29 June 2008

Opposition would ruin Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew

SINGAPORE - The Singapore opposition would ruin the wealthy city-state's achievements in five years if they ever gained power, the country's founding father Lee Kuan Yew said.

Lee, 84, warned Singapore voters against putting the opposition at the helm of government "in a moment of fickleness or just sheer madness" when they get "bored" at some point in the future.

Should this happen, "I think all bets are off because in five years they (opposition) can ruin this place," he told delegates at an international forum late Wednesday.

He stressed that, unlike many other countries, Singapore did not have natural resources such as oil, gas, forests, timber and aluminium.

"When you are Singapore and your existence depends on performance -- extraordinary performance, better than your competitors -- but that performance disappears because the system on which it is based is eroded, then you've lost everything."

Lee, widely credited for shepherding the underdeveloped port into one of Asia's wealthiest nations in one generation, said younger Singaporeans often tell him he is "playing the same old record" when he delivers his message.

Singapore's small opposition has only two seats in a parliament dominated by the People's Action Party which has been elected since 1959.

Despite its economic success, local and international civil rights groups have criticised the government for cracking down hard on dissenters and political activists.

Street protests are rare and public gatherings of five people or more are banned without a police permit.

Lee has maintained that Western-style liberal democracy is not the right model for Singapore.

He said one ingredient for a country's success is putting able leaders in government. This could be difficult under a more freewheeling US-style democracy in which "you are judged in accordance with your persuasive powers," he said.

Lee holds the cabinet rank of Minister Mentor in the government of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

(News from CNN and Yahoo)

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