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Hsien Loong fields question of possibility of third PM Lee

Singapore could have a third Prime Minister Lee as it is a common Chinese surname, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not think "it goes in the family". -- FILE PHOTO: ZAOBAO
Singapore could have a third Prime Minister Lee as it is a common Chinese surname, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not think "it goes in the family". -- FILE PHOTO: ZAOBAO

Singapore could have a third Prime Minister Lee as it is a common Chinese surname, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not think "it goes in the family".

In an interview with Chinese magazine New Century, published by Caixin, Mr Lee was asked if there could be a third PM Lee in Singapore.

He replied: "It could be. There are many Lees in the world. I think we are the most common surname among the Chinese. But I don't think that it goes in the family."

Mr Lee, who has been prime minister since 2004, is the son of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

On the issue of political leadership succession, Mr Lee said that he hopes to "have similar continuity going forward".

But he does not see future prime ministers having the same long years of tutelage as he and his immediate predecessor, Mr Goh Chok Tong, did.

Mr Goh and the younger Mr Lee had been in politics for more than 10 and 20 years respectively before they rose to the top job.

"I think we were very privileged to have that long period of exposure, to learn what Singapore is about, to learn what the responsibilities are, if you are in politics. And also, for people to learn about you," said PM Lee.

"There's no surprise, there's no anxiety, but there is a smooth change of gears," he added in the interview, published as a front page feature in Caixin's flagship weekly publication New Century on Monday.

"But I think it would be a very great luxury to have similar prime ministers in future have 10 or 20 years of tutelage. I don't think we can guarantee that all the time."

Casting his eye on political changes on the horizon, Mr Lee also said that Singapore will have a greater degree of political competition and participation.

"We ought to accommodate that, because it's good that Singaporeans care about the affairs of the country and which way Singapore is going," he said.

Political structures have to gradually evolve with time, he added when asked if Singapore's current political structure can always stay relevant.

"But whatever we change, we still want a system where you encourage good people to come forward...and you encourage the Government to act in a way which will take the long term interests of the country at heart. And that's not easy to do."