Next-generation leaders? Half of them already in place: PM Lee Hsien Loong

PM Lee Hsien Loong speaking on Capital 95.8 FM's live weekly programme On Air With Minister last night, where he urged Singaporeans not to take their votes lightly.
PM Lee Hsien Loong speaking on Capital 95.8 FM's live weekly programme On Air With Minister last night, where he urged Singaporeans not to take their votes lightly.PHOTO: TERENCE TAN/MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

He hopes another batch of new faces will enter office in next GE

HALF of Singapore's next generation of political leaders are already in place, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hopes that another batch will enter office in the next general election (GE).

"In the last GE, we ushered in many new faces, including some ministers... In the next GE, we hope to bring in another batch of new people, including candidates who can be office-holders."

But he played coy when asked about the date of the next polls.

"I think it won't be long now," he answered, before adding with a laugh, "at least within the next two years".

The general election must be held by January 2017.

Speaking on Capital 95.8 FM's live weekly programme On Air With Minister last night, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans not to take their votes lightly in the polls.

"We can't say, the next Government is already settled, we can give the opposition more of a chance in some constituencies.

"It's a dangerous way to think, because politics is no longer like before. Every seat will see a contest, and so every vote is important and every voter's decision means something. We have to be very careful about it," he said.

During the hour-long session in Mandarin, Mr Lee answered listeners' questions on pressure in the education system, re-employing seniors and the problem of a lack of graciousness in society.

Callers were largely concerned with bread-and-butter issues, voicing worries about finding the right job or whether their children could succeed in the system.

Mr Lee told one polytechnic graduate who wanted to enrol in university that while self-improvement was good, the Government hopes that mindsets here can shift away from a focus on credentials.

"If you can find a place in university, I'm happy for you. But if not, don't lose confidence as there are lots of other choices," he said.

One caller who had just moved home after an 11-year stint in Australia marvelled at Singapore's transformation and pace of life.

"I think our development has been faster than other countries, because we are a small island and if we are not one step faster, we will fall behind others," Mr Lee said in reply. "But we must maintain cohesion and a sense of belonging. If we can't recognise our country, that doesn't work."

Responding to another caller who complained that Singapore is becoming less gracious despite higher standards of living, Mr Lee said part of the reason was the fast-paced city life here, which makes people feel they must move quickly or lose out.

That more families are smaller in size now also contributes to the trend, as bigger families tend to require more compromise and mutual understanding, he added.

Many callers yesterday, as well as programme hosts Gao Yixin and Pan Jiabiao, commiserated with Mr Lee on the recent death of his father, founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

When one caller expressed a wish to return to the "strong leadership" that the late Mr Lee embodied, PM Lee said Singapore has changed and its leadership must adjust with it.

The present Government cannot lead paternalistically without consultation or engagement, he said, but neither will it be populist and just "do everything you want me to".

He added: "Resolute leadership is necessary, but unyielding leadership is obsolete."

rchang@sph.com.sg