ESM Goh: Ruling party must have clear majority in 20 years' time, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

ESM Goh: Ruling party must have clear majority in 20 years' time

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ESM Goh hopes to see 'constructive' opposition have about 20% of parliament seats in 20 years' time to challenge government and promote 'real debate'

In 20 years' time, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong would like to see the political party governing Singapore have a "clear majority" of seats in Parliament.

"I believe that the party in charge must have a clear majority of the seats, meaning - off the top of my head - 75 to 80 per cent of seats, then they come across as a strong government," he said, when asked what he hopes Singapore's political landscape will look like in 20 years.

Mr Goh was speaking to Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao in an interview published yesterday, ahead of the June launch of the Chinese language edition of his biography, Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story.

By his estimate, the opposition should take up 20 per cent of parliamentary seats in future.

Mr Goh hopes to see "intelligent, constructive, critical opposition" that can challenge the government.

"Then you have a real debate," he said.

He added that he does not see their role as one of "check and balance", as that means the government is not doing things right.

The People's Action Party (PAP), which Mr Goh led when he was Prime Minister, currently holds 83 of the 89 seats in Parliament.

During the wide-ranging interview, he was asked about "groupthink" in government, given that many PAP ministers come from the public service.

This issue is a big worry for him, Mr Goh said, as he set out why it is increasingly difficult to attract talented people from the private sector into politics.

He also said the number of public servants willing to enter politics will decrease, adding that already quite a few have said no when approached.

"Fortunately - and people laugh, you know - I say fortunately, we have the SAF generals," he added.

These former generals are "good material" for politics as they understand the importance of defence, security and nation-building, he said.

But should there be a "bulk of them" from the Singapore Armed Forces in Cabinet, then groupthink can be "very dangerous for us", he added.

"Diversity means having people from the SAF, civil service, private sector and social sector... (that way), you'll have a diversity of views," Mr Goh said.

Asked if he had any regrets, Mr Goh said his real regret was the dispute his government had with former president Ong Teng Cheong.

Mr Ong had clashed with the government over what information he was entitled to regarding national assets that made up the country's reserves.

"We did not quite understand each other's thinking and needs," Mr Goh said, noting he had initially left it to civil servants to handle Mr Ong's complaints.


"Had we worked the system a bit better, I think we could have avoided that. Put it this way, the presidency ended on a sour note because of that exchange."

His proudest moment? Handing over the premiership to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Goh said that after the PAP won the 2001 General Election, he knew he could plan his handover to PM Lee sooner than later.

Singapore was "in very good shape" when founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew handed the premiership to him, Mr Goh said.

"Likewise, when I handed over to Lee Hsien Loong (the country) was in good shape. That was my proudest moment. I had done my job."