Singapore Election 2011: He's Their Helen Thomas

Earlier today, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke (and begged for mercy from the electorate) at a People’s Action Party rally in Singapore’s CBD. One part of his speech seems to have been almost buried, but it’s pretty newsworthy - the PM seems to be carefully marginalising the man who ran the country for more than thirty years, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

The PAP appears to be admitting that their venerated elder statesman is becoming a potentially massive PR liability:

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the approach and style of his team is different from Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s generation although the ideals and passion of the People’s Action Party (PAP) government have stayed unchanged.

He said he and his team ‘do it our way’.

[…]Elaborating on this, PM Lee said his Cabinet team takes time ‘to talk, to explain, to persuade’ and understand the difficulties and problems so that they can move in the right strategic direction, in contrast to MM’s more direct style in the 1950s to the ‘70s.

The Minister Mentor’s “style in the 1950s to the ‘70s” is still alive and kicking in the ‘10s, though - which might be why the current PAP leadership wants to distance themselves from him. Here’s MM Lee in classic form earlier this month, calmly suggesting that voters should avoid the opposition team in the swing seat of Aljunied:

VOTERS in Aljunied GRC who choose the Workers’ Party (WP) team will regret it, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Friday night.

‘If they choose (the opposition), then I say, good luck to them. They have five years to ruminate and to regret what they did. And I have no doubts they will regret it,’ he said.

Just in case he didn’t make himself clear enough:

‘If Aljunied decides to go that way, well Aljunied has five years to live and repent,’ said MM Lee.

‘We accept the verdict of the people, but they must also accept the consequences of their actions. You must expect the PAP to look after PAP constituencies first.’

If you liked this piece, there’s more Election 2011 coverage here:

  1. Election 2011: the Redistricting

  2. Election 2011: Nomination Day