Instead of Temasek Holdings, Ho Ching could be managing Tanjong Pagar or some other similar town council today if Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (aka Woody) had his way 30 years ago!
In the Question and Answer segment of his biography, Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story, Goh said that he approached the current Temasek Holdings CEO to enter politics before she married current Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Unfortunately (or not), Goh decided against the idea after their marriage in the mid-1980s.
“I did approach Ho Ching and ask her if she would be interested in politics. It was quite early on. She was about 28, 29 or 30, before she married Lee Hsien Loong.
I spotted her in MINDEF and thought that she had the intellect and attributes we were looking for. I knew she was a President’s Scholar, but I didn’t know her well – only superficially because she was in the science part of MINDEF. Through briefings and so on, I could see that she had a lot of substance.
She would have made a good minister, a different kind of minister.
She did not say no. She said not at this stage. She was still young. After that, I was overtaken by events! She and Hsien Loong got married. As she was part of the Lee family, I never approached her again. I would not have asked her to be a politician. Hsien Loong would be against it. She would be against it. And Singapore would be against it.”
However, that move didn’t materialise as former PAP-stalwart George Yeo and future PM Lee Hsien Loong rejected the idea.
“Quietly, I sounded out George Yeo. He was chairman of Young PAP and he was politically significant. He said no. Then I sounded out Hsien Loong. Hsien Loong also said no. And that was enough. Then I kept quiet after that.”
Commenting further on Dr Lee’s potential as a politician, Goh said:
“Wei Ling as an MP. MP is okay. And it was because of her social conscience, which was very strong. At that time, we did not have so many women candidates. We were looking for women candidates and it was difficult to find them. So, he was helping me. It was not because he wanted her, but he was helping me look for candidates. It was in that context – here was a good candidate.”
Dr Lee and her elder brother, Lee Hsien Yang, have since called PM Lee a “dishonourable son” in the biggest family scandal to rock Singapore in recent years – the 38 Oxley Road dispute.
Picking up on the popular assumption that he was a benchwarmer prime minister, Goh said that he was never meant to be a placeholder for PM Lee to eventually take over the prime minister’s post:
“I never worried about the seat warmer joke. In my heart, I knew that Lee Kuan Yew never meant for me to be a seat warmer.”
The cheaper paperback version of Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story will set you back about 12 percent of your one-off SG Bonus (if you got S$300 bucks from the gahmen, lucky b*stard).