Nathan, Heng and Jayakumar recall LKY's leadership style

SINGAPORE - Here are selected extracts from speeches at Monday's conference, "The Big Ideas of Mr Lee Kuan Yew", organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Former prime minister Lee celebrates his 90th birthday on Monday.

Former president SR Nathan: "From the day he took office, he seemed to know how to lead us as a people and bring about change. In doing it, he brought to bear the qualities of his personal character, making observers feel that he was born to lead. From the time he came into our lives, he has engaged our dreams, mobilized our energies and led us as if promising to lead us to the 'promised land'."

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was principal private secretary to Mr Lee from 1997 to 2000: "Mr Lee's favourite question is, 'So?' If you update him on something, he will invariably reply with, 'So?' You reply and think you have answered him, but again he asks, 'So?' This 'So?' question forces you to get to the core of the issue and draw out the implications of each fact. His instinct is to cut through the clutter, drill to the core of the issue, and identify the vital points. And he does this with an economy of effort."

Former senior minister S. Jayakumar: "I've always found him intellectually honest. If you can come up with a contrary view, you can argue your case cogently and persuasively, he's prepared to listen and prepared to change and modify his views. An example that comes to my mind is the months of discussion we had in Cabinet, informal or formal, about the elected presidency. The younger ministers had a particular point of view, he had his point of view. But he said, 'Look, you guys will have to run Singapore. You have to be in charge. You have to implement this. So you better let me know what you're comfortable with.' And finally, the shape of the elected presidency reflected the younger ministers' views. And he went along with it."

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