The following are the answers I have given to the critical questions posted to me by one of the my detractors, blogger at anyhowhantam.blogspot.sg
I hope these answers which I have given could address most of the common doubts and questions most people have in mind about me and People's Power Party.
1. Mr Goh you've made quite a few remarks about some aspects of the Worker's Party's style or methods. And to be blunt, some have quite a sting in them. You were of course a former member and stood on their ticket, and people assume that you left in a huff or with acrimony. Did you leave the WP on a good note or were you forced out? (Here it depends how you answer, but i'll assume it's not on very bad terms)
If you feel that some of the remarks are stinging, then you should ask yourself whether it is really relevant with good reasoning or not. If it is just some irrational ranting, then it should not be stinging, right?
What do you expect from a politician? Do you expect him to be loyal only to their own party affiliations or to the people and Nation? Especially when there are public interests involved, do you just expect politicians just close both eyes because it involves his own party affiliations or do you expect him to stand firm and defend public interests? These are the fundamental questions we should ask ourselves and we have been unhappy about PAP MPs all this while because we feel that they are more concerned about their own party’s interests rather than ours, the voters. Similarly, when it comes to pertinent questions of competency or even integrity, should we do the same as PAP people and keep absolute silence over such issues which may implicate opposition party like WP?
I have explained in quite a number of posts on my blog, I chose to leave WP because of the mistake I have made on the internet which was conceived as damaging to WP’s image. However, this incident has also highlighted the differences I have with WP leadership over internet engagement policy. I chose to leave on my own, without pressure from anyone, because I do not want to create any disruption on WP’s progress just because of this issue.
The exit is cordial, no hard feelings.
2. If that's the case, why then do you express displeasure at the way they do things? Of course I'm not suggesting that every time you speak it's anti-WP, but people tend to remember this more. (again you batted this away - like a baseball player)
As explained in my answer to your first question, it is about Public Interests. You should observe that every comment made is all about public interests; i.e. whether public funds are used appropriately, management of TC is done appropriately, integrity of those people in public office etc.
This is why I have written into my party, People’s Power Party, the important Core Values which we believe in:, namely, Public Service, Integrity, Honesty etc etc. If you view it as “anti-WP”, then I cannot help it. As far as I am concerned, it is “Pro-People” and “Pro-Public Interests”. I could of course, like many other opposition activists, chose to keep quiet over this just in fear of losing votes from hardcore opposition supporters, but I guess that is unhealthy and opportunistic. It would mean that when something wrong happens to my own party’s management of public entities, if we ever win any seats, I will also try to do a hush hush cover up or just protect the party at all cost, instead of being transparent and accountable for whatever mistakes we have made. Do you want me to become like this?
Integrity is something easy to talk about but not so easy practice. It means that even if nobody is watching, you will not steal. Regardless of what situations, you should always be upright in your Speech, Thought and Actions. It means that regardless of who makes the mistakes, even if it is King, Queen, Emperor, own family members or own people with the same political affiliations, you should always speak up without fear or favour, bravely on what’s wrong, what’s right and what should be done or avoided.
I come into opposition politics not merely because I am “Anti-PAP” but rather, I take it as public service and for public service to work towards the welfare of the people and Nation, instead of merely taking side, irrationally and irresponsibly, with any people. My answer may disappoint a lot of hardcore opposition supporters but this is what I am, who I am. If you really do not agree with me or believe in my principles on this basic fundamental position, then you have the right not to vote for me.
3. The point is Mr Goh, no 1 faults you for speaking your mind, but the thing to remember and I'm sure you'll be the 1st to admit, the PAP are very kiasu (or even kiasi). Every small mistake the opposition make, they on it like a flash. They control every aspect of the media, and these things are made into a huge issue. The media not only reports it, they dissect it, examine it, analyse it and even offer opinions on it - unfavourable of course. So the perception is that you bear a grudge against the WP, and by doing so, you're just helping the PAP out. How would you respond to these assumptions/perceptions?
It is actually very simple to deal with such thing. If there is a problem or a mistake is made, just admit it, apologize and promise not to make the same mistake again. There is really no need to take overly defensive position. Just like YSL saga, up till now, we do not know exactly what happened. How can like that?
When it comes to management of public entity, whether we like it or not, accountability and transparency are of utmost important. When there is a question of “integrity”, then it must be addressed thoroughly. But look at how WP treated the whole issue of integrity when LTK has first promised to investigate on why the contractor has not done according to contract but went on to request additional payment from hawkers for scaffolding but later on, retracted this promise and said no investigation is needed. Do we opposition has any moral high ground left when we want to demand transparency and accountability from PAP?
PAP may be politicking to the dot by exploiting WP’s weaknesses but that is beside the point. If WP was able to handle the issue in an appropriate manner, with full transparency and accountability, I do not think PAP could win anything from such politicking.
We opposition people have been harping on PAP’s mistakes as well and New Media is no where inferior than PAP’s controlled MSM. But if you have observed very carefully, PAP has evolved from previous aloofness in treating or ignoring these attacks from New Media as “mere ranting”, to a position of taking serious actions against those “mistakes” exploded on New Media. In fact, they have taken quick reactions to some of the flaws or mistakes exposed on New Media.
My point is this, ths is fair game. Democracy is built upon the premise that Human Beings cannot be trusted with power (any form of power, be it small or big) because over time, Power corrupts, Absolute Power corrupts absolutely. Thus the system of Democracy is based on separation of Powers so that effective checks and balances could be installed. As for politicians involved, we should learn to understand that we should not put 100% trust on anyone of them, including me. Only through active citizenry whereby mistakes and scandals are exposed and people responsible for these are brought to shame, then we can be sure that power, in any form, is not being abused by those in public office.
As far as I am concerned, regardless of black cat, white cat or blue cat, whoever steals, is bad cat. Whichever catches the rat, is good cat. Whichever sleep on its job, is lazy cat. My loyalty only goes to the people and Nation, so to make sure that good cats are maintained in public service. If any cat has turned lazy or bad, then kick them out, no matter who they are, which party they come from.
4. Of course when you briefly quit politics, it's quite alright to speak out about what ails the opposition parties, I notice you've also not been endearing to your former party (which you led) - NSP. But now that you've formed a new party, will you hold back your fire? Unless of course you end up in a 3 horse race, where you have to show the voters there, the difference between you and whichever opposition party contests there, and also against the PAP obviously.
For people who are already in public office, we have to use higher standards to keep them on their toes. For others, we compete on strength, characters and ideas or ideals we can offer. Some people feel that as opposition party leader or member, we shall not speak ill of other opposition party for two reasons:
1) Opposition Unity
2) Self serving
But look at this from another way. Is there any concrete “Opposition Unity” in the first place? WP has declared openly that they will walk their own path. So could there be “Opposition Unity” without WP’s involvement?
Attacking PAP is not considered “self serving” but attacking on other opposition party is considered as self serving? If there is a three corner or multi-corner fights, then you are suggesting that it is alright for me to say bad things against the other opposition parties because we are in direct contest. However, if there is no direct contest, I should not say anything bad about other opposition party’s mistakes made? It is more self serving and opportunistic to choose to say bad things about those who contest against you while keeping quiet when they do not!
Let’s say PAP lost power and WP became the ruling party. So now what? Do we continue to whack PAP but defend WP’s mistakes due to inexperience all the while?
My point is simple, if your actions are dictated by your self interests as well as the elusive “opposition unity”, then you will most probably misplaced Public Interests to be inconsequential. And this is the whole point of engaging in politics, be it opposition or PAP or otherwise. You should have your heart placed at the right place:- Public Service and thus, to safeguard Public Interests.
5. Which brings me to the next question - As you know there's a core opposition vote everywhere - even 'The Slipper Man (remember him?) managed to retain his deposit in a 1 v 1 fight. But since there's only like 27 actual contests (no thanks to the GRCs), maybe the next election we might see 30 contests, finding an empty constituency is going to be hard. The fear is that 3 or 4 horse races dilute the core opposition votes, and also the crucial swing or neutral votes needed to cross the line. Your party being the newest could face a voter backlash, have you considered that?
As long as the total number of candidates from opposition does not overflow, there should not be multi-corner fights. But if there are parties which try to increase their number of candidates, then multi-corner fights are unavoidable. The fundamental problem lies with the total number of candidates, not total number of opposition parties.
If there is really going to be multi-corner fights, then it is about time for voters, especially hardcore opposition supporters, to learn to vote with a discerning mind. It will no longer about PAP vs Opposition. It is not about that superficial “branding”. If opposition supporters just vote according to superficial “branding” instead of scrutinizing the strength and weaknesses of each individual candidate put up for contest, then they are encouraging big brand party to field their candidates irresponsibly! If all opposition supporters learn to vote responsibly, with the aim to choose the GOOD people whom they could trust to bring value and contributions towards the Democratic cause, then there should not be any “dilution” of votes. Unfortunately this would mean other opposition candidates will have to lose their election deposits, so be it. In the long run, it will help to shape the political landscape; political parties should not anyhow put up candidates to contest in multi-corner fights as there is a price to pay.
As for our party PPP, it may be new but it is run by people with years of experiences and most importantly, people with their minds and hearts put in the right place for Singapore with a set of strong Core Values and Political Beliefs. My personal motive in getting back into partisan politics again is to make sure that people who have the competency, capability and most importantly, the right attitudes, core values and political beliefs to get into Public Service as opposition MPs. In short, a gatekeeper to ensure good people are fielded while keeping out those dubious ones. The rest is up to voters like you. If we lost badly, so be it. We will respect voters’ choice but the lost is not merely ours alone. But we believe opposition supporters would be wise enough to vote for the interests of the Nation, not merely for “party loyalty”. The era of “putting a donkey up and you will get my vote” should be over. We should evolve into a more discerning and sophisticated lot in order to advance for a more matured Democracy.
In short, I will do my best for the public interests of Singapore and I hope opposition voters will do the same, vote for the public interests of Singapore too.
6. Of course we all hope there could be opposition unity, but if push comes to shove, are you prepared to take the plunge and have a 3 way contest?
It is a premature hypothetical question. As far as I could, I will try to avoid 3 corner contests. But if I can’t, then I will have to assess the candidates sent by the other opposition party, whether they are really better choice than ours, objectively speaking. If they are truly people of caliber and we believe they have something to contribute to parliamentary debates, we will avoid. If not, we will stand firmly on our ground. For those parties who refuse to reveal their candidates, then it could only mean that they do not take such electoral contest seriously at all. We will ignore them and continue with our contest.
7. And what about losing your deposits, surely you'll have to consider that too? The amount here is outrageous, don't you agree?
It is too premature to assume we will lose our deposits. But if we do lose our deposits, so be it. As I have said, we will respect the choice of voters. No regrets.
8. Ok you've explained why you've come back into politics, speaking to TOC and TRE (video interview correct?) The thing I'd like to know, is why did you leave the NSP in the 1st place? I mean it's very normal for a leader to step down or face a challenge after losing a general election, but that doesn't mean he should actually quit the party. Take Ian Duncan-Smith, William Hague or Edward Heath in the UK. Conservative leaders, lost the election but remained in party as MPs. Even Tengku Razaleigh in Malaysia, he's still an MP despite losing the leadership challenge. Shouldn't you just have stepped down as leader but remained in the party? And you could still come back as a candidate under their banner for the next GE.
If you have a strong guiding principle of Public Service, then you will understand why I left and why I decided to come back now.
I joined opposition politics via WP in 2001 with two things in mind. I have told my wife to give me 15 years and I will try to achieve two fundamental goals:
1) Help opposition to Breach the First GRC fortress
2) Deprive PAP of two third majority
But this should never be at the expense of public interests; I am intolerable of issues of integrity and incompetency.
After GE2011, Hazel wanted to take over the SG post of NSP. I do not think it is a good idea for her to take over because of her lack of experience in running a political party. Running a political party is very different from running a business entity. It needs special skill sets. Besides, she was pretty new to NSP. I could have stopped her if I had contested for the SG post as well but it may create tensions even before the group of people who have just joined NSP could have the chance to integrate with the other party members.
In considering the situation back then, I was extremely happy that opposition, through WP, has finally breached PAP’s GRC fortress in Aljunied GRC. The first milestone I have set for my 15 years of participation has come to fruition. My assessment back then was that I have confidence in WP to maintain the momentum garnered from this initial success and thus, the second milestone of depriving PAP the two third majority would most probably happened in the coming GE. By the next GE, my 15 years “contract” would have expired!
Thus, after much consideration and in view of the achievement of the first milestone plus giving NSP a chance of preventing premature crack or break right after GE, I decided to take a step back and go into partisan sabbatical.
By taking a step back, I see my role as political observer and I should become non-partisan in order to put up my views as independent. It would be wonderful to be non-partisan political observer forever until I die but situation doesn’t allow me to have that luxury.
9. 1 other possibility for your new party to avoid 3 way contests is to of course join forces in a coalition with other parties like the SDA does. You could team up with say SingFirst, the DPP, even the SDA itself and all contest under 1 umbrella. Will you consider this option?
SDA platform is no longer effective without Chiam’s SPP. To create another platform of alliance will take time and it will not be possible for this round of GE. I am open to the idea for opposition parties to contest along COMMON POLICY PLATFORM instead. We find great similarities in some of the policies offered by different people or opposition parties. There are of course differences but we can put aside the differences in policy perspectives and concentrate on the common ground to put up a credible front against PAP’s current policies. I believe this is more important than forming an “Alliance of Convenience”. Naturally for parties who are wiling to collaborate on the common policy platform would not go into clash with each other.
10. If you don't mind, I would like to ask 2 questions which I slammed you for in my articles. The 1st was your leadership of the NSP in the last elections. Do you agree that you made some tactical mistakes -especially in Tampines? I have a few friends there, and they're pretty sore that you left it too late to attack Mah Bow Tan and the sky-rocketing HDB prices. You could have pulled an upset there if you focussed on it by sending an A team, or come very close, maybe even getting a NCMP seat. Do you agree you made a mistake, and will you do things differently this time and go for the jugular?
You are observing from a distance and thus, I do not blame you for your inaccurate assertions.
My attacks on MBT and HDB prices, started at least 9 months way ahead of GE. If you look at what I have written on my blog, you will realize that this is a step up deliberation on HDB issues. Timing was just right actually, to build up on public opinion just before polling day. Although it is really not easy initially to convince 85% of HDB flats owners that their flats should be cheaper, but I should say that the whole campaign on HDB has turned up well.
Even up till today, the strong consensus on HDB flat pricing is still emerging very strongly on all fronts. PAP MBT didn’t dare to hold a debate on HDB issues even I have challenged him three times over MSM!
As for the A team or not, I have already explained in my blog posts. I have offered Tony and Hazel to contest in Tampines, but they have declined. I have offered Nicole Seah to contest in Tampines, she has declined as well. I respect their decisions and I do not force people to do what they decided not to do.
It is on hindsight that people think Tampines is an “easy target”. Way before 2009, nobody hated MBT. Nobody talked about HDB issues. And MBT, as the Minister for MND, has naturally FORTIFIED Tampines with all sorts of upgrading projects. For those who live in Tampines would have noticed that right before GE2011, at every corner you turned in Tampines, you could see upgrading projects in process!
I would also remind you that for Tampines, since ever it became a GRC, opposition party contested there has never crossed 41%. PAP has gotten more than 73% in 2001 and 68% in 2006 respectively! I think it is unfair to expect my team to create a 19% vote swing from 31.5% in 2006 to win Tampines in GE2011! The average National vote swing was only 6%. And considering the fact that this result is a swing of 11.3% after a 10 year period of being under SDA which was a restrain on the development of NSP party’s branding back then, I feel that it is already a remarkable fight.
I should say that it should be clear to everybody that this Minister-Specific strategy which I have applied in GE2011 has shown results. PAP has never wanted to debate or fight on any specific policy issues during any elections. They would AVOID all policy debates or discussion AT ALL COST. They know that they would be cornered into a defensive mode if elections are fought along policy views. They will create distractions or simply ignore strong opposition challenges on any specific policy. I do not think I have made any tactical or strategic mistake here with regards to Tampines campaign, else, you and your friends won’t be feeling strongly that MBT and his team should be kicked out. And the fact is, even when MBT’s team won, MBT has been forced to relinquish his post as Minister for MND! I would say that we might not have won the whole battle, but at the very least, we have won half of the battle of getting rid of MBT as Minister!
For the coming GE, there are new issues and new strategy has been planned. It is not appropriate for me to reveal any details now as it is too premature to do so.
11. The other question is related too - your advice to Tan Kin Lian to run for the Presidency. His 5% not only lost him the deposit, but made Tony Tan President. Do you regret now advising him to run?
I do not think those (about 100K) who voted for Tan Kin Lian would have voted for Tan Chen Bock. Those who have voted for Tan Kin Lian are mostly die hard anti-PAP people who have lost their money during the mini-bond saga. Tan Chen Bock, as a PAP member back then, did nothing to help them or voice out for them. They would have either voted Tan Jee Say or simply spoilt their votes. Thus, it is rather presumptuous to assume that Kin Lian’s participation in the Presidential Elections has cost Tan Chen Bock his presidency.
On the other hand, I supported Kin Lian because he has shown that he is willing to step up to fight against injustice and unfairness during the Mini-Bond saga. Non of the other candidates have done so. In fact, some of the Mini-bond victims have gotten back some of their money because of Kin Lian’s efforts. Besides, Kin Lian was the first one to show any interests in Presidential Elections after the Mini-bond saga. He is never opportunistic in his approach and genuine in his intent to uphold social justice. I do not know much of other candidates but I know Kin Lian well in upholding the values he has put up. I believe in having a President who has strong beliefs and Core Values of honesty, integrity and fairness. If you ask me whether I will do it again to support Kin Lian as President, I will definitely do it again if Kin Lian ever wished to contest. I know Kin Lian isn’t political savvy in his projection of image but that’s also what I respect him for, being truthful to himself without much pretence on what he speaks. Elections, as I have said before, should be putting the RIGHT people, GOOD people into important position of power.
12. Of course such things made you quite unpopular with certain segments within the opposition camp. And you know lah Singaporeans, always have 'conspiracy theories' - some even say you're a PAP mole planted and encouraged to run to dilute the opposition! So are you a mole or Trojan Horse?
I do what I believe in as good for Singapore’s political aka democratic development. I do not take opportunistic view of “winning at all cost”; e.g. putting a donkey just for the sake of winning. I believe strongly in integrity, honesty, fairness and public service. I believe in helping or pushing people with GOOD characters, right attitude and hearts in the right place to serve the people into position of power. At times, I even hope that certain people should not have contested, not because of the lack of paper qualifications or any other reasons, but because I know of their character flaws or they have integrity problem. But in politics, I have to make compromises. For these strange bed fellows, I will not help them in any ways to win because I know that if they win, Singapore will be in great trouble.
At the end of the day, other people can say anything they want but my stance is pretty clear. Moles will not try to help to build opposition parties up, not only one party, but TWO opposition parties, from small ships into credible battleships in such a short span of time. Moles will not push for rebranding exercise of opposition parties, not one but TWO, with all sorts of suggestions and strategies to rebuild public confidence in opposition camp. Moles will not hit hard at the HARD SORE policy issues like HDB, which was the GREATEST POLITICAL CAPITAL of PAP which it has accumulated over 40 years! Well, I don’t think any moles would spend prolonged period of time and effort, in writing policy issues and hitting at the core of PAP’s incompetency.
I can only say, these people who really make up such conspiracy theories, should have their heads checked.
13. Ok I'll try to end it here with just a few more questions. Opposition politics is a lonely and hard road to travel, with so many pitfalls, not only does the PAP try to squeeze you and make the field very uneven, you end up having detractors (including myself) condemning you for your efforts. Do you regret it? Does your wife and family ever tell you, 'Ah Seng, sua lah, enough lah, just quit and be a private citizen?' Do you ever feel like giving up because of the hardships and lack of thanks?
I have no regrets, really. If people like you and PAP IBs ignore me, then it is clear that I am irrelevant. I do not blame you for writing bad things about me because I know you are not insider who will have privileged information to help you understand the greater whole picture. Politics isn’t simple, but it isn’t that complicated at all. Just keep your heart in the right place, do whatever you need to do with your conscience clear, then whatever other detractors say, are totally irrelevant. You cannot please everyone all the time. While I have detractors like you, but I also have strong supporters and following as well. You are my mirror to show me how people look at me. If I have free time like this, I will try to correct your wrong perception. If not, I will just leave it aside. Or I simply learn from you on how I could do better (though this is very rare). I draw strength from lots of people who have given me strong support and encouragement. People who can see exactly what I am trying to do and where I am coming from will have stronger believe in me, my strength and my team.
Every “revolutionary effort”, has always started from a small group of people, with a small group of supporters. In time to come, consistency will prove my point and consistency can only be achieved by having strong guiding beliefs, principles and a set of Core Values.
Well, for my immediate family, of course my wife and child would love to have their husband and father to spend more time with them. But they also know the importance of my political work and I am blessed to have their full support on all fronts. I am greatly indebted to them for their love and support. Most importantly, they are proud of what I have done and what I am doing as well. This is something that money cannot buy.
I have written a few articles in my blog about stories of my childhood. You should go and read it. I am not someone who will give up easily when the job isn’t done. In fact, I love challenges and fighting for social justice. And you must be mistaken. You may think that there are a lot of people who will hate me in Singapore but I am beginning to feel that you are the minority whenever I meet strangers on the streets who will wave at me, smile at me, shake my hand and even thank me and encourage me for the work I have done. It is not “thankless” to me. I felt touched by each of these encounters and this is the main reason for me to carry on fighting.
14. Assuming that you fail again - I'm not trying to put you down, but new party, 1st time of asking is quite an uphill task - just being realistic, supposing you fail again, will you keep plugging away like JBJ and Chiam have up to old age, or is there a time frame where you will hang up your boots?
When Chiam left SDP in 1997 and contested in a newly formed SPP, he won. This was because he was no stranger and he was an MP. I cannot say I am as popular as Chiam but I am confident in myself and my team. Not many people in opposition have all the relevant experiences and skills in running a party, lest running a whole election campaign proper. I am one of the very few who have hands on experiences in planning for campaign logistics as well as media management. Besides, I have a team, though small but with relevant skill sets and experiences, to help me out.
When I gave a briefing on PPP to all the founders and supporters, I have stated categorically that PPP will become the ruling party or part of ruling coalition one day. It may not happen during my lifetime but it will outlive all our founders and achieve that aim. This is because we have started it right, with the right Core Values, Political Ideologies, Philosophies and objectives all embedded in our Constitution.
15. Ok last question - national issues aside - opposition parties tend to overlook municipal issues, which are very important to voters. They want to be assured that a team can take over from the PAP and run the Town Council and their estate well. How confident are you in fulfilling this role, and do you have a team in place that can run the estate seamlessly?
Running a Town Council WAS NEVER AN ISSUE! SDP has run THREE Town Council back in early 1990s. WP has run its Hougang Twon Council for two decades! Why is it an issue now? You will really have to THINK REAL HARD, why do we have issues now when we don’t in the past?
Running Town Council is REALLY a NON ISSUE if you understand Separation of Powers to implement proper checks and balances. On top of that, you must also understand Conflict of interest and how to avoid it.
MPs’ MAIN CORE Job, is Parliamentary Debates, less of estate management. How many PAP MPs really know how to run an Estate? You just employ people with professional experiences and qualifications to do it while you are to ensure the system of management is in proper order with proper checks and balances through separation of powers. On top of that, prevent conflict of interests.
I think most of you have been misled by PAP to put all focus on TC management. This is what PAP wants you to focus on for the next GE, instead of those teething policy issues!
As for the pertinent question about whether I have a team of people who can manage the TC, yes, of course! You just need professional people with estate management experiences to run the TC, not some rocket scientist lah!
Goh Meng Seng