The possibility of Lee Kuan Yew’s second son becoming President of Singapore is game-changingly exciting and will be seen as one of the checks and balances that many Singaporeans think will steer the country to a better and more dynamic future. Bloomberg News on March 3 reported Lee Hsien Yang as saying he would consider contesting the upcoming presidential election, which is expected to be called by September 2023.
“There is a view that depending on who they float, if I were to run they would be in serious trouble and could lose,” Lee said. “A lot of people have come to me. They really want me to run. It’s something I would consider.”
I agree that many people would want him to run.
Up to now, no one elsewhere knows who any of the Singapore presidents was or is. That has not been helped by the fact that our 4G political leaders themselves have been largely cookie-cutter. Lee Hsien Yang will carry a certain presence and charisma as a son of Singapore’s founding father but by circumstances is now a fierce critic of his older brother which extends beyond just the dispute over 38 Oxley Road. He and his younger sister, Lee Wei Ling, wrote: “We have seen a completely different face to our brother Hsien Loong, one that deeply troubles us. Since the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, on 23 March 2015, we have felt threatened by Hsien Loong’s misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government to drive his personal agenda. We are concerned that the system has few checks and balances to prevent the abuse of government. We feel big brother omnipresent.”
In 2020, Hsien Yang took to the heartlands in support of ex-PAP veteran Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s Progress Singapore Party, in the constituencies being contested by the PSP. I believe he made a big difference. Overall, the PSP fared well, losing by respectable margins which were unusual for a brand-new party. For example, newcomer Kumaran Pillai had 37.08 per cent in a PAP stronghold nurtured for years by former NTUC Secretary-General Lim Boon Heng who later became Temasek Holdings Chairman. Kumaran lost to the PAP’s Kwek Hian Chuan. And bear in mind this constituency was just next to yet another PAP stronghold – Ang Mo Kio GRC headed by Lee Hsien Loong.
Hsien Yang made a difference as he walked the ground with Kumaran. He knew how to campaign which was not surprising given that he is Lee Kuan Yew’s son.
If what Hsien Yang said was true about senior PAP figures urging him to stand for the Presidency, he would be doing it in clear response to PAP nationalists worried about the decline of the nation. An overreaching Lee Hsien Loong is inflicting damage on party and national credibility. Since there are no senior Lee family members who have succeeded in keeping the dispute under control, the party elders might be stepping in to do what’s best for the country.
The PE2023 battle may now be one-sided, should Lee Hsien Yang enter the race.
Public opinion is on the side of him and his family in his quarrel with his elder brother. It would be a tragedy if he is prevented from taking part in PE2023.
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.SG, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.
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