Goh may emulate elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 12:00am

Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong says he wants to take on the role of a statesman after he steps down from the top job and continue to play an active role in the country's political life.

The comments - carried in an interview with the Japanese Yomiuri newspaper - are the fullest description yet of Mr Goh's plans for life after retiring from the prime ministership.

'I hope to play the role of a statesman in Singapore and since I had good support from the people in the last election [in November], when I retire my political strength will be there,' Mr Goh said.

He added: 'I will have the moral authority to say things, to try and correct things, if things are not going the right way.'

The remarks suggest that Mr Goh could emulate the role played by Lee Kuan Yew, the country's first prime minister, who handed over the reins to Mr Goh in 1990.

Since then Mr Lee has assumed the title of Senior Minister and plays an influential role in the administration of the city-state, commenting extensively on domestic and foreign policy.

Although it is thought unlikely that Mr Goh will carry the same formal title as Mr Lee, the tenor of the comments make clear that he envisions taking on a similar function.

Mr Goh has indicated that he plans to retire midway through the current parliamentary term, which runs until 2007. But he has also said he wants to see the country through the present economic downtown before relinquishing office.

Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Lee's son, has been backed by Mr Goh as his preferred successor. The final decision will be taken by MPs from the ruling People's Action Party, who are expected to back Mr Goh's choice.

'My successor should be given time to consolidate his position to fight the next election, which will be due in 2007,' Mr Goh said. 'And I do believe that we need a younger person to be around for the next 10 to 15 years in order to deal with future problems.'