4G leaders need support from every Singaporean in increasingly troubled world: PM Lee
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told parliament that Singapore got through repeated challenges over the last six decades “because we worked together, took adversity in our stride and kept faith with one another”.
SINGAPORE: The fourth generation, or 4G, of Singapore’s political leadership needs the support of all Singaporeans to fulfil a “strong agenda” domestically and abroad in an increasingly troubled world, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told parliament on Wednesday (Apr 19).
“To ensure good leadership for the long term is an unending and demanding challenge for successive generations.
“But what I and my older colleagues can do, and will make sure of, is to prepare a strong and capable next team to take over from us … This, we have done,” added Mr Lee.
He was speaking at a parliamentary debate on President Halimah Yacob’s address at the opening of the second session of parliament last week.
In his speech, Mr Lee touched on topics like the 4G team, Singapore’s bilateral relations with Malaysia and Indonesia, three big “storms” that Singapore faces on the international front and how Singaporeans need to stay united.
In a speech lasting almost an hour, Mr Lee told the House that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Singaporeans “experienced first-hand the importance of strong political leadership”.
“Our population rose to the occasion. The public service performed magnificently," he added.
"But our response, and the results, would have been very different without political leaders who could set the direction, make the tough calls, and rally the people together."
He noted that even though ministers in the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force had been “in the hot seat”, the whole 4G team played a key role in managing the pandemic, which proved to be a “formative experience”.
“The 4G ministers are increasingly responsible for the safety and well-being of the country. They have a strong agenda to fulfil, domestically and internationally, but they cannot do it on their own,” Mr Lee cautioned.
“They need the support of every Singaporean, including members of this House, to see it through.”
The Prime Minister asked everyone to give their fullest support to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who was endorsed as the leader of the 4G team last year.
“Help me make this leadership renewal a success for Singapore, for you,” Mr Lee added.
"Show your support for a government that works hard and works well for you; elect leaders whom you can trust to take us forward; give yourselves the best chance to keep our system working well for Singaporeans for many years to come."
THREE BIG "STORMS"
Mr Lee also spoke about three big “storms” Singapore faces: The Ukraine war, tensions between China and the US, as well as potential flashpoints like Taiwan, and the global trading system being under siege.
He noted that the war between Ukraine and Russia has continued to disrupt global energy, food and fertiliser supplies, while bad relations between the US and China will “mean big trouble for the rest of the world”.
In terms of global trade, Mr Lee said that the world is again moving towards protectionism – government policies that restrict international trade to help domestic industries – being the default. This will spell high economic costs for everyone, he added.
Nevertheless, Mr Lee said that Singapore has got through repeated challenges over the last six decades “because we worked together, took adversity in our stride and kept faith with one another”.
While the troubled external environment will result in new stresses and strains in Singapore’s society, Mr Lee said Singaporeans must stand united in the face of fault lines.
"Divided, we stand no chance," he added.
He pointed to how the nation has “avoided the schisms and factions that have troubled other societies”, tackling sensitive issues in recent years like the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalised consensual sex between men.
Singapore must continue to find a middle way and bridge differences when faced with divisive issues and not engage in "grand-posturing", or divide and polarise people, Mr Lee said.
Furthermore, it remains equally important to have “the go-getting spirit of self-reliance and enterprise, to create prosperity for our nation and achieve the best we can in a very troubled world”, he added.
RELATIONS WITH CLOSEST NEIGHBOURS ARE STABLE, POSITIVE
Despite all this, Mr Lee expressed his gratitude that Singapore’s relations with its closest neighbours are stable and positive, though there are still some issues to resolve.
He noted that Singapore has made “major progress” with Indonesia, after signing three bilateral agreements last year comprising the Flight Information Region Agreement, Defence Cooperation Agreement and extradition treaty.
“If we had left these issues unresolved, they would have festered, and quite likely one day turned rancorous … We are working on promising new areas like the digital economy, sustainability and renewable energy,” Mr Lee said.
As for Malaysia, Mr Lee pointed out that Singapore has a broad cooperation agenda with it spanning areas like trade and investment.
But “some significant bilateral issues” remain, including Singapore’s development works on Pedra Branca, which have been temporarily suspended for almost a year to facilitate discussions on Malaysia’s concerns.
“I hope to make progress on them with (Malaysian Prime Minister) Anwar Ibrahim. It is important that both sides manage these issues well and not allow any single issue to dominate and disrupt our overall bilateral relationship,” Mr Lee said.
Wrapping up his speech, he told parliament that Singapore might be a small island state but that Singaporeans “are not a small people”.
He urged Singaporeans to "embrace their can-do spirit and outsized ambition to be an extraordinary country, an exceptional place in this world".
“Let us think boldly, aim high, and seek far. Let us work together, government and people, to build a Singapore that we and our children will all be proud of,” he added.