Banished pilot who enraged Singapore's Lee bids farewell
By D'ARCY DORAN
Associated Press Writer
SINGAPORE (AP): A Malaysian-born pilot who angered Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew bid farewell to the city-state Saturday after the government ordered him to leave for good by May Day.
"There is no regret -- bit of mixed feelings -- more sadness than anything else,'' former Singapore Airlines pilot Ryan Goh told reporters before flying off to Perth, Australia.
Well-wishers saw Goh off at the airport security gate, while his 12-year-old daughter Kelly fought back tears as she kissed her father goodbye.
After 26 years in Singapore, Goh will live with his wife and their three other children in Perth. Kelly will stay in Singapore to continue her schooling.
Goh's troubles came after he led a vote in November to dismiss pilot union leaders who'd accepted proposals by Singapore Airlines -- which is majority-owned by the government -- to slash wages, lay off staff and force employees to take unpaid leave.
Lee angrily confronted Goh at a meeting with pilots in February, accusing him of stirring up trouble within the union.
Lee ruled Singapore from its independence in 1965 until he stepped aside in 1990, but still has considerable clout under the title of senior minister. Two days after his meeting with Lee, Goh was ordered to leave Singapore.
Authorities branded him an "undesirable immigrant,'' and Goh said he cannot enter Singapore without applying for permission.
Singapore Airlines fired Goh last month after he lost two appeals to keep his residency rights. The airline agreed to fly him and his family to Australia, he said.
Other airlines have offered to hire Goh, but his options are limited because he needs advance permission to transit through Singapore -- a regional air hub, he said.
"Was I a scapegoat? It depends on who you ask really,'' Goh said, without elaborating.
Singapore Airlines laid off hundreds of workers after suffering its first quarterly lost in last year's second quarter, then imposed a 16.5 percent pay cut and unpaid leave.
The airline rebounded with a record S$306 million (US$180 million) profit in the following quarter -- which frustrated some employees who felt they had sacrificed too much.