured my perception of the kind of person he truly was. A policy that, had it happened in a true democratic country he’d be vilified and even impeached. A policy so selfish, so self-serving that it bordered on the cruel. A policy that makes me pray every day that he will be visited by the bitch we all call Karma.
A policy much worse than this:
Back when he was seat-warming as the Prime Minister, the government introduced the HDB Upgrading program. Part of the program was to install new lifts that stop at every level.
Of course we all knew that it would be impossible to implement the policy to all the HDB flats at the same time. There should be a priority system.
So what was the criteria in choosing which estate would get priority?
Was it the age of the estate? Nope.
Was it the average age of the residents? Nope
Was it the type of flats? Nope.
The criteria was, believe it or not, the number of votes that the PAP received during the elections. Yup. You heard it. The more people voted for the PAP in a particular estate, the higher the priority would be.
Meaning: If you didn’t vote for the PAP, you would not get to enjoy the convenience of having a lift stopping on your floor. For me, it meant, if I and my neighbours didnt vote for the PAP, my sick mother would have to trudge four floors down and up for her weekly visit to the hospital.
It was one thing to cajole and entice people to vote for you with promises even if they were empty. But totally another thing to use public funds to threaten your own people; the very people you were paid to serve!
What kind of a person would do that? A bad person with a rotten heart no doubt.
Back then my mom was suffering from a blood anomaly that caused her to need weekly blood transfusions. We were staying on the fourth floor. Because she was too weak to walk let alone climb up and down the stairs, we had to use the private ambulance. It was ok. We could afford it.
Since we couldn’t sell that flat for another 2 years in order to buy a more convenient one, and because we simply would not want to send her to a home, we had to make do with that weekly routine.
So wouldn’t it be nice we thought, if there was a lift on our floor so we could bring my mom out on her wheelchair to dinner or outings. Nope. My neighbours and us would have to be nice to the PAP first!
In any case, the lift upgrading would not matter to us actually. Even if our estate had been chosen to be the first to get the lifts, it would take another two years. She didn’t have that long to live.
True enough, my mom passed away about a year later. No. The government wasn’t to blame. All of us will die sooner or later.
Goh Chok Tong knew what this policy would entail. He knew that the program would entice people like us who would benefit so much from it. So he used it in the most despicable way possible; threatening people who didn’t vote for the PAP to be last in the queue. It wasn’t even his money. It was the people’s money.
For someone to even come out with the idea, even if he was a politician, was lower than low.
I don’t intend to read his memoir. But I doubt this policy of his is mentioned in there.
And I doubt he will ever apologize for his vile and contemptible intention.