Leadership renewal 'top issue for next GE'

Finding the right leaders to take Singapore into the future is the most critical issue for the next General Election, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Placing leadership renewal as the top priority for the Government, PM Lee said that Singapore's exceptional success had been brought about by exceptional leaders, starting from the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The elder Mr Lee's death "reminded people that exceptional leadership made a big difference to us", said PM Lee at the annual May Day Rally.

"So the most critical question for us is, how do we form the most outstanding leadership for Singapore?" he said. "And in the next election, leadership renewal is the most important issue."

The present Cabinet has turned out well, with a good mix of experienced ministers and younger leaders who joined after the 2011 GE. But the ministers will grow old and need successors, PM Lee said.

"If I lose any of them, my team would be weakened. And if the team is weakened, can the Government deliver on what Singaporeans expect of us?" he said. "We can never have an 'A' team for Singapore which is too strong."

Speaking to more than 4,000 unionists, employers and government officials at the Star Performing Arts Centre, PM Lee said Singapore had done very well for itself over the past 50 years.

It is a tiny country, with just five million people, but it is the largest foreign investor in China and Indonesia, countries much larger than Singapore, while foreign leaders poured in from all over the world for the late Mr Lee's funeral, he noted.

PM Lee warned that Singapore should not take its success for granted and said it was wrong to assume that, just because the system was working, things would naturally turn out well.

"Nothing happens by itself that is good, only bad things happen by themselves," he said.

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

PM Lee also revealed that he was given a clean bill of health after undergoing surgery in February to remove his cancerous prostate gland.

But he is still searching for good leaders because anything could happen to him or his team of ministers. So, he is still hoping to get more candidates to stand in the next polls, which must be held before January 2017.

Recruiting such talent is not an easy job, he added. "Suitable people are not so many and... the people who are suitable are not so easy to persuade," PM Lee noted.

"And when people volunteer, you don't know whether to take them or not," he said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Still, he is trying hard to find and persuade the right people. "We have to bring in enough new people, committed to Singapore, with the ability, character, dedication and gumption, so that we can keep this country special."

PM Lee reaffirmed the Government's commitment to the three-way partnership between the Government, unions and employers.

He also took the time to thank outgoing labour chief Lim Swee Say, who has delivered results during his time. Similarly, his successor Chan Chun Sing will also give his heart and soul to NTUC, he said.

"We may be a small country but we must have big dreams, otherwise we perish. So let's continue joining hands to achieve better lives for all Singaporeans."


This article was first published on May 02, 2015.
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