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Monday January 21st 2019

My Short Sour Taste of Political Experience

The past few days were  sheer torture as I was caught up by the political turmoil in Reform Party.  Many people have already knew that I have joined Reform Party then and equally shocked to   learn  that I have left them only after a few weeks.

For the record, I have left Reform Party on my own accord and did so before the news broke out for the departure of the other nine members. I was not influenced in any way by their infamous departure.

I have never thought that my short encounter with  politics  would be that colourful and eventful and I am only into my second month! My learning curve in politics has taken on a fourth gear  ride…

Never in my wildest dream would I imagine myself to join a political party and quitting it a few weeks later…it was a personal setback to say the least.

I actually took a few days off to clear my head and hope to make a come back soon given that my political ambition is still very much  alive. The episode though disappointing has also allowed me to fast-track on my political learning curve.

I have heard that politics can be difficult and taxing but could never fathom that the emotional stress can be that overwhelming especially when something went that awry. I must be on every major newspaper and socio-political sites by now.

I joined the party after speaking with Kenneth – Reform Party’s Secretary General – on  the first week of February.  I took a week  to think through before making up my mind to join them.

Before that, we have a few email exchange while I was still residing in Sydney. It was all very cordial but superficial.

We met up in Starbucks Orchard and though it was only an hour of chat, I knew that this guy is serious in what he is doing and more importantly very driven.

Kenneth – articulate and intelligent

Kenneth struck me as someone who is  both articulate and intelligent. This is probably why he will appeal more to the young and educated professionals who want to join the opposition politics.

He is also zealous in his drive to change the political landscape in Singapore and his mandate of championing for a change in governance is also something that caught my attention as so far no other political party has this particular mandate in their manifesto.

Perhaps, this particular unique mandate has also caused tension in his party as not many Singaporeans are ready for a change in governance.

Nevertheless, despite his mesmerizing presence, he also came across  as somewhat detached and rather aloof. He hardly smiles and if he does, it is  artificial and almost unnoticeable.

I was caught in a dilemma as though I like the party’s mandate and his overwhelming presence, I am rather uncomfortable with his  persona.

I knew that if you could not work well with the party’s secretary general, you will be in for a rough time. The many unpleasant incidents that I read from the press involving opposite parties have really put me on  my guard.

After deliberating between Reform Party (RP) and National Solidarity Party (NSP), I took the calculated risk of joining RP – knowing fully that my decision could be wrong. It was one of those decision that you knew you have to do despite the fact that it may carry some form of risk.

I preferred to take some calculated risk than err on the side of caution. My adventure with life has somewhat geared me to do that and having live abroad for a while, I guess I am more risk-taking and battled than  most people when it comes to handling adversity.

Walk-abouts and questions

I went for a few rounds of walk-abouts with the team and realized that they have a lot of youth joining them. I have never seen so many youth coming out on a week day doing something that is so meaningful and life-exchanging and it was a very motivational moment for me.

If this group of youth can come out of their busy schedule to knock on doors for Singapore without any personal agenda on a week day, how can I not come out and do the same if I want to stand  up as a political candidate during the next election?

Nevertheless, the nagging question remained: Where is Tony and Hazel and why are most of the walk-abouts dominated by the youth? Where are all the adults or potential candidates? It is perplexing and no one is willing to talk about such matter with me.

Though I don’t really know Tony and Hazel well enough, we have exchanged several facebook messages last year and they struck me as decent people who believed in what they are doing. They have also spoken well of Reform Party then  and  have asked me to join them if I returned to Singapore.

We lost contact for the whole of last year and I reckoned that they must be busy with work and other matters.

I have also never contacted them at all when I deliberated on whether to join Reform Party or not. I felt that such decision is best made by myself independently and I don’t like to be unduly influenced by anyone.

Moreover, Kenneth seems to be the main man in the party and despite repeated denials, one could not help but believe that ultimately he will call the shots when it comes to the shove. The gnawing fear that this is yet   another one-man party is undeniably strong.

After a few rounds of walk-abouts and casual chats with Kenneth, I felt that indeed I have real difficulty connecting with him.

He is rather introverted in nature though I knew that he tried his very best to connect with the people around him. We chatted casually a few times and it was mostly very official and on party’s matters. My heart sank as I would prefer  a  more than cordial  relationship with the party’s secretary-general if possible. At least, I would want to see the SG to be someone who is approachable and forthcoming.

If he is always seen to be putting up walls around him then it will be difficult for anyone to come and share their life with him.

Many of us have paid a great price to join opposition politics thinking that we can do something for our country. Friends and even family members may shun away from us when we join the opposition.

Some  have also place  their rice bowl in jeopardy and families have crossed swords with one another when their loved ones join opposition politics.

There is this fear that is so ingrained in many of us that once a person joins opposition politics, he has already sign his death certificate and he is on a journey of no happy return.

Singapore’s culture

Maybe in Singapore or Asia in general, most of us prefer a more casual working relationship with our fellow party members especially when opposition politics is seen as  daunting and intimidating.

Our government’s unrelentless use of suits to knock opposition candidates down have  definitely sent out a chilling message to the opposition field – its going to be a hard ride if you want to join the opposition politics. You will also rub shoulders easily the wrong way given the tension in the opposition party camp.

Of course, one could not expect the SG to bring himself so low that no one will respect him but at least he should be seen as approachable and communicative.

 If possible, he should find out more about the strengths and weaknesses of his members or  potential election candidates and try to provide him as large a platform for him to manovure  politically as possible.  More importantly, the potential candidates need time and room to move around freely so that he will find his niche and political acumen over time.

Most of us come in to serve politically after counting the cost and if we encounter too many shut-off or close-door, we may as well not join politics at all and remain as normal citizens or arm chair critics.

By the third week after joining RP, I was already feeling very edgy and uncomfortable mainly with the disappearance of my couple friend and my inability to connect well with my SG.

I called Kenneth and told him that I wanted to have a chat with him face to face. The first thing he asked  me was: “Are you pulling out?”  I was shocked and even exasperated and knew that the chat wasn’t going to be anything cordial.

I am someone who preferred to talk out my doubts and of course, wanted some answers if possible.

We arranged to meet and the talk deteriorated from the first minute. I am in no liberty to disclose our exchange here  and I hope that readers will respect this decision of mine.

The whole issue boiled down to a lot of differences between us and an unwillingness to be transparent with one another.

Opposition Politics in Singapore

Opposition politics have suffered enough and I don’t want to add more mud in this fiasco.

After all, Kenneth is a good man who is zealous in what he is doing for Singapore.

He has quitted his well-paying UK job as a fund manager and sacrificed two years of his life slaving for Singapore as a opposition party SG. He must be given due credit for that.

Nevertheless, my short traumatic experience has enabled me to offer a few suggestions to potential opposition party candidates and also to our various opposition parties here.

If you want to join opposition party politics, be prepared that there is no perfect party to join. Each party has it’s strengths and weaknesses and you won’t know party suits you until you join one.

Attend their walk-abouts and open-house events. Don’t jump straight into one and regret later on as it will be tricky to withdraw your membership once it is approved.

Talk to the people around you and get a feel of how they run their operations. As election time is very near, most parties will be in high gear now and this is the best time to actually go on the ground and attend their many scheduled events.

More importantly, check out the secretary general who normally will be the person to call the shots though there will always  be the CEC around to act as a check.

If you sense that the SG is someone who is very highly regarded and even revered, then you have to decide whether you can accept such a party philosophy.

Sadly in Singapore, most parties  are centred around one man – normally the SG and we all know that when this happens, most of the other party members will hardly have a say in the opposition party affairs. It will be sad if there is only one person who makes all the decisions for the party.

For the party’s secretary general, its always wise to allow the party members, especially if he is being identified as a potential election candidate, to go on a few rounds of walk-abouts and party events with the team. This way, he is able to get a feel of the team dynamics and more importantly judge whether  he can gell with the team members or not.

Someone has told me that identifying a potential election candidate is like going on a date. You get to know one another, identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses and decide whether  the marriage will still carry on.

Some may feel that the union will not last and wants to call it quit. Others will take off smoothly and the union ends up in a marriage of permanence.

Due to the shortage of abled talent in opposition politics, I urge all Singaporeans who want to make a difference, to join us.

You need not be a well-educated professional but someone who really wants to do something for the country whole-heartedly despite adversities. Of course, if you are educated, it will come in as a good bonus but it is not something that is really crucial.

You need to have a lot of steel before coming in – knowing that you will face up to a lot of pressure from your peers and family members. Its best also to count your cost as there will be a price to pay in many ways.

For one, you can’t be a private person anymore especially if you are a potential election candidate. Your life, mistakes and even your family may be up for public scrunity. Just look at my short one-month political experience and you will know what I mean.

Opposition politics is not for the weak-minded and definitely not for someone who wants to see some tangible return. There may be more sacrifices than returns of any form here.

Nevertheless, the personal satisfaction from doing something for your country is worth all the money and gold many of us are earnestly seeking out for ourselves here.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

PS: I have joined NSP on 21 Feb 2011 as a member.

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21 Responses to “My Short Sour Taste of Political Experience”

  1. Sideliner says:

    Mr Goh
    Your reflections about this sour experience make me want to suggest that you form your own party! Too bad it’s too late for the coming GE, but if you start gradually, you’ll have 4 years to get ready for the GE in 2014!

  2. cy says:

    thanks for sharing your experience. i can understand an extrovert like you unable to connect with an introvert like KJ (remember his profession was hedge fund manager which introverts are suited for)

    but i think leaders come in all sizes and shapes.the most important thing to look out for is not whether he/she is extrovert or introvert, but whether he/she has integrity,passion and intelligence.

    without the 1st(integrity), passion and intelligence will make thing worse. we have the example of KJ who falsely accused Tony tan of bribery and didn’t do a proper check. then,he tried to wriggle out of the situation by lying.

    no doubt,KJ is passionate abt singapore politics and highly intelligent with his espousal of socio-economics theory. but,his lack of integrity in dealing with people doesn’t make him a “A’ class leader. You are wise in leaving RP.

  3. Chloe says:

    “The first thing he asked me was: “Are you pulling out?” I was shocked and even exasperated and knew that the chat wasn’t going to be anything cordial.”
    I am glad Kenneth spotted your weakness before you caused more damage to the party. Why did you worry what Tony and Hazel were doing when you haven’t even made your own mark? The first point about group membership is the commitment to your leader. That’s why soldiers drill and drill – theirs is not to question why, but to do or die. If your plan was to jostle for a place in the leadership, then you best stay out of harm’s way. Politics is not a tea party, it’s no place for wimps. Or whinging.

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eisen and nar sg, Kenny Tan. Kenny Tan said: My Short Sour Taste of Political Experience. By Gilbert Goh [...]

  5. Alvin says:

    You are exactly the personification of the issues that opposition parties face: immaturity and lack of credibility.
    I can’t believe that you expected the journey to be anything but easy.

    I’d vote opposition anytime, but my fear os clowns like you actually make it into office

  6. Eveline says:

    Let’s give Gilbert some credit for owning up to his weaknesses. He gives an honest and true reflection of what it is like to be in politics. It takes a certain kind of character and tenacity to survive politics. At least Gilbert dared to go in, even if he decided it was not for him!

  7. Dale says:

    @Eveline – Gilbert hasn’t given up on politics, he clearly states that he joined the NSP instead.

    I personally think Gilbert should just quit politics altogether. Compare him with Chee Soon Juan who endured being sued, imprisoned and having his name dragged through mud in the media for years. Compare him with earlier Oppositionists who were captured by the ISA and physically abused.

    But here you have Gilbert complaining because KJ wasn’t warm and friendly enough to him? Because he couldn’t find his friends around in the party? And couldn’t tahan the “overwhelming emotional stress” and quit after two weeks? What a wimp! Seriously, from a guy who runs a site offering advice on “transitioning”, I would have expected greater mettle than that.

  8. Balaji says:

    Strange that so many people are slamming Gilbert for being honest. Obviously Gilbert had a problem with his relationship with Kenneth, and he felt that the best decision for him would be to quit before the nagging doubt becomes a wave of anger or frustration. As an RP member myself I feel sad that we lost a valuable member like Gilbert, but as a Singaporean I feel glad that he has taken a brave step in contributing to the political scene in Singapore. Before we slam him, let’s walk a mile in his shoes.

    I, like all other RP members are deeply shocked by the recent turmoil but I am confident that we will come out of this test stronger and wiser.

  9. Defennder says:

    Hi Gilbert,

    I’m sorry to hear that your first political experience has left you with such an unpleasant after-taste. I don’t think it’s a weakness at all to have said that much of it stems from an inability to feel a sense of a belonging or connection to the party. Politics is really about passion and ideals, and if one cannot or does not feel that way, then perhaps they are either in the wrong party or the party has yet to mature into an entity where members can identify with each other as well as the shared values purpose of the party.

    It takes some courage to not leave politics altogether after such a distasteful experience and to still want to make a difference on the political scene and I think Gilbert has shown that he still cares the country and its people by joining another party. This website itself, without any reference to Gilbert’s political activities proves beyond doubt that Gilbert is genuinely concerned with issues that most working class people struggle with daily. While it is easy to berate individuals for being “weak” and “wimp”, how many of us truly understand and appreciate what opposition party members have tried to do for us?

    Opposition members get limited thanks if at all, and much more often insults hurled at them for not doing more when they have had to sacrifice a lot of their personal time and brave possible repercussions from ruling party in all its manifestations in every level of Singapore’s government.

    Sometimes I wonder is it a uniquely Singapore trait that Singaporeans lack the ability to sympathise with others and for some reason enjoy hurling sarcastic jibes and insults at each other? I certainly don’t find this trait in other countries and cultures. It takes only each of us to look around at other communities of foreigners and see that much unlike Singaporeans, foreigners tend to stand up for each other and have a shared sense of solidarity. The typical Singaporean on the other hand, is much more likely to berate their own locals for having run into unfortunate circumstances, even when they are the victims. This is truly tragic.

    But I digress too much. I hope Gilbert will be able to contribute to Singapore politics where-ever he may be or however he may choose to do so.


  10. soojenn says:

    Gilbert,.. surprising you have joined the NSP.. is the SG mre warm and friendly? is this the criteria of your consideration.

    Since you understand and are aware of the introvert personalityh of KJ, shouldn’t you have tried to work around it, and not expect people to work around you?

    I don’t have similar views of the two who left.. my take is that they are very likely to be moles, and good ones at that. Time will tell.

  11. XX says:

    Dear Gilbert,

    Having gone down to a few RP events myself. I fully comprehend and empathize with you for how/what you felt about KJ. Indeed he is an introvert and from the moment I heard his speech then saw how he often stood alone and awkwardly, I knew he was not politician material.

    In fact the members who have left RP recently, in my own observation and few interactions with them, are the ones whom I looked up to and connected with in RP. Therefore, I must say this is really tragic but it all points to the same point I’m getting at: KJ is not a born politician/leader, he just doesn’t have the charisma. I am sorry for RP but more sorry for the passionate members who left.

    Thank you for sharing with us the experience. I really admire your honesty.

  12. Joe says:

    Dear Gilbert, i am not sure if you remember me. We met in one of your last walkabout in Boon Lay and we took the same train where you would be alighting at Bishan while I alighted at woodlands.

    Honestly, my observations, views and opinions about KJ are very different from yours. We as human beings is always looking for people to “conform” to our “style” or opinion. And when they don’t, we become judgemental about them. No one has the power to change anyone except oneself. Perhaps you could have changed yourself to see how you can work with KJ instead of demanding “I am someone who preferred to talk out my doubts and of course, wanted some answers if possible.”

    As you know, KJ is battling out both internally and externally. It is not easy…. and knowing you from your story above, i do not believe for a moment that you can handle such pressures. And why judge others when you are also guilty of it. Judge others and you will surely be judged.

    The World Most Famous said this:
    “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”

    On a personal note, it would not make a difference if you join NSP or any other party if you still remain the same person. In fact it will make things worse for you to be involved in a party.

  13. patriot says:

    Having interacted with Gilbert Goh in Cyberspace for about four years and met up for his job counselling activities and coffee with him on a few occasions, Gilbert has passion and concern for Singaporeans’ wellbeing.
    He is humble and helpful, me believes that he will make a good representative of the people.

    Joining a political party so close to election time could prove challenging as new member(s) has to know the party well and be able to accept the party ideology as well as the other main members well and be able to integrate. It’s by no mean an easy task.

    Glad to know that he has joined NSP and will be contesting in the coming election. Hope fellow voters will attend his party’s rallies and see Gilbert present himself, me sees him as a very down to earth gentleman.


  14. Amaryllisma says:

    Lame excuse.

    So what if KJ is an introvert? Introverted people take time to warm up to people, sometimes it takes months. They don’t immediately become chummy with new faces. If you were looking for a friendship connection, perhaps that would have come down the road in due course.

    But if you were looking for a professional political connection based on political ideals and vision, I believe, that was already on the table. You were either just too dumb to see it, or you did not agree with the political ideals and vision.

    Don’t give lame excuses.

  15. Denial Tan says:

    The RP saga was really affecting me, especially when RP have intention to challenge the ward that I am in(Radin Mas SMC).

    I was pretty hopeful that the oppos camp can actually make a difference in this coming election and that I can vote again after a long wait of more than 15 years. But this whole episode was really disheartening!

    A mass walkout of CEC members of a political party is not a minor matter and it may say something about the party chief. I believe RP is now severely crippled and I am even doubting if they could field enough candidates in this coming election.

    During all this moment, both those who left and the party chief had tried to down play the fiasco by ‘trying’ to put in kind words to make its look less damaging. But, we knew it had ended up messy!

    It seems to me that WP is still the strongest oppo in the coming election where their ranks are still closed up tight and there are promising candidates like Sylvia Lim and Gerald Giam besides the veteran LTK.

    GE 2011 is the most important GE since independence because this is the first time the whole country is hype up with the possiblity of a repeat of the Malaysian GE 2008.

    This is due to the reason that most of us are pent up with frustration of the mismanagement of the country by the current government for the last few years. The ground had never been so negative toward this government since 45 years ago where ex pro-PAP like me had swing towards the other direction.

    Now all we need is a good and strong oppo party to give us some hope that this country can still change to become better. We know this current government will never change unless given a hard tight slap of a freak election.

    Will I still have a chance to vote again after this long wait?

  16. Defennder says:

    I wonder why so many people are keen to bash Gilbert over what he said about the SG. Please note that Gilbert is only 1 out of 21 people who left. As quoted by the ST of the initial 9 who left (not including Gilbert), some said that the SG could be a difficult person to work with.

    And there’s plenty of hints from the press release by KJ and some of his statements on RP’s Facebook about what that might actually mean.

    I don’t want to go any further into this, because now is a bad time to cast RP in a bad light since the GE is around the corner.

  17. Philip Loh says:

    Dear Gilbert,

    Perhaps you would allow me to share with you why so many people see you in such a bad light. It has to do with one key word – EXPECTATION. At a time when everything around them is going wayward and haywire, we are practically pinning our hopes on any Tom, Dick & Harry, asking only that they stayed united, or to not give the PAP any more advantage than they already have. This is our simple expectation.

    Remember that you entered politics ‘with a Bang!’ – your entry was marked by coverage in some popular online forums. Many who have followed your footsteps online, both here and elsewhere, have come to know you generally as a nice guy. I thought so too, although somehow I continue to feel that you do have some personal ulterior motives – some vested interest in wanting to promote your name and your persona. If that purpose is to help you enter into the political arena with the Opposition ticket in hand, then I will humbly submit my current apprehension to you and will gladly stand corrected. However, like I said, it will take time and a lot of convincing on your part. I know I have been telling the ‘world’ that your purpose in your online activity is business driven, I will gladly take them all back if you show that they are all for the Opposition’s political cause. For now, my opinion of you hasn’t change.

    The reason I say all these is because, although you may be a counselor, you do not seem to have the tact and the approach to be diplomatic at times. You must not think being nice is being diplomatic, they are miles apart, and many have been bought into your niceness, but there is just as many who are put off by your lack of tact. For people like me who have no political ambition, it does not matter much, but for people like you who have such ambition, then you ought to be extra cautious in how you write and how you convey your thoughts – about yourself and others. Public scrutiny will either make you or break you. It’s that simple. Attempting to vindicate yourself or your action by heightening the flaws of others is the first NO, NO; and your article suggests clearly that you have a long way to go in this regard. A person’s demeanor is not a valid enough reason for abandoning ship. Thinking one ‘aloof’ and ‘detached’ cannot be reason enough to not consider what he stands for and what he is fighting for especially when you admitted beforehand that he is intelligent and articulate.

    You also shared that you were taken aback by the walkabout event citing your inability to ‘connect with him’. Have you given him and yourself enough time to allow the relationship to work? Generally, three months would have been a more acceptable timeline as most business models would attest.

    As if these were not enough reasons for you to vindicate your actions, you went further to rope in the cultural ‘shortcoming’ of the whole island population – questioning their political and social attitudes – especially when dealing with Big Brother PAP. You used this to back your story that your talk with KJ had broken down from the first minute. I question your IQ, really. Perhaps you have placed your own name too closely to that of KJ, thinking you are on the same pedestal as him.

    Let me remind that KJ has a machinery to run. He has a duty toward his father, his family, his friends and his countrymen. Someone named Gilbert drops by and wants to know more than he should in two weeks of membership. Don’t you think it will send him all sorts of wrong signals? That’s my opinion of course. So then, do you not consider that he has to tread carefully, especially when we now know that he had a bigger problem at hand at that time? If so many Singaporeans can talk about ‘moles’, do you not think he would seriously reflect on this as well? So then, have you given him a chance?

    And to stretch your point further, to make sure that people understood that your have good reasons to leave RP, you went on about the sacrifices an opposition politician has to make. Everyone knows what it takes for an opposition politician to battle Big Brother PAP. It makes your case so hollow when you repeat them to support your case.

    I sincerely hope you take this opinion piece constructively as my intention is not to put you down like I have been doing for quite some time now. My only hope is that you prove me wrong – for my sake and for the sake of Singaporeans – as well as for your very own. This is just a simple EXPECTATION.

    I am a voter is Jurong GRC, for which both NSP and SDP have interest in. I have no problem voting SDP and I do not want to have any doubt should NSP be the party standing here. For now, I am releasing a little of my apprehensive grip on you to allow you time to prove yourself trustworthy. I think all Singaporeans should do too.

    All the best regards and wishes,
    Philip Loh a.k.a. gemami

  18. Hahahah says:

    I think you have a big flaw. You are like a big baby that needs affirmation and needs everyone to love you.

    Right off the bat, you want KG to be like old pals with you. How can it be possible?

    People are different. Some warm up to others slower. 3 weeks and you want to be like best buds with him? HAHAHA

    You also mention about what what others think about your entry to polities, whether your wife will leave you, your friends will abandon you.

    Its better that you leave politics lah.

    You are a joke and a big baby.

  19. [...] Gilbert Goh wrote this scathing piece on his impressions of [...]

  20. NM Lee says:

    Gilbert, you are a FRAUD / FAKE.

    You gave up only after 1 month, what sort of counseling you can give those employed coming for help?

    Saw these 2 posts way back on you. They must have known something..

    1. Kong Hit says:
    July 12, 2010 at 10:05 pm
    Gilbert, Stop conning people you shit head .
    2. Jason Yap says:
    July 12, 2010 at 10:07 pm
    It is really sad to see people resort to anytrhing to make money. People be warned. This site is a facade of a con man

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