States Times Review / ESM Goh Chok Tong: Young people’s bond with PAP less instinctive and more transactional

States Times Review, Goh Chok Tong, 40th anniversary with PAP
States Times Review / ESM Goh Chok Tong: Young people's bond with PAP less instinctive and more transactional
States Times Review, Goh Chok Tong, 40th anniversary with PAP
States Times Review / ESM Goh Chok Tong: Young people’s bond with PAP less instinctive and more transactional

Guess most of STR’s readers only read the FB caption that STR put.

What Mr Goh Chok Tong said, “The demography of Marine Parade will continue to change. The Pioneer Generation old who had lived through poverty and the struggles for survival will be replaced by younger voters whose bond with the PAP is less instinctive, and more transactional.”

Anything wrong with that? Our pioneers faced uncertainty and they really depended on the PAP to guide them through. We the younger generations may not be able to feel the same survival instinct and to some, PAP is just another political party.

Mr Goh Chok Tong’s post in full:

Celebrating 40 Good Years in Marine Parade

When James, Yusof and Nancy broached the subject of celebrating my 40th anniversary as MP for Marine Parade, I readily agreed. But for a different reason. I thought we should mark the 40th anniversary of Marine Parade as a constituency rather than my being here for 40 years. It would be an auspicious occasion for me to thank the First Generation Branch and grassroots leaders for the significant role they played in securing Marine Parade for the PAP. So thank you James, Yusof and others for organising tonight’s celebratory dinner in their and my honour. Thank you all of you for coming. In particular, the old members like Puhaindran and Victor Png. I am sad that a few of the old Party stalwarts had passed away. Amongst them were Yee Hong Poy and Mah Guan Lin.

First Visit to Marine Parade

Soon after I was told that I would be fielded in Marine Parade, I made a quiet visit here to recce. I liked what I saw – a well-laid out, spacious, spanking new estate. Like Louis Armstrong, what a wonderful place, I thought to myself.

Pioneer Branch Officials and GRLs

When the 1976 GE was called, Dr Goh Keng Swee rang me up to check how I was coping. I told him that I had no Branch in Marine Parade.

He laughed but comforted me by telling me not to worry. Just put a table and a few chairs in the void deck, and people would step forward to help, he said. True enough. When Fong Sip Chee who was fighting J B Jeyaretnam in Kampong Chai Chee learnt that my new Branch had no money, he donated $2,000 from his Branch. He also directed 3 or 4 of his Branch members who were living in Marine Parade to stay and help me. I have never forgotten his generous spirit of comradeship. Several market stallholders also came forward to help – egg sellers, tau gay and tau kwa sellers, fishmongers and pork sellers. One of them, Lim Bak Hee, a fishmonger, stayed back to help in the Branch. I also remember Tan Beng Huat, a pork seller. I understand that he passed away some years back.

However, as I did not know these people well, I appointed a colleague from NOL to be my Election agent. He was Chong Ah Fatt, my Administration Manager in NOL. NOL’s Administrative Assistant and my secretary also came forward to help me campaign door-to- door.

I am telling you all this to give you a picture of the natural birth of the Marine Parade Branch. We did not inherit the Branch from anyone. We built it from scratch. I decided to build the Branch from internal resources, i.e. recruit activists mainly from within the constituency. I let go of Chong Ah Fatt. Sadly, he died prematurely some years later. The people who played a key role in growing the Branch were Tan Kin Lian, Tan Soo Kong, Puhaindran, Yee Hong Poy, Captain Hamid Khan, Victor Png, Lim Beng Swee, Seah Seng Kwong, James Chay. They ran my MPS. Regrettably, Hong Poy and Captain Hamid had passed away.

For CCC, I appointed Lam Peck Heng, an old school mate from RI. He lived in Marine Parade. For CCMC, I identified Peter Lee, a remisier. He also lived in Marine Parade. Later, Puhaindran and Goh Tiam Lock took over from Peck Heng and Peter respectively. Tiam Lock was the man who built our CC building, not once but twice. He was totally reliable. I appreciate his past contributions greatly.

But my alter ego in Marine Parade was Puhaindran. When I was busy as DPM and PM, he ran the constituency on my behalf. He was, as I have said before, my proxy. He had political acumen. He could read the ground sentiments. He was able to organize and hold the Branch activists and grassroots leaders together to work for a common cause. Above all, he was committed and loyal. Thank you, Puhaindran for making a difference in Marine Parade.

The first patrons of Marine Parade were John Yam and Sin Leong. John was one year my senior in the university. He supported us with his generous donations all the years. Likewise, Sin Leong who operated his Sin Leong Restaurant in Marine Parade. Later, Ng Hock Lye and Danny Ng joined us as patrons.

The people I named were only some of the many people who came forward to help me and make a difference to Marine Parade. To all of them, I say a big ‘thank you’. Today’s celebration is really our celebration, and not mine alone.

I have also been fortunate to count on my MP colleagues to help me look after the Branch and Marine Parade when I was DPM and PM and could not spend too much time on the ground. Thank you, Othman Eusofe, Matthias Yao, and Lim Biow Chuan for your comradeship.

Prime Minister Lee’s Lesson on Psephology

My first sitting in Parliament stayed vivid in my mind. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew gave a most impactful speech aimed at educating the MPs. Towards the end of the speech, he gave a lesson on psephology (the study of elections). He posed a puzzle for the MPs to solve. He informed the House that I won Marine Parade with 78.6% of the votes cast. Ang Kok Peng won Buona Vista with 82.7%. Marine Parade was newer than Buona Vista. It had, as he put it, the ‘mostest’ number of 5 room flats, a higher average household income and a higher proportion of English-speaking voters than Buona Vista. Yet Marine Parade polled 2 percentage points lower than Buona Vista. Was it because I was a new candidate while Kok Peng was a second time candidate, he asked. Or was it because the lower-income, Chinese-educated voters were more supportive of the PAP than the middle-income English-educated Singaporeans? He never gave the answer. Instead, he said, whoever could solve the puzzle, would have one of the attributes to be Prime Minister. What is the answer to PM Lee’s question? It was telling that he did not reveal the ethnic composition of the two electorates. In 1976, Marine Parade had about 15 percent Malays while Buona Vista had only 2 percent.

High and Low Points

We have always had good support from our residents in Marine Parade. Malay support for the PAP and in Marine Parade has also increased over the years. My high point in Marine Parade was no doubt the election night, exactly 40 years ago. I and our supporters were jubilant. Bak Hee and another market stallholder chaired me.

Another emotional high point was the 1992 By-election. Jeyaretnam had accused me of calling the GE early in 1991, just 3 years after the 1988 GE, in order to deny him the right to contest. He was still barred from contesting the GE then. I retorted by saying that I would hold a by-election for him. The ground was not particularly sweet. A by-election was tricky.

I decided to hold the by-election in Marine Parade GRC. In a sense, I was seeking the people’s mandate again as a new Prime Minister. The thought of losing never entered my head but there were some risks that we might not do well. As it turned out, we polled 72.9% against Chiam’s SDP which fielded Chee Soon Juan. The Workers Party did not contest. Jeyaretnam waited and waited at the Nomination Centre but one of his candidates, theWP chairman, failed to turn up. Some years later, I bumped into this WP chairman and asked him why he did not turn up for the by-election. He said that he was annoyed with Jeyaretnam over something and decided to play him out.

My lowest point in Marine Parade was the 2011 GE. When the result for Marine Parade was announced, I felt the deep disappointment and gloom in our supporters. I too did not expect Marine Parade GRC to poll only 56.6%. It was a lesson in the vagaries of elections. What you had done for the people as an MP or PM did not matter as much as the prevailing mood of the people. It was another lesson in psephology – that voters’ support was not to be taken for granted. But I sought consolation in that our voters in Marine Parade precincts supported us with 65% of the votes. Given the general national unhappiness, I considered that acceptable.

Going Forward

Going forward, we must not assume that we will always poll more than 70% in our Marine Parade ward. We should not even assume that we will always win. I give the following reasons.

  • I cannot be around for the next 40 years. It will be difficult for a new person to get the same support as me for various reasons.
  • The demography of Marine Parade will continue to change. The Pioneer Generation old who had lived through poverty and the struggles for survival will be replaced by younger voters whose bond with the PAP is less instinctive, and more transactional.
  • Future elections will depend more on the mood of the day than on the PAP brand. This mood will be influenced by the prevailing policies and not the 50 years of good work done by the PAP. This is the nature of politics in a settled democracy.
  • Opposition parties will attract better qualified members and grow. They will exploit any discontent in the population and blow up any mistakes of the government or pain in policies out of proportion. They will make full use of social media.

My Legacy in Marine Parade

What is the legacy I would like to leave behind in Marine Parade?
It is that the Marine Parade Branch will continue to uphold what I and the first generation Branch activists had built up. Marine Parade must continue to be the best home in the land, as our Marine Parade song goes. It must be a 4G Home: Great, Gracious, Generous and Green. We must never hand over our lives’ work on a silver platter to some opposition party who had never even spent time here.
Confidence in Future
Am I confident that we will be in charge of Marine Parade over the next few General Elections? That will depend on what the Party leaders and you do.
At the national level, I can see the fourth generation team taking shape. They are good men and women – competent, committed and dedicated. They are honing their political and leadership skills. They will make mistakes just as their predecessors did, but they must find and conquer their own mountain.
At the constituency level, we have already passed the baton to a younger team led by James, Yusof, Nancy, Gina, Jason, Yeow Kheng and Derrick at the Branch. The CCC leadership has also passed on to a younger man in Tan Jack Thian, and Patrick Ng is grooming a younger person in Anand to take over from him. We will be strengthening our RCs as well.
We are now organised differently. Instead of one key person like Puhaindran to straddle grassroots organisations and the Branch, we have different leaders for each organisation. But we have to work as a team. We cannot work in silo fashion – the Branch, CCC, CCMC, RCs, each on its own. That means interacting and working together to serve Marine Parade and earn the support of its residents. United we stand and divided we fall.
My wish and hope as we celebrate our 40th anniversary is: do your best for Marine Parade. Make sure it flourishes under the PAP as far as eyes can see. Yes, I am confident that you can and will do it.
Thank you.

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