Monday, August 11, 2014
In Memory of Opposition Sage-Fighter - Goh Seng Soon
"The coffin is for the dead, not for old man". This is Seng Soon's pet-phrase. Today, his death has ironically confirmed his pet-phrase: he has to leave this world before he could drink that champagne which he has prepared for years.
Most probably to all those who are not in the field of opposition politics, or even to most of those who are in it, Goh Seng Soon is a stranger to them. However his contributions to Singapore's Democratic political development should not be ignored. He was one of the only 5 heavy weight members in Workers Party who were conferred as "Honorable Member" of the party. He was one of the very few political figures in Workers Party who has the most political acumen, wisdom and idealism. He was also one of the very few senior veterans in Workers Party who has claimed the Badge of ISD.
I have once said Mr. Low Thia Khiang is my initial political teacher, but I have never mentioned, Mr. Goh Seng Soon was however, my advanced political tutor and soul-mate. Along the lonely path of political struggle, I am really fortunate to meet such a good teacher and soul-mate.
To understand Goh Seng Soon's political course, we will have to start from Singapore's political exile and refugee, Tan Wah Piow's saga. Seng Soon was born in a poor family but he was a bright student who seek to take up part time diploma courses in pursue of a better paper qualification. In that era of active student movement, he has the opportunity to get to know Tan Wah Piow and other prominent student leaders of that time.
When former union leader and PAP's MP Phey Yew Kok framed, falsely incriminated and accused Tan Wah Piow of "rioting", Seng Soon became the key witness for Tan Wah Piow. When the said "riot" was happening, Seng Soon was just having coffee with Tan Wah Piow near the venue of the rioting. In the name of Justice, Seng Soon has chosen to fight against the unreasonable and rascal almighty bully all the way without any reservation. No matter how intimidating the opponents were in court, he fought them fearlessly. The crossing swords in court has created a rare excitement in Singapore's judiciary history, so much so that it has become the daily headlines of the then Chinese newspaper Nanyang Sang Pao for that duration. Seng Soon has repeatedly outmaneuvered the Deputy Public Prosecutor that he ended up flipping his tie over his shoulder in frustration!.
Seng Soon admired Tan Wah Piow's talents and he admitted that he has learned a lot from Wah Piow in debating skills and leadership. In view of Wah Piow's talents, Seng Soon believed that Lee Kuan Yew would definitely find every means to get rid of him if possible. This was basically the reason why all of them believed that Tan Wah Piow has to run road, else he would definitely be dead.
When the verdict of injustice came to put Tan Wah Piow into jail for 1 year, Seng Soon stood right outside the courtroom's door and told the reporters, "I guess I will not be going home today". Indeed, he was mentally prepared to be arrested by LKY's ISD. True enough, the ISD agents were waiting for him right outside the court building! He was detained by ISD without trial for more than 4 months. When they gave him the "cold shower" in the detention centre, he retaliated by throwing hot coffee at them and even wanted to beat them up. When they tried to force confession out of him of being Communist, he told them he belonged to the LARGEST PARTY in the world, the Rice Bowl Party. His unyielding and dauntless attitude has left a great impression till today, only that he has left us now. However, being kept in captive by these bullies would inevitably mean that he would be tortured by them. Such humiliation has been unforgettable and unforgivable to Seng Soon. This was basically the fundamental reason for the deep-seated hatred Seng Soon had against the LKY-PAP regime. He has even named his dog "HARRY", the Christian name of Lee Kuan Yew, to vent his anger. Lee Kuan Yew has thus become his "sly fox".
Initially, Lee regime wanted to send Tan Wah Piow to army training immediately after his release from prison. However, after a strong protest from the student unions, Lee regime finally relented and agreed to allow Tan Wah Piow to go back home to visit his family members for a day. Lee regime has sent ISD agents to follow Tan Wah Piow everywhere he went on that day but luckily, with the help of Seng Soon and his friends, Tan Wah Piow managed to do a disappearance act and escaped from the agents' surveillance. After hiding for months, he managed to leave Singapore safely. Seng Soon became the unsung strategist of his escape.
Seng Soon lost his opportunity of higher education due to his involvement in the student movement and activism. Ｉbelieve that if he were to have the opportunity to further his studies, his achievements would be very much greater than it is now. Although he lacked the opportunity of acquiring a proper higher education but he was able to become Consultant, in his own merits, for a wooden plank factory in Indonesia as well as high class restaurant etc. in Singapore over his lifetime.
Politically, his contributions at the back scene cannot be ignored. Even though in his whole life, he has only participated in one General Elections in 1988, but in that battle, PAP has activated almost all its heavy weights to support its candidate in Chua Chu Kang SMC! These heavy weights included Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew, former DPM and President Ong Teng Cheong, current President Tony Tan etc. Despite of such great showing from these PAP heavy weights, he was still able to garner 40.7% in that 1988 GE. The reason why Lee Kuan Yew was so concerned and nervous about Goh Seng Soon's participation in the elections was because if he ever got elected into parliament, they would be facing an opponent more formidable and "troublesome" than JB Jeyaratnam himself!
Even after Seng Soon stood down from frontline politics, he was still very influential within the party. He has helped out with Mr. Low Thia Khiang's grassroot activities during the foundation years and had contributed his time, effort and money on various occasions and activities. He was pivotal and critical in the progress of getting Low Thia Khiang to replace JBJ as Secretary General and undoubtedly, was credited as the most important man behind WP's move towards a totally new era from then on. He has also acted as the treasurer of the party, one of the more important position in the party CEC. He was also the Election Agent of Dr Poh Lee Guan during the 2001 General Elections.
During this elections in 2001, the authorities had created a lot of issues for the Workers Party but Seng Soon was ever ready to engage in the battle of wits and courage with them. In facing the various deliberate unreasonable difficulties created by the police, Seng Soon was always able to collect all evidences and fight if off with the police officers with full confidence. Whenever the police wanted to make things difficult for him, he would put up with a cunning smile and walk off as if nothing happens. This has confused the police until they didn't know what to do with him. In the end, the top police officers in the Ang Mo Kio Police Station were said to be so afraid of him and would avoid him at all cost. It was such an unforgettable terrible experience with Seng Soon that they have given him a nickname, "The Devil from Workers Party"!
In the past, for almost every Sunday, Seng Soon would pay out of his own pocket to prepare appreciation luncheon for those Workers Party members who had gone for Hammer Sales all around Singapore in the morning. After lunch, they would sit down together and count the intake for the Hammer sales on that day. This also provided the opportunity for members to chit chat and enhanced comradeship among themselves. Once the URA called him up and claimed that he has contravened the rules of private residency by carrying out "political activities" in his private flat and they wanted an explanation from him! As usual, Seng Soon was so calm and steady, did not even show any bit of anger when he visited URA. He just left them a simple statement, "If you think I am in the wrong, please sue me in court!", gave them that cunning smile and then just left URA with the staffs stunned. URA was shocked and didn't know what to do with him! Actually, it was only Seng Soon's style to always be prepared for such incidents. He has long collected newspaper cuttings as evidence that PAP leaders had told the press that they had once had a very important meeting at one of the senior leader's house to make a very important decision. If URA was to sue him for breaching the law, then this senior leader must have broken the law as well! Luckily URA didn't take any action against Seng Soon else the veteran senior leaders of PAP would face great embarrassment if they were to be taken to court as well!
Seng Soon was never a power crazy politician. When Workers Party was able to find enough young people to take over important roles in the CEC, he took the initiative to ask to step down from CEC when the election of new CEC was due. However, this doesn't mean that he didn't care for WP' development anymore. On the contrary, up to the very last days of his life, he was still worried about the development of Workers Party.
Among all opposition members, Goh Seng Soon could be considered as a rare species. He has an extra-ordinary huge network in Singapore and he was definitely one of the smartest strategist among the veterans. He could analyse and determine the truth of political reality with his Theory of Relativity and logic. Nothing was too complex to be solved by him. Regrettably, he has left before he could accomplish what he has set out to do.
Although I have learned quite a lot of things with regards to politics and diplomacy from Seng Soon, but I didn't dare to consider myself as his "disciple" because I have not gone through that proper formality. He has a totally different view of this student who was considered by many people as "traitor of Workers Party". In the face of overwhelming WP members' hostility towards me, he was still willing to regard me as one of his soul mates and best friends. I am very touched by the trust he has in me. For some ultra-sensitive information which he would refrain from sharing with his WP comrades, he has shared with me unreservedly. Our mutual trust was built on the fact that we have come to acknowledge that we were both on the same path, we have the common goals and common idealism. He has shown understanding that my criticisms of WP were all made based on the premise of enhancing a better progress and development for Democracy. His only complain to me was that my actions or criticisms of WP has put him in a very difficult spot among his WP comrades. However, he still hoped that I could return to WP. He has encouraged me and even wanted to try every means to put me back into WP. But I have subtly and tactfully put such suggestions into cold storage. Deep down my heart, I was very grateful for his good intentions but I didn't dare to tell him, without me, Workers Party will not die, but if I returned to Workers Party, I will definitely perished!
How many soul mates can one meet in a lifetime? It is even rarer still for a political soul mate. In this lonely political path of mine, Seng Soon was the only political soul mate whom I could have perfect genuine meeting of minds and souls, spoke freely about anything and everything, mutual respect, looked out for each other...etc. He used to joke frequently that he has achieved the status of "Political Sage Fighter", one who have both the wisdom and valor while I was just a "Political Fox"! This was because he was always circumspect and farsighted, could always foretell with divine accuracy in political matters. What he set to do, he would always accomplish it. However, the unexpected had happened and he has lost quite badly in his last battle of his life, in full regret. Now, I am left even more lonely in this path of politics.
The passing of Goh Seng Soon is definitely a great loss to opposition politics. To the Workers Party at this critical juncture of democratic development, such loss is definitely a huge blow to it. As for me, it is emotionally totally unbearable.
For now, I only hope that my teacher, Seng Soon, will have a smooth journey to heaven. You have such little regrets in life, no big deal and you shouldn't be bothered at all. I hope that my little eulogy here could well put your extraordinary life on record of Singapore political history by summing up your contributions to our political development in this life. I sincerely hope that we shall meet again to continue our friendship in next life. Please Rest In Peace.
Goh Meng Seng