At an interview with state media CNA, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong vehemently denied that Lee Hsien Loong was given special treatment in the SAF and the ruling party PAP led by his Prime Minister father Lee Kuan Yew.
Lee Hsien Loong was the world’s youngest Brigadier General and fast-tracked to a ministerial position and later appointed the Prime Minister in 2004.
Minister Goh Chok Tong blankly lied at the interview saying there is no “white-horse” treatment in the Singapore army and politics notorious for cronyism:
“I just look at who could be good candidates. It could be by another surname, that happened to be a Lee … Yes, he was the prime minister’s son, but I knew the system very well, that when he came in there would be others looking at you like a hawk, whether you had received any special treatment just because you’re the prime minister’s son… In the SAF, we had to be very careful when we recruited top civil servants’ children, sons, into the SAF, national service; ministers’ sons, judges’ sons. We had to be very careful they didn’t receive any special favours. This was very important because if they received special favours, you can’t expect the other national servicemen to support them. Likewise for Lee Hsien Loong. We have our own views in politics.”
The former Prime Minister also denied that he was a puppet leader under Lee Kuan Yew’s control. Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke positively of Lee Kuan Yew’s distrust in him as the latter stayed on as party’s secretary general even after he was made Singapore Prime Minister in 1990:
“Mr Lee stayed on as secretary-general, in case, as prime minister, I could not carry the ground. If I could not carry the ministers along, because I was either indecisive or my decisions were wrong, what would he do? As prime minister, I could remove him from Cabinet. So supposing there was something hidden in me. I fake very well as a gentleman, but the moment I became prime minister, I behaved like I’m in charge, I want to decide on everything. I want to put in more people, loyalists – he could remove me as secretary-general. Maybe that suggested a lack of total trust, but I think Singapore was at the back of his mind. He would not allow Singapore to fail. He wanted to watch how I would behave as a prime minister. I mean, I accepted it. He was the man who built Singapore. So, no problem.”
Minister Goh Chok Tong even shamelessly stated that when Lee Kuan Yew instructed him to place him as the Cabinet Minister, he was “very happy”. The former PM seat warmer for Lee Kuan Yew’s son denied that he was controlled by Lee Kuan Yew:
“When Mr Lee told me after I became PM that he would stay on in the Cabinet, I was very happy. We worked for a long time together after that and I knew his style … I think from early on you knew that we did things differently. We would listen to him, but not to be controlled by him. But having him in Cabinet offered me tremendous, shall we say, backup and a presence internationally. As a new PM, I would not be immediately recognised overseas. I had to establish my credentials, but Mr Lee had the presence … Knowing that Mr Lee was there, it gave tremendous confidence to my dealings with other people. Mr Lee never cramped his style, and provides an added insight into his thinking: And at the back of my mind, I knew it was better to have Mr Lee inside than outside. Inside, as a member, he could express dissent, (and if) we overruled him, he would not be able to say it outside, because the Cabinet decides on the basis of collective decision. He could not go out and say: ‘I disagree with the prime minister’.”