SINGAPORE – Singapore leaders are doing everything in their power to ensure that the continued leadership transition is as smooth and secure as previous guard changes, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He said on Thursday (November 8th) that the country must consolidate the culture of self-renewal and cohesive teamwork in its political standards.
"It's not just about finding the right successor: We have to build the right team to lead Singapore," he added.
PM Lee spoke of restoring a leading position in the opening of the approved biometric profession of the top emissary member of Goh Chok Tong, detailing the transfer of power from the first generation of Singapore leaders to the other, as the founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew handed over to Mr. Goh in 1990.
The book, "The Goh Chok Tong Story," is particularly timely, as the main topic in it is the restoration of leadership, PM Lee said, although current 4G leaders are preparing to take care of themselves in a few years.
Its launch takes three days before the ruling Party of People's Action organizes its conference on a two-year party, where members of the cadre will select another Central Executive Committee (CEC), which is the party's decision-making body.
PM Lee noted that it was not easy for the 2G leader to fill the shoes of the founding fathers in Singapore, "who have gotten more than life in the hearts and minds of the singaporeans."
Many, including some of the members of the Old Guard, doubted whether they had "a stomach fire" and political charisma to mobilize the nation, he added.
But Mr. Goh, now 77, wisely decided to be alone, PM Lee said, and did not try to be a copy of Lee Kuan Yew.
"Quiet but confident, he set up his own leadership style that resonated with the new generation of singapore," PM Lee said.
"Over time, Chok Tong has shown that he has the ability and political passion to make difficult decisions and bring land." The doubts soon disappeared, and Singapore continued the new era.
Singapore has made a similarly unconventional transition when Mr Goh decided to leave as Prime Minister in 2004, PM Lee said.
"There has been a change again, but there has been continuity, something that is rarely happening elsewhere, and we should not believe it will always be in Singapore," he added.
He noted that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew had to retire many comrades when he brought Mr. Goha and the second leader of the second generation.
It was a difficult and painful task.
"Some of the police felt they still had a lot of posts, and they would have to continue their harness for a while," PM Lee said. "But eventually they agreed to leave aside, adopting a broader goal of bringing fresh blood early and understanding that there is a need for training and testing the next generation."
Leaders of the 2G were then assigned to key ministerial positions, said to learn to cooperate, develop their own leadership styles, and gain the trust and confidence of Singapore.
Mr Goh was looking for young leaders long before he took over and the prime minister continued to bring new people, PM Lee said.
In addition to Prime Minister PM Lee Gheh, former Secretary of State George Yeo, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and retired ministers Lim Hng Kiang, Jaacob Ibrahim and Lim Swee say.
PM Lee said that over the years he also introduced many younger ministers and tested them in different portfolios.
"Another team is forming," he said. "They deal with sensitive issues and hard talks with the Singaporeans, they make themselves and their convictions to people, develop relations with voters and gain their trust."
PM Lee has also shared anecdotes about his interactions with Mr. Goah, whom he has known for over 40 years.
He explained how Mr. Goh had sent the kite-flying contests at Marine Parade to a presentation he had to do in Singapore during his college at Fort Leavenworth in the United States. PM Lee then wrote to Mr. Gohu to thank him.
"I'm not sure Chok Tong recalls these short interactions," he said. "But even if he did, I'm sure none of us expected to have such a long commitment that would overcome more than half of our lives."
PM Lee said he worked closely with Mr. Ghem when he was sent to the General Staff of the Ministry of Defense (Mindef).
As Minister of Defense, Mr. Goh chairs the headquarters meetings that take place every Monday morning to discuss many issues related to the operation and cultivation of the Singaporean armed forces.
SAF has made considerable progress in years when Mr Goh was the Minister of Defense, PM Lee said.
"While working with Chok Tonge at Mindef, he asked me if I would join politics." I agreed with a different direction and a long partnership, "he added.
PM Lee has been MEP Goth 14 years since 1990 before becoming Prime Minister in 2004. Mr. Goh remained in the Cabinet as Minister of Seniors before he retired in 2011.
"It was a long, productive and harmonious relationship." Chok Tong started as my teacher, we became comrades, we remain friends all the time, "said PM Lee.
"We have rather different temperaments and instincts but we complement each other. We have developed a strong partnership not only between us but also in the team."
He said that as a leader, Goh does not recommend hurrying, but he is firm and stable when decided.
Another of Mr Goh's strengths is the ability to get capable people to join the team and work for him, PM Lee said.
"As Prime Minister, he gathered some of the most powerful cabinets that Singapore had," PM Lee said to Mr. Goh.
"Mr. Lee Kuan Yew had several outstanding lieutenants who played more roles in their booths, such as doctors Goh Keng Swee and Lim Kim San."
"But the Chok Tongs had heavy weight in many ministries, and the role of the ruling Singapore has become more complex, and it has not been possible to rule the entire government by relying only on a few key ministers."
"We often had different opinions, but there were no factions in the cabinet, all of whom were considered part of a team and were trying to achieve the best for Singapore."
More than 100 people, including current and former cabinet members, took part in the launch of the Bukit Timah Campus at the National University of Singapore.
Biography written by former news editor Strait Times Peh Shing Huei and published by World Scientific is the first of two volumes.
PM Lee said that thanks to this first volume, readers will discover the human being as Mr. Ghao's public figure and understand how the personal losses he experienced have been shaping his worldview and fulfilling him with a strong sense of duty.
"I'm sure Singaporeans will enjoy the book just like me, it has many stunning stories, many lessons to teach, and many insights into the different aspects of our nation-building."