Choice of Koh 'in line with plan for Team Singapore'

KOH Poh Koon is the kind of person Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wants on his team, not only because of his ability but also his passion, commitment to serve and desire to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

PM Lee said his choice of Dr Koh is also in line with his plan to build up his team, which he called "Team Singapore".

Dr Koh will add to the group of more than 20 new PAP MPs and ministers brought in during the 2011 General Election.

Mr Lee told the audience at last night's rally that Singapore needs to develop capable leaders who can run the country.

He has reinforced his team and new ministers like Mr Heng Swee Keat, Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Lawrence Wong are "making a contribution".

"But I would like to strengthen the team so that it can do even better for Singapore, so that your future can be even more secure," he added.

Recommending Dr Koh to Punggol East voters, he said: "He came through our system. I met him. I persuaded him to come in because I decided he was a good man and I'm confident he will make you a good MP."

But Mr Lee had to meet the colorectal surgeon and father of two more than once before he would accept his offer.

"He took a while to think it over because what I was asking of him is not a light thing. It's a difficult decision.

"If I had asked him and he said 'yes' straightaway, I would have been a bit shaken: Does he know what he is in for?

"It's not just a by-election he has to fight, but after that, the commitment, the obligation, the responsibility, what it means to be a PAP MP and to wear these whites. Eventually he decided yes, he was ready. He answered the call. He was prepared to give it a fight. My respect for him went up after that," he said.

Mr Lee also referred to Dr Koh's passage from poverty to medical school to becoming a doctor.

He said Dr Koh epitomised how the policies that the PAP Government put in place enabled Singaporeans to make good.

The path of WP candidate Lee Li Lian also demonstrated the success of this system, Mr Lee said in a surprising twist.

"She completed her N levels... did her O levels. She went to Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She did well. And later on, she got her degree on her own, and now she's a candidate.

"So I say she shows that the Singapore system built by the PAP is a good one," Mr Lee said.