Extreme makeover gives Lee a softer edge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 12:00am

Lee Hsien Loong has undergone something akin to an extreme makeover since he was formally announced as Singapore's next prime minister this time last year.

The military-style haircut has softened and the suits that never quite seemed to fit his tall gangly frame have been replaced at public events with casual shirts.

Singapore's pro-government media has played a key role in these makeover efforts, devoting considerable space to explaining just how good Mr Lee looks in red.

'Red is the colour of champions,' enthused one reporter in the Straits Times newspaper after Mr Lee was filmed at a forum with schoolchildren in a bright red shirt. 'It is also the colour on the shields of heroes and famous achievers, like Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who led the famous march across the Alps in 218BC,' according to the article.

Another local columnist also pointed out how Mr Lee had once insisted on shaking hands with a fishmonger, 'even though he had dirty hands'.

During the past couple of years, Singapore's state-run media also seems to have stopped referring to the incoming prime minister as 'BG Lee', a previously popular moniker referring to the rank of brigadier-general he attained in the army.