SINGAPORE - The core of the next generation of leaders who can move Singapore forward is taking shape, but more leaders are needed, said People's Action Party (PAP) secretary-general and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Sept 8).
This election, the PAP is fielding capable, committed individuals to join this core team of leaders, he said at a lunchtime rally in the business district.
As the current Cabinet is not getting any younger, it must make sure it has a team from its ranks ready to take over, he said.
"We have a nucleus of that group. We've been assembling it over the years. Last election, I brought in some more people," Mr Lee said at the promenade of UOB Plaza.
He cited four ministers elected in 2011: Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, labour chief Chan Chun Sing, and Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.
Officeholders, such as senior ministers of state Josephine Teo and Indranee Rajah and parliamentary secretary Faishal Ibrahim, were also promoted from the backbench.
Said Mr Lee: "It's starting to come together but I need more, you need more, Singapore needs more.
"So this election I'm adding more. When people say jia you (Mandarin for 'fight on'), here is jia liao - add more substance."
The potential leaders from this round include new candidates Ng Chee Meng, Ong Ye Kung, Chee Hong Tat and others like Amrin Amin, he said.
Mr Ong, Mr Chee and Mr Amrin were among the 10 speakers at the rally whose topics range from politics to the economy and opportunities for minorities in Singapore.
These leaders can contribute, have potential and will show their commitment and form a bond with Singaporeans and their children in due course, Mr Lee said.
He made the case that good leaders in government are needed for Singapore to succeed, adding: "We need a deep bench, we need the best possible team for Singapore."
Mr Lee also rebutted a claim Mr Png Eng Huat of the Workers' Party made last Friday, that life would go on as usual if the PAP were not in power because the civil service would keep things going.
Mr Png had recounted a Thai friend's remark that Thailand continued to function after last year's military coup because of its civil service.
Mr Lee said: "I read in the newspapers, Png Eng Huat saying, don't worry, you know, you look at Thailand, they have military coups. Still okay what. No need for government. Civil service very good. Will look after you, everything would carry on. No government, you can go home, still take bath, hot water still running.
"If that is the Workers' Party measure of good politics and success, if ever the Workers' Party becomes the government of Singapore, I say liao. Finished!"
But Singapore must have good leaders who can help the country stay successful, Mr Lee said.
A strong team is needed alongside these leaders to support them, give them ideas and guide them in the right direction in producing policies that voters want, he added.
This teamwork was how Singapore succeeded under founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
"He didn't do it by himself. He did it with a strong team," Mr Lee said, citing Mr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam, Mr Lim Kim San, Mr Hon Sui Sen and Mr Othman Wok.
They "made Singapore go from 1965 to 2015".
Likewise, when Mr Goh Chok Tong was prime minister, he added. Mr Goh was backed by a strong team that included Dr Tony Tan, Mr S. Dhanabalan, Mr Ong Teng Cheong and Mr Ahmad Mattar.
The team worked hard and took the country another step forward.
Mr Lee said: "Ten years ago, I and my team took over. We did our best to take Singapore further forward.
"I think that is the way "I think that is the way to make Singapore work."