Lee Kuan Yew defends PAP’s political dominance

16 Sep 06

“Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it,” Lee said.

Singapore’s former leader Lee Kuan Yew defended his party’s political dominance, saying it was vital for the predominantly ethnic Chinese state to stand up to its bigger, majority-Muslim neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Lee, a founder of the People’s Action Party (PAP) that has ruled Singapore uninterrupted since independence in 1965, also criticised Singapore’s tiny opposition parties on Friday, saying the city-state would eventually collapse if they were elected.

“We need a government that will have the gumption and skill to say ‘no’ to our neighbours in a very quiet and polite way that doesn’t provoke them into doing something silly,” said Lee at a forum on the sidelines of the World Bank-International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings in the island republic.

“My main critics want me to be as liberal, open and contentious and adversarial with the opposition as the West,” said Lee, who was independent Singapore’s prime minister from 1965 to 1990.

Lee and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers were the key speakers at the forum.

Those who wanted Singapore to embrace a more liberal style of democracy failed to see the limits of its geography, said Lee, whose son, Lee Hsien Loong, is Singapore’s prime minister.

Lee Kuan Yew, who turns 83 on Saturday, holds the title of Minister Mentor in his son’s cabinet.

Lee said the attitude of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia towards Singapore was shaped by the way they treat their own ethnic Chinese minorities.

“Our neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful. They are hardworking and therefore they are systemically marginalised,” he said.

Indonesia and Malaysia “want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese — compliant”, Lee said.

Although Singapore and Malaysia have deep economic ties, relations between the two countries which separated in 1965 after a brief union, have often been prickly.

Relations between Singapore and Indonesia hit a low in 1998 when then-President B.J. Habibie referred to Singapore as a little red dot in a sea of green — a reference to the fact the city-state of 4.4. million people is surrounded by two large, predominantly Muslim countries.

Lee acknowledged that there was growing support for opposition parties among Singapore’s voters, but said the office of the elected presidency had been put in place to prevent a profligate opposition government from touching the island’s vast monetary reserves.

“Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it,” Lee said.

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