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Q&A

In 1994, Ms Catherine Lim wrote two articles: A Great Affective Divide and One Government, Two Styles.

Then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong reacted when she wrote that he was under the influence of his predecessor, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.


What did you think of Mr Goh saying in Parliament then that those who land a blow on the Government's jaw must "expect a counterblow on your solar plexus"?

I was thinking, you're such a nice man, why do you use such violent imagery?

I didn't know where the solar plexus was. So I went to find out. If he had carried (it) out, he would have ruined my figure forever, I won't be able to wear my cheongsam any more!

Were you surprised that the Government's response to your open letter this time seemed mild, compared to what happened in 1994?

(At) that time, it was still a largely conservative government, a Confucianist government, which is why a minister called it bo tua bo soay (Hokkien for disrespectful).

It was shocking, as I never expected that. Actually (my piece then) was innocuous by many standards. But nobody had done that before... so how dare you make your Prime Minister lose face? That's probably why Mr Goh had to stress that he was in charge.

What about the compliment that Mr Lee Kuan Yew paid you? When author Tom Plate asked Mr Lee for self-criticism, he referred to you. Your opinion on Mr Lee's legacy was: "At one end of the response, there would be adulation and at the other end, undisguised opprobrium and disdain.

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It was the best thing that happened to me in my political life, a compliment by Lee Kuan Yew when he regarded me as the PAP's most persistent critic.

He was prepared for Tom Plate to quote that. Why didn't he ask Plate to refer to people who have written extensively about him?

I was really happy. Lee never minces his words...in a way, it has encouraged me to always be forthright. He probably respected me because I was not hysterical.