Monday, May 24, 2010

Dr Goh's State Funeral....part 2

Before the MC for the occasion spoke, the TV cameras had panned around the sombre hall to
show the faces of the approximately 800 people inside. They came from a cross-section of Singapore society...Cabinet members, government, stat boards, military, unions, ministries, grassroot organisations, schools and even some ordinary folks like the 2 old ladies both carrying umbrellas ( they could be ex-samsui women from Dr Goh's Kreta Ayer Constituency ). I recognised many of the old familiar faces of former PAP MPs, all looking obviously much older with white and greying hairs seated a few rows back.
There were students in their full school uniforms seated a few rows further back. I have no idea how they were selected to attend or what they were feeling, what impressions they got from the experience. But if I may say so here, I think their school and family should be thankful that years down the road, these students will look back and recall this rare privilege of witnessing a momentous event together with others who have made history and are still making history in the Singapore story.

The MC, Mr Peter Ho, head of the Civil Service then invited the first of the 5 people to deliver
the eulogies. PM Lee Hsien Loong was the first to walk up on stage and spoke warmly, and at one point when he was recounting a particularly poignant shared experience which he had with Dr Goh, I noticed a slight change in his voice and his eyes almost teared.
He spoke about the time he went on a site visit with Dr Goh and noticed the NS men were all busily digging bunkers. No one idled.
But the scene did not escape the sharp eyes nor the mind of Dr Goh who suggested that perhaps it would have been better if the NS men had been divided into 3 digging, one guarding and one group r-e-s-t-i-n-g ! ( He knew they needed rest, men are not machines ).
After the PM has spoken, the name, the person that almost everyone in the hall and in Singapore was waiting for to listen to....MM Lee Kuan Yew. He was the Prime Minister when Dr Goh was his able deputy PM.
MM Lee had just returned from a working trip to China and Japan and had especially asked the organising Committee for the State Funeral to make arrangements so that he could deliver his eulogy.

MM spoke with sadness yet with a great sense of pride of the immense contribution that Dr Goh had made to Singapore. He recounted their early fledgeling days before the PAP was even formed. How Dr Goh became his economics tutor...and his then discovery of what a brilliant mind Dr Goh had.
MM Lee touched on a few poignant moments in his delivery...all very frank and revealing.
But the one moment in his eulogy that I would never forget is this.....the moment when he recounted in greater detail the role that Dr Goh played in negotiating the complete breakaway from the Fed of Malaysia...and he mentioned Tun Tan Siew Sin ( former Finance Minister, M'sia ) who was related to Dr Goh.
MM Lee said....that what Tun Tan Siew Sin did ( back then between 1963 and 1965 ) was to deliberately SPITE Singapore. He added that Singapore was " ambushed " by our supposedly good partner, Malaysia.
If you are like me a fan of the old wild west ( cowboys, outlaws and red Indians ) then the term
used in their lingo, their setting is, to be " bushwhacked".
MM is still a gripping speaker in many ways. He chose his words ever so carefully...describing Dr Goh as his most able, chief "trouble-shooter" while he himself was the " executor".

Former top Minister Mr S Dhanabalan was the 3rd speaker. He recounted episodes of working
closely with Dr Goh on overcoming many complex problems.
The one story I will remember from his telling about how his mentor Dr Goh went out of his way when he was slated to do English Lit by the MOE when he actually wanted to do Economics.
How Dr Goh helped him as a then unknown has changed the course of his personal history as well as that of S'pore.

The family members of Dr Goh sat in the front row.

The 4th speaker was Dr Goh's grandson, Goh Ken-Yi whose father is the only son of the late Dr Goh. In a soft but moderated voice, he told of his memories with his gradpa...the nights Dr Goh spent reading him bedtime stories until poor, tired Dr Goh fell asleep while he was still actively awake...and nudging his grandpa to continue reading. Dr Goh always obliged.

The last speaker was the grand niece of Dr Goh... Marian Hui.
She may have been the youngest of the speakers but her eulogy was so, so moving that there
were many watery eyes among the gathered assembly.
Even D2 and I succumbed to the emotions as she spoke so warmly, so affectionately and so lovinglyly
of her Granduncle "Keng Swee".

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