Goh: I’m not remaking Kuan Yew’s Singapore

PRIME Minister Goh Chok Tong on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that the exercise to remake Singapore was an acknowledgement that the Lee Kuan Yew model of government had failed. 

In a lively half-hour interview with BBC's HARDtalk programme, he told journalist Tim Sebastian that the old ways worked. 

But Singapore was also looking to the future and offering its younger generation an opportunity “to decide for themselves what kind of future they want”. 

Goh indicated the exercise was also one that would ensure Singapore was in good shape when he handed over. 

“I’m remaking it after 13 years in the Government. So it’s not remaking Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore. In a sense, it’s my Singapore that I am trying to remake. I’m doing that because I’m leaving the scene, so the younger generation should decide.” 

Sebastian’s rejoinder: What was the point of remaking and handing Singapore over to Lee Hsien Loong, who “presumably is going to perpetuate the system of his father which has proved to have failed”. 

“You’re telling me that this isn’t some sort of just dynastic continuation in Singapore?” 

Goh’s reply: It was not. “I’m here and I’m not going to be a pushover, just to hand over to Lee Kuan Yew’s son because he happens to be the son.” 

The journalist quizzed Goh on stock issues like: Singapore’s human rights record, defamation suits against political opponents and the “nanny state” reputation. 

On whether nanny-like “boarding school rules” such as fines for not flushing toilets would be changed, he said the Government would – when Singaporeans could keep the city clean without the threat of fines. 

Sebastian picked on another familiar bugbear, saying there was a pattern of leaders using defamation suits to crush political opponents. 

Goh said: “Because there is a pattern among the opposition leaders to be accusing us of wrongdoing.” 

On Remaking Singapore, Sebastian said the entrepreneurial spirit being encouraged “can only flourish in an atmosphere of freedom and independence. And it’s true that until you create that atmosphere, your economy will continue to stagnate, won’t it?” 

Goh disagreed: “I think Singaporeans are entrepreneurial. You see, they can be very free in their economic activities and many are not really interested in the so-called human rights or free speech. But you’ve got to allow people to be creative, to think, otherwise how can they be entrepreneurial? So I accept that freedom and creativity and entrepreneurship go together.” 

And taking Sebastian’s point that Singaporeans did not think much about rights because of the high standard of living they enjoyed, Goh asked: “How did the standard of living come about? It’s through our method of governing Singapore.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network 

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