May Day Rally: Leadership renewal most critical issue in next GE, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

May Day Rally: Leadership renewal most critical issue in next GE, says PM Lee Hsien Loong
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching arrive to join some 3,500 union leaders, key representatives from the Labour Movement and tripartite partners for a May Day celebration at the May Day Rally on 1 May 2015.

SINGAPORE - Leadership renewal is the most important issue in the upcoming General Election (GE), said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the May Day Rally on Friday.

Noting that Singapore's success hinges on it being led by exceptional leaders, he said it is important to find more men and women to form the next team to take Singapore forward.

May Day Rally: PM Lee Hsien Loong gets the all-clear for prostate cancer
By Fiona Chan

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been given the all-clear for prostate cancer after undergoing surgery in February to remove his cancerous prostate gland.

At a follow-up blood test two weeks ago, doctors had told him his survival rate for prostate cancer is 98 per cent after 15 years, Mr Lee revealed during his May Day Rally speech on Friday.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Here is an excerpt from his speech, in point form, that was delivered on Friday at The Star Performing Arts Centre:

"We need exceptional leaders"

To make all this work - the economy, education, SkillsFuture - we need outstanding leadership

a. Outstanding leadership brought us here

b. Outstanding leadership will take us forward

The unions need good leaders too - in each union, in the NTUC Central Committee, as NTUC Secretary General

Over the last 30 years, NTUC has had a succession of Secretaries General who have left their marks, each in their own way: Brothers Ong Teng Cheong, Lim Boon Heng, and for the last eight years Lim Swee Say

I am grateful for Brother Swee Say's leadership and support in the NTUC

a. Definitely the "U" will be the Labour Movement's branding for a long time to come

b. And we will all remember his slogans!

i. "Upturn the Downturn"

ii. "Cheaper, Better, Faster"

iii. "Better, Betterer and Betterest"

c. They sound cute, but behind these catchy slogans are serious ideas and important policies that have improved workers' lives

i. e.g. Skills Re-development, Job Re-creation, Employment & Employability, Re-employment

ii. The Progressive Wage Model and raised the wages of our lowwage workers

iii. Productivity

d. Workers support Swee Say not because of his slogans but he delivered results

e. Leadership makes all the difference

Swee Say will make a very good Manpower Minister

a. He has the ideal CV

i. He comes from the NTUC, so he understands workers and unions

ii. He spent years in EDB, so he understands investors

iii. He served in the Cabinet as Environment Minister, and delivered NEWater - important to our survival

b. If I were a headhunter for MOM and produced Brother Swee Say, I would deserve a special bonus

Brother Swee Say has for a long time been very concerned about succession in NTUC

a. He instituted leadership renewal as a system in the unions

b. He brought in younger union leaders and trained them up

i. Today's Central Committee has a good mix of old hands and fresh faces

ii. Thank our senior leaders like John De Payva and Cyrille Tan for supporting leadership renewal, and helping the new ones learn the ropes

c. He planned for his own retirement from day one and discussed it with me over several years

So when the Central Committee wrote to me in January, to ask me for Brother Chan Chun Sing, it did not come as a surprise

a. Chun Sing was doing an important job at MSF, and doing it well

b. But NTUC is crucial, and if we say that this Government is on the side of workers, we have to back it up

c. I am sure Chun Sing will give his heart and soul to NTUC and the cause of workers

d. Please give him your support, and help him to serve you well

We must have leadership renewal at the national level too

Some people say we no longer have to worry about national leadership

a. They say we already have a good system

i. Just need to keep it running

ii. The civil servants know what to do

iii. Not so hard to be a minister, or even a PM

b. Anyway, nowadays we have a lot of talent

c. So we don't have to worry about building the best team

d. In fact, why not try out a different team?

I say: "Be very careful"

a. By that logic, since Mercedes has an outstanding F1 car, there is no need to have Lewis Hamilton as the driver to win the F1 championship!

b. National leadership makes all the difference

c. One reason for the strong reaction when Mr Lee passed away was because everyone knew that without him, what we see around would not be here today - there would be no HDB, SAF, NEWater, Changi Airport, SIA, PSA, no modern Singapore!

d. Mr Lee's passing reminded people that exceptional leadership made a big difference for Singapore

e. I think it has caused us to pause and ask ourselves: are we sure we don't need exceptional leadership any more?

Of course Mr Lee did not do it alone

a. Part of his greatness was that he brought together other exceptional people to form an outstanding team - Goh Keng Swee, S Rajaratnam, Lim Kim San, Hon Sui Sen, Eddie Barker

b. They worked as a team, with Singaporeans, to achieve great things for Singapore

My job today is to build that strong leadership team for Singapore - for now, and for the future

a. We are alright for now - I have a balanced Cabinet, some Ministers with more than 20 years' experience, some who joined in the last GE

b. They have mastered their portfolios, learnt about politics, gained the trust of Singaporeans

But we will all grow old and we all need successors

a. I am already 63 years old this year

b. I just returned from the Asia-Africa Summit - held every ten years

c. I went to the last one ten years ago, in 2005

d. I really should not attend the next one ten years from now, when I am 73

e. But you must make sure whoever is the Prime Minister in 2025, when he goes, he will do us proud and protect our interests

This year, my doctors discovered that I had prostate cancer

a. Fortunately they discovered it early

b. I went for an operation in February

c. It was successful and now I am back to work

d. Recently went for a follow up blood test

i. Doctors gave me the all clear

ii. They say my prostate cancer specific survival rate 98 per cent after 15 years - means that I am unlikely to die of Prostate Cancer

iii. But 15 years from now I will be 78

iv. Even if prostate cancer does not cause me trouble, something else can happen to me

It is not just me. It is the same with my team

a. Just because you are a minister does not mean you won't get ill or grow old

b. From time to time, ministers get ill

c. If I lose any of them, can I replace them quickly with people of similar quality and experience?

If my team is weakened, would the government be able to deliver on what Singaporeans expect of us?

a. SG50 budget and Pioneer Generation Package - Could it have happened without Tharman, Kim Yong, Josephine, Amy and Sim Ann?

b. SkillsFuture - Can it succeed without Swee Keat, Chuan Jin and Indranee, Swee Say and Chun Sing?

c. 27,000 HDB flats this year - Would they have been built without Khaw Boon Wan, Yi Shyan, Desmond Lee, Maliki?

I need to get more good men and woman in, to form the next team to take Singapore forward, beyond me and my generation of leaders

a. It is very hard to do

b. Because suitable people are few, and these few are difficult to persuade

c. More than once, I have been told: "You are doing an outstanding job. You have my full support. But please count me out. I have examined myself, and I honestly don't think I have what it takes to enter politics. Also my family is dead set against it."

d. I am still trying hard, and hope to get one or two more

e. But we can never have an 'A' team which is too strong

Hence the most critical question for us is: how do we form the most outstanding leadership for Singapore?

a. Leadership renewal is the most important issue in the next election

b. It's not doing more or spending more, as some would like you to think

c. It's about who will lead Singapore into the future - It is our future at stake, our children's future. For if this government fails, what is going to happen to you, to Singapore?

d. This place could not have been built, and cannot be kept going, without exceptional leaders

e. We must bring in enough new people who are committed to Singapore, with high ability, strong character, dedication and gumption, so that we can keep Singapore exceptional

So I need your help: give me and my team your support, so that after the next election, well before the election after the next, a younger team will be ready to lead us forward

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.