Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 04/12/2014 12:46 | By Channel NewsAsia

PM Lee discusses S'pore politics, nanny state label in FT interview

PM Lee discusses S'pore politics, nanny state label in FT interview

PM Lee discusses S'pore politics, nanny state label in FT interview

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singaporeans generally feel more secure these days, but one of the government's tasks is to remind them that this is a result of a continuing act of will, and an appropriate sense of insecurity is very helpful.

In an interview with The Financial Times, Mr Lee was asked by the publication's chief foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman, if Singaporeans still need to feel insecure, after having come a long way since its independence in 1965.

"You don't have to be paranoid but you do have to take risks very seriously," said Mr Lee.

Mr Lee added that taking the long view should remind Singaporeans to stay on guard, and that not very many small states have great longevity, "other than Venice, which lasted 900 years in one form or another".

The interview, which was published on Friday, touched on a range of issues, from Japan's growing nationalism, the Ukraine crisis, as well as Singapore politics.

The interview was conducted during Mr Lee's trip to London last month.

Mr Lee was asked if he envisaged a day when the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is not running Singapore.

He said it could well happen, but he doesn't know how it will work.

The Financial Times report then goes on to suggest that Mr Lee "hints that the PAP is beginning to consider the possibility of one day forming a coalition government".

The British newspaper quotes Mr Lee saying: "It may not be one team in, one team out, it may be more complicated - you're getting used to more complicated than that in Britain now."

Based on this portion of the FT report, an earlier version of the Channel NewsAsia report was headlined "PAP considering possibility of forming coalition government one day: PM Lee."

It has been pointed out that this is inaccurate.

Channel NewsAsia has since been given the full transcript and context to this remark.

According to the full transcript, Mr Lee did not say that a coalition government is being considered.

What he actually said was: "One can hardly refuse help in politics. But they (the opposition) know and we know that if you want to form a government, the kind of government which Singaporeans have come to expect, the requirements are very exacting.

"Even to form one team is a big challenge for us in the PAP, with all our advantages of incumbency. To imagine that you have another team, (a) shadow cabinet in the wings, ready to take over, equally able and possibly better? Nobody believes that.

"And so you could end up in a situation where you have contestation. It may not be one team in, one team out. It could be more complicated than that. You are getting used to more complicated than that in Britain now."

On the situation in Ukraine, Mr Lee said while Singaporeans are not preoccupied by the unfolding events, the crisis is relevant to Singapore.

He said he made a Facebook post on that and to his surprise, it received a lot of eyeballs.

"Because we are a small country, we depend on international law, treaties and agreements and the sanctity of these things, and, if they can just be overridden or ignored, well, then we are in serious trouble," said Mr Lee.

Mr Lee also spoke about Singapore's nanny state label.

Asked if Singapore is "lightening up a bit", he said there is now more free play, although it doesn't mean that there are no limits.

Mr Lee also doesn't think that the phrase "nanny state" is an insult.

"When people say they don't want a nanny state they are, in fact, in a conflicted state of mind. On the one hand, they want to do whatever they want and not be stopped. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, they want to be rescued," said Mr Lee.  - CNA/nd/de

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