Be cautious on Singapore reforms: Lee Kuan Yew

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 12:00am

Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew has declared the 'old system, the old paradigm' no longer valid, as he called on Singapore's younger leaders to shape the vision of the island-state's future.

On the eve of his 80th birthday, which he celebrates today, the founding father of modern Singapore told The Sunday Times: 'I suggested both the remaking of Singapore and the remaking of the PAP [the ruling People's Action Party] several years ago. I cannot do it because my feeling and touch are for those of an older generation, as are my terms of reference.'

Mr Lee said he had tried to build into the system basic principles, such as integrity, a strong sense of duty, no abuse of power and meritocracy.

'If the younger leaders think this is too regulated and clinical, they can change these precepts, but it may be costly,' he added.

'I believe if we lose integrity, bend rules on meritocracy and have no constancy of purpose, or govern by taking straw polls, Singapore will not thrive.'

He noted that Singapore was 'visibly loosening up', but he cautioned that it had to be at a pace which Singaporeans could accept.

Mr Lee made it clear he had no intention of resigning once his son, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, succeeded Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

There had been speculation the senior Mr Lee might resign from his advisory cabinet position, so as not to overshadow his son. But Mr Lee said: 'I will retire from office when I am no longer able to contribute to the government.'

He said his son was not taking over because of family ties, but on his own merit. He said he could have arranged in 1990, when he retired as prime minister, 'to pass the baton' to his son instead of Mr Goh.

'I held him back for a purpose, for him to prove himself and for people to judge his worth.'