Why Did Goh Chok Tong Do That To Dr. Seet?

Dr Seet Ai Mee, on then prime minister Goh Chok Tong’s rehashing of the hand-washing incident before the 1991 election.
Extracted from The Straits Times Mar 19 2011
In the aftermath of the electoral defeat, one of Dr Seet’s activists wrote to The Straits Times to clarify that she had seen Dr Seet wash her hands, but it was only after meeting pork sellers. She did not want to be disrespectful to any Muslims she might meet later, the writer explained.

Dr Seet herself did not clarify the issue until close to 20 years later, in 2009, when she was interviewed by Petir, the party’s magazine.

Recalling the incident now, she says her supporters walked away from the rally at which Mr Goh had brought up the incident ‘very upset’.

‘They knew I was going to lose. I don’t know why he did that. He kicked an own goal,’ she says.

While Dr Seet was not the only PAP candidate to lose – three other seats were lost, in the party’s worst showing in recent history – she was the most prominent, being acting minister for community development at the time.

She says her loss stemmed from a myriad of issues such as national unhappiness over the rising cost of living. Bukit Gombak itself had seen three bus routes taken away while fares were increased.

In hindsight, she believes that she was the wrong candidate for the ward, which is made up largely of blue-collar Mandarin- and dialect-speaking folk. She does not speak Mandarin; her second language is Malay.

‘The man fielded after me was the right man,’ she says, referring to veteran backbencher Ang Mong Seng, who wrested the seat from Mr Ling in 1997 with 65 per cent of the vote. He is Chinese-educated and speaks fluent dialect.

But given that Mr Ling had also played on gender prejudice during their contests, would a female Ang Mong Seng have held the ward?

Her verdict: ‘Better than me!’

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