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Lee Kuan Yew: Second Generation will Not Quiver and Run Away  
Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.
Tuesday, 24 March, 2015 | 09:30 WIB
Lee Kuan Yew: Second Generation will Not Quiver and Run Away  

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - To recall the memory of Lee Kuan Yew, who died early on Monday, March 23, 2015, Tempo publishes the interview with Lee Kuan Yew on August 5, 1980. Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore's first prime minister. He was also remembered as the founding father of Singapore, as well as the architect of the country's economy:

"It has been quite a while for the Prime Minister to give a special interview," said one of his adjutant. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has always been a busy man, always working at the State Palace, without referring to office hours, leading the government of Singapore with confidence.

Last week, PM Lee decided to spare of his precious time to greet two reporters from TEMPO, Amir Daud and Zulkifly Lubis. The interview was held during his visit to Indonesia to negotiate with President Soeharto in Yogyakarta this weekend.

His office room at the palace looked spacious and modest. There were a few paintings on the wall. There was also an orchid flower on top of a table. There was no display cabinet. And, of course, there was no ashtray either. When PM Lee arrived, he welcomed us to sit and answered TEMPO's questions.

 

We are interested in your idea to prepare a second generation of leadership. To what extent is that important to Singapore? What are the problems you managed to see to achieve smooth transition in leadership?

Newly independent countries have no traditions and they have little precedent to help them in transferring power to the new government. If the current government of Singapore do not deal with this problem, the continuity of it may be erratic.

In the history of Singapore, the communists were the dominant opposition force, and they were fierce and cruel. The youth would gladly hand out political matter to the old guards who struggled to fought against the communists and succeeded. My problem is to convince the youth that if the they are not willing to sacrifice their pleasures and personal freedom for their successful career in business and professions, the future of Singapore will be threatened and their quiet lives will be disrupted.

 

You just mentioned the struggle of the Old Guards. The young generation do not experience all of that. Do you expect a different kind of leadership later on?

They will have a different kind of leadership not just because they do not experience the great struggle against the communists, but also because our people are now more educated and their problems would also be different. The main problem thirty years ago: National unity, being independent from Britain, free from colonial exploitation, chances for the people to earn education and jobs. Those things are all in the past. We are independent now. The young generation will have chances for education. People will get jobs. The current problems is how to increase the quality of education and how to increase the people's working skill.

Different style of leadership is because they have different personalities, with different experience, who faces different generations as well. When we first attended rally, 25 years ago, most of them will came bare feet, wearing shorts and underwears. Nowadays, only a handful of people will go. They prefer to watch it though the television. This is a new generation for Singaporeans, which are now more homogeneous, after going thorugh equal education, with higher aspiration in life. There is a bigger solidarity and national unity because the people realized that their government would not let differences of race, religion, language, and culture to break them apart, every person had reached his or her benefit in the struggle towards a better life.

 

Will you expect the future generation to be as dynamic and agile as of now?

They have the skill, they have the motivation, they understand the reality of politics and economy, they have responsibility. The only thing we have not know about is how will they handle deep crisis. We will know for sure if they have ever face one.

 

Before they are being tested, we will never find out.

Frow what I see, I am sure that they will not quiver and easily just run away.

 

There are some concerns that young Singaporeans do not like political matters, and that there will be difficulties in preparing them to hold political leadership. How will you handle it?

As time goes by, there will be new problems and interests emerging. An open discussion about this was held so that the people will be more politically aware. The youth will be aware of literacy. They will read weekly foreign and Singapore newspapers. The changes in the situation of economy, politics, and world safety are getting faster. Singapore and ASEAN will be influenced by the changes. The main problem is to how to get the right man to serve and face the leadership challenge.

 

PAP (People's Action Party) is building cadres. What are the difficulties they face?

First, most of the skilled people we want to get is now living peaceful lives. Second, the sense of responsibilty of our new cadres have not been tested out yet like we did when facing the communists. To stand and fight the communists needs bravery and faith. We do not own this kind of 'automatic selector'. Again, we will know for sure in time if we ever face a deep crisis.

 

(*)

 



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