Lee Hsien Yang’s full-length media interview with Bloomberg

In his first full-length media interview done over email with Bloomberg, Lee Hsien Yang explains why he’s chosen to speak out now against the system his father helped create; whether he is a voice for the people or has a hidden agenda; and whether there’s a chance of the siblings reconciling.

We reproduce his Q&A with Faris Mokhtar of Bloomberg below:

Some voters have commented that you’re railing against the same system of governance and policies and other issues such as elitism that the late Mr Lee had a hand in building and developing?

My father was a product of his time. The world has moved on and so has Singapore. There are elements of what he has put in that may no longer serve the country today. My father was not perfect, but I love my father, and like many, I am grateful for what he has done for Singapore. We need to grow and evolve – as individuals, and as a nation.

Why only speak up about the system now when you’ve been silent about it in the past decades? Do you regret not speaking up before?

Every generation evolves and as we grow as a nation, our needs change. I have changed too. So many from all walks of life have come forth to speak to me in the past few years. I have heard so much of their suffering and struggles. The PAP used to be their voice. Today, it seems to be blind and deaf to the anger and frustrations of the people. Especially so among those with lower incomes. The oppression and inequality of income and opportunities for Singaporeans has increased. The PAP government seems unduly focused on looking after the interests of the elite. It is time for a change.

How do you feel going up against the PAP, co-founded and built up by your late father?

The PAP of today is no longer the party of my father. It has lost its way. My father founded the party when he was the voice of trade unions and seafarers. It started out as a champion of the underdog. And he always put the interests of Singaporeans and the country first. Today, many see the PAP as having lost touch with the ground. My father has done much for Singapore and we continue to reap the benefits. Along with other Singaporeans, I am deeply grateful to him.

To some extent, I hope to bring back some of those original values and priorities of putting our country and our people first, especially those who are less privileged. My father recognized that the day would come when the PAP would not retain power. His concerns for the future was not the perpetuation of the PAP. It was for the future of Singapore.

Why did you choose to join the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), which is newer, instead of the more established Workers’ Party (WP)?

I share the PSP vision for a more compassionate and progressive Singapore. Dr Tan Cheng Bock (party leader) inspired me to join the PSP. He has the conscience and the courage that I wish all MPs had. He has built around him a team, some of whom I already knew, who are smart and sensible, full of passion and compassion for their fellow Singaporeans

Why did you choose to keep your cards close to your chest till the last second on Nomination Day?

No party confirms their line-ups till Nomination Day. Other major parties (PAP, WP and SDP) only showed their hands on Nomination Day. The PSP had indicated the candidates and the areas they were contesting earlier and I was not on that list.

Some say you were teasing voters on contesting as a candidate and could have been upfront instead. Do you think that this could backfire on the PSP since you had raised hopes for some voters and this could reflect a lack of commitment on your part?

The message that Singapore doesn’t need another Lee has won over many people. Singapore wants different.

Why not contest? Are you not willing to commit or take the risk?

In the last few years, so many Singaporeans from all walks of life have asked me to stand for political office. There are many reasons for this. Central to that has been the concern for their own future and that of their children. There is anger and frustrations that the PAP no longer listens or cares. That they do not have any real voice in Parliament.

Singapore does not need another Lee in political office. Empirical evidence has shown that dynastic politics is bad for a country. It undermines meritocracy. I have continued to walk the ground. I meet and listen to my fellow Singaporeans and I continue to learn about their concerns and issues. And within the confines of very draconian regulations in Singapore, I hope to give voice to some of these. Besides that, I share ideas and support parties I believe in. I am trying to be a catalyst for change.

PAP Leaders like former premier Goh Chok Tong have said that people who want to talk about politics should enter the ring. Why choose to sit on the sidelines? You claimed that the PAP “has lost its way”, so why not make a difference?

I believe I am making a difference by speaking up. Every voter has the right to criticize and share their thoughts. Do they have to stand for office just to exercise their right to speak? PAP leaders may prefer voters like silent sheep. It is a false narrative to say that one can only talk about politics if one stands for election. Politics is not just for those who seek political office. It is for every citizen. It is our right and our duty. We have every right to be involved as it impacts our daily lives, it shapes our future. We all need to be part of that political discourse and we can all make a difference in different ways. For some it is through standing for political office, for others it is speaking up and sharing ideas and views. It could be by asking questions, by supporting causes one believes in, or just by having a conversation on political issues that matter with friends and families.

Is your political foray and speaking out against the government because of the family feud?

Simply, no.

How can you convince Singaporeans that you are fighting for the people and not your personal agenda?

My sister and I do not need a political platform to respond to attacks by our brother.

Should PSP win or lose, what’s your next step and what role will you play after the elections?

Being a good citizen, being politically aware and involved, is always a continuing process.

Will you continue to be heavily involved with the PSP and/or the opposition? Why or why not and how will you contribute?

Every citizen needs to continue to discuss the issues facing our country and seek transparency and accountability in government.

What’s preventing the opposition from making inroads? What are the gaps or flaws they themselves have?

First, Singapore needs fairer elections. There are many aspects of this including constantly changing electoral boundaries that are only disclosed just before an election. However, one of the top priorities should be an independent media and more freedom for people to say what they think. It’s incredible that a party that has been in power since independence is so sensitive to criticism. Singapore retains a political system, where the incumbent can just decide when to call an election. This time, we have a Covid-19 election, with the odds even more heavily stacked against the opposition parties. Rules were only made known at the last minute. Rallies are not possible so engagement with communities are limited.

There are also laws that make it incredibly difficult to criticize the government, or share alternative opinions and views. The PAP government maintains tight controls on the media. Even on the internet, the threat of a POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act), already repeatedly used against the opposition in this election, has a very chilling effect. There have also been threats of prosecutions for instance using laws on racial harmony.

Do you think that the opposition can and should form a coalition like those in other countries like Malaysia to have better success? What’s stopping them?

Like in Malaysia, this is a journey and this election has demonstrated first steps – there are only two three-cornered fights this time, notwithstanding more seats and the entry of a large new party.

What’s your assessment of the opposition’s chances in this coming election given that party leaders have voiced it’ll be a tougher fight?

This Covid election is a very difficult one for the alternative parties. The rules do not allow rallies and limit contact or visibility. And ever more oppressive rules on communication and outreach are in play.. Still, there is an undercurrent of real anger and frustration. I hope it is enough to make Singaporeans vote fearlessly.

Do you think that the family feud has hurt the country’s reputation?

What reflects badly on a country’s reputation are matters like heavy-handed censorship and laws which restrict public assemblies and freedom of speech. What reflects well is the well-being of its people, when there is more equality in incomes and in opportunities, when there is space for everyone to thrive. The focus right now needs to stay on issues that will decide this election.

What is really exciting is the quality among the alternative candidates. People are feeling the positive energy and responding well to the courage and diversity candidates in alternative parties. That is really the question that people should be asking themselves: Do you want more of the same for another five years?

How has the family coped with the lawsuits brought on by the government? Is the family planning to stay in Singapore in the long term? Or do you plan to relocate?

My family is strong and very supportive of my determination to speak up in this election, to bring attention to the issues that are affecting Singaporeans’ lives. I hope more independent minded individuals will also speak up for what they believe in.

Singapore is my country. It was with a heavy heart that I felt compelled after my father’s passing to leave. I am rarely in Singapore but am here on the request of many to be on the ground at this critical time.

Is there any chance of the siblings reconciling?

At this time, my focus is to help Singapore and our people.

 

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9 Responses to “Lee Hsien Yang’s full-length media interview with Bloomberg”

  • trublu:

    Dear HY,thanks for speaking out for sgs.
    You are a worthy son of SG n a bro to all sgs.

    PAP has lost its ORIGINAL MISSION .
    It has lost its vision.

    The PAP is now more like an organisation of elitists,for ELITIST$.

    Good to know that you n Mrs Lee and Shengwu sharing the daily concerns of more ordinary sgs,i am sure your late parents are proud of you.

    It is never easy standing on the side of the weak n poor n your courage n sincerity is much appreciated.

    Wishing you n ylour family best of everything.

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  • Do more for the people:

    Hope Singaporean will vote wisely.Chose the best man for each ward.
    Going to be a difficult and dangerous world ahead…
    More will suffer with recession coming and more jobs will be lost.
    Many companies will not survive this crisis of a life time.
    Still people want a more accountability Government in place.
    One that will do more for the Citizen,especially the poor , needy and our elders.
    The vulnerable among us…the mark of a gracious Society.
    Politics should be fair and seen to be fair…to attract the best to serve the people…
    Singaporean should be the center of all our Policy…make their life better…
    Not equal as that is the reality….

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  • LSY:

    LSY has make his point and we respect his position.
    Still many would have like him to stand .
    He could have done more and be subjected to the same test and pressure as those in the ring…to make Singapore better.
    My respect to those in the ring…not a easy on.
    Hope Singapore will get the best outcome …for Singapore Future.

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  • Quanxi:

    Well said.We need you to be on the grounds as booster for Alternative Party.
    Lee dynasty is myth with your endorsement for Alternative Party

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  • Steven:

    I am sorry but LHY speaking out the way he is doing is to spite his brother, LHL. I seriously doubt his motives.

    Furthermore, if he was a filial son, he would not drag the Lee name through more mud. I am sad that LKY’s legacy is being tarnished by this family quarrel which is now a public show of shame.

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  • TUMASIK Patriot:

    A TruBlu son-of-soil Patriot!!! Hormat!!!…

    Admitting his Father with his “AGGRESSIVE Kindness???” is Not Perfect and a Dynasty is BAD for the People…

    A Pity it was NOT him but an Idiot that was groomed…

    Nevertheless, Yang, you have done your Parents and Family Proud most of all your vision as a TruBlu Singaporean and NOT a Privilege White Horse…

    As I see it Yang, you should be in Parliament as an ordinary MP for the People and Country…NOT necessary having aspiration for Higher Office…You Don’t NEED the POWER & $$$…

    No NEED to “THINK!!!” as your Grey hair is covering your Grey Matter between the ears Tells All there is is to KNOW that you do “THINK” wisely and say “THINGS” that are Sensible & Wise

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  • Top Money for NO Talents::

    @Steven:
    July 8, 2020 at 12:44 pm (Quote)
    I am sorry but LHY speaking out the way he is doing is to spite his brother, LHL. I seriously doubt his motives.

    Furthermore, if he was a filial son, he would not drag the Lee name through more mud. I am sad that LKY’s legacy is being tarnished by this family quarrel which is now a public show of shame.

    Your mind is very shallow. See further than that please.

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  • Habislah:

    Yang for President!

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  • TUMASIK Patriot:

    Top Money for NO Talents::
    @Steven:
    July 8, 2020 at 12:44 pm (Quote)
    I am sorry but LHY speaking out the way he is doing is to spite his brother, LHL. I seriously doubt his motives.

    Furthermore, if he was a filial son, he would not drag the Lee name through more mud. I am sad that LKY’s legacy is being tarnished by this family quarrel which is now a public show of shame.

    Your mind is very shallow. See further than that please.

    Not Shallow lah!!! very attentive sitting next to the Gramaphone and listening to his Master’s Voice and Barking and Attacking on Order leh!!!

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