星期五, 8月 13

The Personal Side of Goh Chok Tong

As Mr Goh Chok Tong steps down as Prime Minister, he will be remembered for the gentle touch he gave to the face of Singapore politics.

In the final part of this special on Mr Goh, let us take a look at the more personal side of the man many fondly refer to as the People's Prime Minister.


Part 4

Speak to any Singaporean who has met Mr Goh and they will marvel at his height.

Clearly head and shoulders above most others, Mr Goh literally stands out from the crowd.

But beyond this physical attribute, those who know Mr Goh speak of a man who is down to earth, sincere and in touch with the people.

To residents of Marine Parade, which he has served for some 30 years now, Mr Goh is a hero.

He is seen as the force behind the success of Singapore's first reclaimed settlement.

43-year-old Dr Chua Ee Chek, one of the pioneer residents of Marine Parade notes that the transformation of his neighbourhood has been quite dramatic.

The grassroots activist who met Mr Goh some 15 years ago recalls a man at ease with his residents and having a soft spot for babies.

"What impressed me was his friendly and affable nature and his ability to interact with ease among the heartlanders, both young and old and the residents respond well to him. And he has a soft spot for babies and young children. Whenever there's baby in the crowd, without fail he will carry the baby in his arms and invite the proud parents for a photo shot. And there's simply no airs about him and he often speaks dialect to the old folks and the grassroots leaders, easily putting everyone at ease."

This sentiment is echoed by other grassroots leaders and residents I spoke with.

In fact, what turned up from my chat with them is that Goh Chok Tong -- the Prime Minister and MP -- has a somewhat celebrity status.

Veteran grassroots leaders Dr Loh Soon Ann recalls an elderly lady who never fails to present Mr Goh with a rose when she meets him.

"Many years ago, she will always give PM a rose and these little nyonya cakes and tell him that he's her favourite MP! He was very touched by her gesture and she did it for a number of years."

Such is the dedication from his residents. But as I found out, this bond is reciprocal.

Mr Goh it seems, is more than just a politician to his residents.

He knows many by name through his walkabouts -- be they store keepers, hawkers or fishmongers.

Grassroots leaders also tell me of personal home visits by the Prime Minister.

Dr Chua Ee Chek says in advocating for a kinder gentler society, Mr Goh is a leader by example.

"On one occassion, one of our grassroots leaders was seriously ill and needed an amputation of the leg. He had a prolonged hospitalisation and was feeling pretty depressed and down. PM Goh, despite his busy schedule did not just send him flowers and fruits but paid him a visit and when this particular grassroots leader recovered, he continued to serve Marine Parade in a wheelchair! And neither did he forget one who needed a kidney transplant or another who was handicapped by stroke.

"These people could have easily called it a day and retired but they didnt! And such bonds and friendship that were forged over the years cannot be easily broken and such is the high regard that they have of him as a leader!"

67-year-old S Puhaindran is one of the veteran grassroots leaders who has stuck by Mr Goh since his early entry into politics.

Over the years, he has come to regard the Prime Minister as a friend.

Mr Puhaindran recalls the time he suffered a heart attack and Mr Goh paid him a visit, "I had heart attack twice and Mr Goh was quite concerned about me and called to find out how I was and even visited me in my house. He used to visit us during Christmas in the early days. Along with the other grassroots leaders, they would come over to my house and have a good chat.

"In my case he became a personal friend. I think there was this separation from just a grassroots leaders and someone working with a Member of Parliament to one of a friend relationship. So in this case, I think we became very close as friends. I didn't expect him to do this, but he does this kind of things."

For others who have worked with Mr Goh, they speak of a man who often puts others before himself.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament Claire Chiang recalls her first meeting with Mr Goh, "The first time I met him was at a small lunch setting for the NMPs when I first joined Parliament. I had a broken arm and he was always making sure that I was comfortable and after four years at the farewell lunch for the NMPs, I had a broken leg. I went in -- all in cast -- and I remember when he greeted us, immediately he took my handbag and helped me to the table. I said to him, 'Sir, when I came here, I had a broken arm. And I leave Parliament with a broken leg, I think I've done my service. He said, 'Claire, don't break the head!' And the whole time, he made sure that I was comfortable at lunch. I think most people feel his respect for all people, his kindliness, his lovely smile and kindly eyes."

Political watcher Viswa Sadasivan remembers an incident when he was still with the then-Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, "I was producing the National Day Message by the Prime Minister. I had worked with PM Lee for a few years and everybody used to be terrified when PM Lee walked in to do his recording. It was such a dramatic change when PM Goh took over and he came to the recording to the studio.

"There he was, the Prime Minister rehearsing his lines, when suddenly, a loud crackling sound was heard from the studio light just above him. I was told that the light just above him was going to explode. I got the floor manager to pull him out of the chair and she did that just in time and at that moment, the light exploded and the sparks actually fell right on his feet. And I went pale. Being an Indian, I went pale, completely white. I ran down and was gasping. I was absolutely nervous and I told him, 'PM, I'm so sorry!'

What transpired after the incident left a deep impression on Mr Viswa.

"He put his arms around me he said 'Viswa, don't worry, take it easy, this is electrical stuff. Why don't you sit down?' And he brought me to the seat, made me sit down and he made me a coffee. And he put the right number of sugar cubes in it. So he gave it to me and said, 'you sit down, relax and once you're ready we can do the recording.'

"He made me coffee! And it tasted good as well! And he not only made me coffee, he made coffee for the cameraman! Because he saw we were obviously shaken and the human side of him came through at that point. And I will never forget this incident because for me, this was Goh Chok Tong the man, more than Goh Chok Tong the Prime Minister and for me, the word that came to mind was -- this is leadership."


As Martin Luthur King once said, "To serve, you'd need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love."

That's exactly the kind of leader Mr Goh has proven to be.

2 Comments:

At 2004年8月13日 下午5:53, Blogger sYDraLz said...

*faint* I wonder if anyone actually read all 4 parts...

 
At 2005年9月28日 下午7:32, Anonymous 匿名 said...

it actually better than u read the orginal version, which is bloody long!

 

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