Singapore is lucky to have a prime minister like Lee Hsien Loong. He is his best endorsement. He could win more support by appearing regularly on TV and interacting with people on the internet than the mainstream media could give him with their pro-government reports and commentary. For the newspapers can't show him the way he gave his National Day Rally speech. He was relaxed, amusing, even hip, taking a short video of the audience with his Nokia phone at one point and showing it immediately on the big screen. I haven't heard even Barack Obama do that!
And he spoke so well. Granted he was speaking to an admiring audience with no interruptions, no hecklers, no pointed questions. But he was clearly well briefed, knowledgeable and comfortable on the issues he was addressing. Maybe he should address the nation on television every three months, say immediately after the government issues its quarterly economic reports about whether growth had gone up or down and why. And he is clearly comfortable with the new media. So how about a regular webchat?
Of course, everyone has their comfort zone and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong like his father, Singapore's first prime minister and now Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, isn't about to transform Singapore into a social welfare state and a liberal democracy on the Western model.
Still, he cares for the people, is concerned about Singapore's future and is open to new ideas.
I couldn't watch the full speech. I had to speak to my wife in Calcutta (Kolkata) first on the phone and then chat with her online. But I will save the full transcript of the speech and read it and watch the repeat telecast later. Here are bits and pieces reported by the mainstream media. Political rules to be relaxed. $700 million new deal. Let kids learn at their own pace. I used to change nappies: PM. PM's dating tips. More renting HDB flats. Car owners not worse off.
PM Lee is a scholar, with a first class in maths from Cambridge. One suspects he will do even better if he allows critics to speak up and engages in debates with others. For he is well briefed and comfortable with details. Singapore's current economic problems may be just the kind of challenge he needs. For even the slide presentations he gave during his speech showed his taste for zeroing in on problems and figuring out solutions. I know I sound like a rabid fan. But this is Singapore! Only so much criticism allowed and no more! But frankly people like PM Lee are smart enough to deal with critics, a little debate may be just the kind of challenge they need.
Sorry, Singapore's Channel NewsAsia on this page has links to different parts of the speech with accompanying videos showing the prime minister speaking. Here is the clip where he speaks about easing rules on political activities and takes a video of the audience with his Nokia phone.