Without getting drawn into the never-ending debate on what constitutes a fair ministerial salary in Singapore, thanks to Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong, our respect for the newly-minted Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, Member of Parliament Edwin Tong, just went up several notches.
Edwin Tong Chun Fai (唐振辉) is a Singaporean politician and lawyer. Like ESM Goh, he is a member of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in Singapore and is an elected MP in the Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
Tong was a partner with law firm Allen & Gledhill LLP before he quit this year to become a full minister – at a big sacrifice financially.
ESM Goh disclosed at a South East District residents dialogue last week that Tong took a 75 per cent pay cut when he became a senior minister of state on July 1. Tong had previously earned more than S$2 million a year as a senior counsel and now makes about S$500,000, said ESM Goh.
Our respect for Tong went up after reading about this.
This is the kind of people we want in our government – with the passion to serve, even if they have to make some personal sacrifices. They clearly see this as a call to duty and as service to the nation.
Before ESM Goh brought up this thing about Tong’s salary, he was last mentioned prominently in the news for his representation of Pastor Kong Hee of the City Harvest Church in the landmark City Harvest Church Trial. On 5 February 2018, the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chamber said it would take action against a man for contempt of court for publishing on a Facebook group a doctored image of Chinese tabloid Lianhe Wanbao, insinuating that Edwin Tong and his affiliated political party had saved Kong Hee from harsher penalties. The original title of the Chinese paper had used the word “outdated law” instead of “PAP lawyer”, to describe the reason behind Kong’s relatively light penalties.
Now, thanks to ESM Goh, everyone in the street will know Minister Edwin Tong as the lawyer who took a drastic pay cut in order to serve the country. Kudos sir! We need more men and women like Edwin Tong in our parliament who are willing to make personal sacrifices for the betterment of our nation.
After all, wasn’t this the foundation of our founding team of good men led by our first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who brought Singapore from third world to first? The pioneer team made tremendous personal sacrifices by entering into politics during the uncertain and troubled period when Singapore was still a part of Malaya under British rule. It is with their tenacity, grit and leadership that we came to where we are now.
Minister Tong has not commented on ESM Goh’s comment about his pay cut. He don’t have to. We want to thank him instead, for stepping forward. What would you have done if you were in Tong’s shoes? The Prime Minister tapped on you to step forward, but you would have to take a massive pay cut. Would you have done the same?