Monday 12 November 2018

Goh Chok Tong in new book: Lee Kuan Yew wanted a nudist colony on Sentosa

“Really?” I said incredulously.

I had searched the Kinokuniya bookstore in Jem for Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story but couldn’t find it. The woman at the Kinokuniya information counter said it was sold out. I couldn’t believe it.

This was on Saturday. Wasn’t the book by Peh Shing Huei officially launched just two days earlier?

I mean, we’re talking about a book about Singapore’s second Prime Minister here and despite the glasses, not Harry Potter.

“Really?” I repeated for emphasis.

The woman chuckled and said the book should be restocked by Monday.

But that would be too late for me.

I needed the book to write about it in this column you’re reading now, which comes out on Monday, i.e. today, so I couldn’t wait.

But I didn’t tell her all that. I just headed for the Popular bookstore in neighbouring Westgate mall. After fighting my way through the crowd at Westgate for the Spotlight opening, I found the book at Popular.

Fortunately, unlike Kinokuniya, Popular had dozens of copies.

And they were not displayed on the Fiction shelf like in the picture posted online by Mr Brown.

He wrote: “Someone shelved Lao Goh’s book under Fiction. I wonder if the bookseller knows something we don’t.”

How dare Mr Brown refer to our esteemed Emeritus Senior Minister as “Lao Goh”?

Surely, the Government will request that Facebook take down the post – a request which Facebook will reject.

Instead, Lao Goh, I mean, Mr Goh shared Mr Brown’s post with a quip: “Bookshop knows that fiction sells better than memoirs.”

“Hahaha!” Mr Brown responded, possibly out of relief that he was not going to be exiled like Francis Seow or Tang Liang Hong mentioned in the book.

As it turns out, Mr Goh also provides a few “Hahaha” moments in the book amid the not-so-funny recollections of Operation Spectrum and the Hendrickson Affair.

For example, he wrote in the Afterword:
“As an aside, Lee Kuan Yew was more liberal than we think. Or more practical. When the tourism sector was down, he floated the idea of a nudist colony in Sentosa or an offshore island to bring them in! The younger ministers vetoed him.”
Was that how we ended up with casinos instead? We don’t mind foreigners coming here to gamble and lose their shirts – but not literally.

Commenting on his relationship with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Goh wrote:
“How did I succeed as a ‘Goh-between’? It was because father and son did not ‘sandwich’ me.”
I’m not sure what that means. Uh... they didn’t put him between two slices of bread?

Earlier in the book, Mr Goh also called himself “a lubricant” between the two Lees and it wasn’t nudist-related.

For a book costing the ministerial sum of $39.59, I had expected his whole life story, but Tall Order ends with Mr Goh becoming PM in 1990. I guess that’s why it says Volume 1 on the cover.

Presumably, the next book will be about his PM years and like the sequel to the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, will be called Volume 2.

Luckily, I didn’t pay full price for the book. My wife is a Popular member and I got a 20 per cent discount. I saved almost $8. That may not seem like much to some, but it sure ain’t peanuts to me.

Yes, really.

- Published in The New Paper, 12 November 2018