Is presidential hopeful George Goh a former PAP grassroots leader?

By June 14, 2023 Local Politics

We noticed the following screengrab being shared widely in Whatsapp:

The post, shared without a caption, shows a screenshot from the National Archives of Singapore of a speech made back in 2000, addressing a Mr George Goh, BBM, Chairman of Kampong Ubi Citizens’ Consulative Committee (CCC) in the audience. While shared without context, the screenshot seems to suggest that George Goh might have been politically affiliated, in this case to the ruling People’s Action Party contrary to his earlier declaration that he would be running as an “independent candidate” with no political baggage.

For context, on 12 June 2023, George Goh Ching Wah, a 63-year-old businessman most widely known for being the founder of Harvey Norman Ossia which brought Australian electronics store Harvey Norman to Asia had announced his intention to run for the Singapore presidency.

According to a statement from his media team, he would contest in the Presidential Election as an “independent candidate”. “He has no political party affiliations – past or present. He has no political baggage. He was never in the public sector. He is an entrepreneur who started working at the age of 16, and has since built a business empire spanning 14 countries”. As such, news that he was Chairman of the Kampong Ubi CCC in 2000 might hurt his “non-establishment credentials” in his bid for the presidency.

Not as independent as he says?

To verify the claim, we first looked for the original source of the screenshot. We found that it was in fact authentic and is publicly available through the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) website.

When we searched for evidence that it was indeed the same George Goh that was running for president though, we found an image again from the NAS website from the same event. In the picture, George Goh, dressed in blue on the far right (in the apolitical sense of the word) does not look like George Goh Ching Wah, leading us to believe that while they share the same name, these are two different individuals.

To verify that these are two different people, we searched for mention of a George Goh, BBM, finding that a George Goh Tiong Yong, CEO of Meiban group, a plastic moulding MNC had been awarded a BBM in 1999 and looked similar to the CCC Chairman pictured at the event.

The Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (BBM) or public service star is a Singaporean decoration awarded for valuable public service or distinguished performance. Recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters BBM. When we searched the archives for “George Gohs” who had received awards, we found the same George Goh Tiong Yong present, with his designation of Chairman, Kampong Ubi CCC matching the description of the original claim.

With the available evidence, the claim that presidential hopeful George Goh Ching Wah linked to the PAP through being Chairman of the Kampong Ubi Citizens’ Consultative Committee is false. The George Goh mentioned is actually George Goh Tiong Yong, CEO of Meiban group and Chairman of the Grassroots Organization Kampong Ubi CCC.

While there is understandably excitement in the build-up to the Singaporean Presidential Elections, we advise our readers to exercise media scepticism to avoid potential confusion in the future. To illustrate this, while searching for the George Goh mentioned in the claim, we found two other individuals, Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) George Goh from the Singapore Armed Forces and a Dr George Goh who is currently a Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist at the Singapore General Hospital.

With a fairly common name such as this, it is crucial to verify the specific person being referred to in order to prevent mistaken identities or misinformation.

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