"While there can be altercations within families, there are some lines that should not be crossed."
Whatever his motivation - this being election year and all - one wonders if the Minister would have kept mum if he was at another scene of a senior being smacked?
"In 1990, an incident occurred in a pre-cabinet meeting which was the beginning of entrenching further among the many in the core executive, resistance to Lee Hsien Loong's long term ambitions for prime ministership. Prior to this meeting Lee Hsien Loong had gone to the office of Richard Hu, the Minister of Finance, and removed a number of files without Hu's permission. At that time Lee's office was on the 48th floor of what is now Temasek Tower and Hu's was on the 50th floor.
At the pre-cabinet meeting Hu took Lee to task for doing this and was supported by Tony Tan. Lee's response was aggressive and insulting, he directly insulted Tan and Hu, a man of his father's age. This was a double insult to Hu, who was Lee's superior in cabinet and a person of an age who should of itself deserve respect in Chinese society. Suppiah Dhanabalan intervened and chastised Lee for his behaviour, demanding that he apologise to Hu, withdraw his remarks and not interfere in other minister's portfolios. A heated exchange occurred into which a number of other issues intruded and eventually Lee lost his temper, and reportedly reached across the table and slapped Dhanabalan across the face."
All parties involved in the altercation sealed their lips, continuing to subscribe to the tenet of all secrets staying within the PAP family. But during the 2005 National Day Rally speech broadcast, a rogue Goh Chok Tong decided to craft a different narrative:
"You may also have heard this old story about Loong. In case you have not, I'll tell you now. Back in 1990, Loong had a quarrel with Richard Hu. S. Dhanabalan sided with Richard. Loong lost his temper. He reached across the table and gave Dhanabalan a tight slap. The whole Cabinet was thrown into commotion. I then forced Loong to apologise. I must be suffering from amnesia. I just cannot remember this incident. Now you know how creative Singaporeans are."
Actually if Goh had bothered to visit the National Library, he could have read up the account in Ross Worthington's "Governance in Singapore". No need to check into the Institute of Mental Health, where creative Singaporeans are routinely locked up for assessment.
As for Dhanabalan's protection, the Vulnerable Adults Act - meant to help protect vulnerable adults suffering from third-party abuse and neglect - that will be introduced at the end of the year should come in useful. The Good Book says to turn the other cheek, but no one likes to be whacked a second time.