Archive | April, 2013

Gilbert Goh: The Riddle That Remains Unanswered

22 Apr

This is an interesting series of posts on Gilbert Goh, by the ever divisive character, Scroobal.

It most succinctly tells the tale of a man whose intentions continues to baffle . A man whose past is filled with questions. A man whom  nobody really likes (outside of SP circles), but carries a newly-minted political pedigree that can no longer be ignored …….


This character has certainly intrigued me beginning in early 2011 when he wrote an account on how he met KJ prior to joining Reform Party. It was a very interesting article as it appeared that the candidate was heavily courted and that he was interviewing the boss and not the other way around. I was wondering who this guy was that KJ seemed desperate to recruit and thats the impression he gave me.

This was followed by an equally interesting account of the exit from RP. Then the post GE comments by GMS about this chap followed by TFBH’s comments and GMS’s retort.

Gilbert Goh Keow Wah had in 2008 left with his wife and a child to start a new life in Sydney on the back of his wife’s migrating visa. He has since come back a few times and is now permanently back and is no longer holder of any visa. He also recently became a divorcee while his wife and child have become PRs and reside in Sydney. What is interesting is that while in Australia temping, he wrote articles encouraging emigration and even asked Singapore to cast its net wider and not just bring in PRC and Indian Indians but other nationalities as well. Here is an example of one letter he wrote to Today.

About racial harmony, respect and tolerance

Date : 30 July 2008

TODAY – Treat foreigners the way you want to be treated?

30 July 2008

Letter from Gilbert Goh Keow Wah,
Sydney, New South Wales

WHENEVER I read about the challenges facing permanent residents and work permit holders in Singapore, I have mixed feelings, for I am a Singaporean who has just left the country to live and work in Sydney. So far, in Australia, I have yet to face any of the discrimination of which I have been warned. But, I feel how foreigners in Singapore may feel and hope that the locals will welcome me, and not see me as a threat to their livelihood.

In Sydney, I have seen a medium-sized company of about 100 employees boasting people of 10 different nationalities.

Such a diverse workforce not only allows creativity to take place but also creates respect and tolerance for one another’s culture and religion.

There are two distinct nationalities settling down in Singapore: the Chinese and the Indians. They have formed almost 75 per cent of all our foreign talent for the past five years.

Many are competent professionals who are deserving of their residency in Singapore, but their cultural habits and working attitude are not much different from the local Chinese and Indian workforce. There is not much diversity they can bring to the workforce. In order to boast a strong cosmopolitan work force, our Government needs to cast the talent hunt search wider, from Europe, Africa, the United States and so on.

But, no matter where they originally come from, Singaporeans must welcome such foreign talents, which is what good global citizens should do. At the very least, we must not give them a hard time. For, one day, you may end up working and living abroad. Just like me.

So why the sudden change. 

It also appears that Gilbert did learn one thing while in Australia – how to focus on a cause, put it on a platform of charity but use politics to drive the agenda. This is common place in the US, UK and all the western countries. It is perfectly acceptable in these countries and have long being established norms of society. Except for the US, where all charities must send their accounts to the Tax authorities and their submitted returns are available for public scrutiny, most countries do not require the transparency and they need not reveal much though some do it publicly.

In essence, Gilbert is no politician but has realised that politics brings tremendous benefits to his charity and thus plunged into it. Politics gives him the platform and the forum to raise his profile and that of his cause.


So is this good or bad?

Credit must be given to Gilbert for picking unemployment and underemployment amongst Singaporeans as his cause celebre. It is probably the result of his friends, associates and acquaintances whose age group has been the most impacted as a result of the influx of cheaper foreign labour. He had a ready reservoir of experiences from those of his age group and they would also be his ready followers. Only a fool would not realise that the employment situation facing locals is a direct result of the govt poor manner of handling entry of foreigners into Singapore and into the workplace.

A charity and a highly credible cause and now the profile lifting avenue – politics. Thus his entry into RP, then NSP and GE 2011.

So what does Gilbert bring to the table that those in the opposition cannot? For one, he is not bound by the CEC of a political party or any other form of constraints faced by a political party. He is a member of NSP but he is not acting as a politician or acting for NSP. But it does help his cause to be associated with the opposition. Yet he is a free agent. He therefore cuts across political parties, any form of association including NGOs.

So what are the dynamics where the NGOs are concerned. Singapore NGOs are typically very focused, disciplined and tend to avoid any form of deviation. Those that dable in politics tend to well educated and socially of a higher order. Strong with their principles but careful who their associates are. Some bordering on the champagne socialist mould. They also prefer move only on published materials and actions are very much evidence driven. Siew Kum Hong’s outburst is quite telling.

Siew Kum Hong’s Outburst

So Gilbert has managed without the manacles of the local society’s norm to outmanoeuvre everyone and lead the most successful civic protest in the nation’s 47 year history – the 6.9M white paper protest on 16 Feb 2013 at Hong Lim. It made the news across all the world’s new agencies.

In essence he has nothing to lose and so much to gain.


So is he doing the right thing. 

The latest unhappiness is over the speaker’s list for the upcoming May Day Rally. They all want to be part of it, they want their views to be considered and their suggestions taken up. It is not going to end. They also are realising that he is using opposition politics and politicians for his own cause and grabbing the headlines.

Then there is also the inevitable – his charity and the accounts. Questions will be asked and he has to be more transparent.

He also has to understand that he cannot use the opposition parties and those who stepped forward and not acknowledge their contributions. He needs to know that Hong Lim Park is the result of the Chee and the SDP. WP and SPP also made massive inroads since 1991 and the Govt is not vicious as in the past. Most importantly he has to understand that he cannot do this alone for much longer.


Now for the big picture:
The cause is just, the pressure must continue to be applied and the Govt must act in the interest of its fellow Singaporeans and not hold the GDP as the God to be worshipped.