By Augustine Low
As Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong has been competent and committed. He has done well for Singapore. On the international stage, he has not once let Singapore down.
Yet I have misgivings.
Of his leadership style, I am unsure and unclear, even after nine years as PM.
At times, there’s a hint of authority, without icy dispatch. At other times, a modicum of grace, without the charm offensive.
There is no style to call his own.
Could it be that he came in as his father’s son? His role model was so impeccable, it could have taken him a long time to hone his own instincts and persona.
Then there is the manner in which he was catapulted into office. Just when I was beginning to really like Mr Goh Chok Tong as PM, he had to go in the name of succession planning. I’ve wondered what might have been, he was doing a heroic job.
And on heroics, who among us has a hero who is flawless? Mr Lee came in with nary a blemish. I’ve never had to root for him.
As his father’s son, he was never the underdog. You feel that somehow he would be all right.
Of Mr Goh, I at least had to root for sometimes. Not least when Mr Lee Kuan Yew called him “wooden”. As a young man, I wrote in to The Straits Times forum page in defence of Mr Goh (the letter was published). When Mr responded to the taunt with aplomb, I cheered.
As a Singaporean, I am always grateful for Mr Lee’s service to nation beyond the call of duty.
It’s just that in nation building, in agony and in victory, I would like to walk with my leader.
I want to embrace the heroism, the triumphant spirit, the grace under pressure.
With Mr Lee, I cannot celebrate nor commiserate. There is a distance and a detachment.
I cannot walk with him.
Augustine Low is a communications strategist. His heroes are Muhammad Ali, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pope John Paul II.
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