Interview with Wall Street Journal

When PM Lee Hsien Loong was in the US, he made time amidst his busy schedule to attend an interview with Wall Street Journal on 29 Mar.

During the lengthy interview, PM Lee spoke about terrorism in our neighbouring countries and the politics of other countries like China, US and Malaysia.

Here are 7 things you need to know about PM Lee’s interview with Wall Street Journal!

1. PM Lee refused to have any further negotiation on the TPP


The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) involves 12 countries including Singapore and the US. The purpose of the TPP is to strengthen economic ties between these nations, remove tariffs and foster trade to boost growth.

PM Lee said,

Obama has made a major thrust of his Asia policy and the rebalancing towards Asia. He personally has put in a lot of commitment into it – personal diplomacy, attending ASEAN meetings, engaging through APEC and particularly pushing the TPP through.

PM Lee added that even though the leading presidential candidates Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump want to further negotiate, it is not possible because decisions has been made and negotiations has been ongoing since 2010.

Further, the Japanese are also having elections — not just the US.

2. How Singapore is affected by the global economy

The global economy has slowed down and some even alluded to China’s sluggish economy. PM Lee said that as a result, Singapore’s trade with China slowed down too.

Singapore has to get used to this economic slowdown as well but PM Lee said that Singapore will be focusing on other factors like transformation and increase productivity.

PM Lee added, “We do not have farmers to convert them to factory workers.”.

3. Prevalent ISIS threat faced in Southeast Asia


When asked about the ISIS threat in Southeast Asia, PM Lee said that over 100 Malaysians went to the Middle East and some even became suicide bombers.

Meanwhile, over 500 Indonesians go on ‘hijrah’, meaning they migrate to the Middle East with their women and children.

4. How Singapore is defending herself from terrorist threats


PM Lee brought up the time where a self-radicalised group of 27 Bangladeshi workers were arrested in Singapore for involving themselves in terrorist-related activities linking to Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

For those supportive of these terrorist groups but are not severely radicalised, they are usually let off with a restraining order.

However, for those who are threatening, they will be detained without trial. In the process, religious scholars, well-respected ulamas and religious rehabilitation groups will gradually turn them around and teach them the right interpretation of Islam.

 5. PM Lee on Malaysia’s PM Najib

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When asked about Malaysia’s interesting political experiences, PM Lee said that there are investigations about Najib going on, including in Singapore and accounts have been frozen.

Despite all these, PM Lee says that his relationship with Najib and the Malaysian government has been a constructive one.

PM Lee also said that the politics of governing Malaysia is race and religion which is Islam. The basis of governing Malaysia is also very important as their uncertainty will also affect Singapore.

6. PM Lee made references to Donald Trump


With all the dramatic presidential elections going on in the US, PM Lee said:

We have a stake, but we have no say. We have to live with the outcome.  We see what is happening, it is quite a departure from the way politics has traditionally been conducted even in America…

PM Lee did not name any names but he did make reference to one of the US presidential candidates, who happens to sound a lot like Trumpster.

I see some difference and we have to live with the outcome, whoever it is. But it is not just the person because he represents presumably angst and disquiet on the ground, which is projected onto him and, well, they hope that he will fight for them.

7. PM Lee brought up Singapore’s politics


PM Lee brought up an interesting point during the Singapore elections:

I have no doubt that founding PM Lee Kuan Yew’s passing earlier that year had an impact on voters as well.

Lee Kuan Yew’s many followers have translated their support into votes for the PAP which made PAP once again our ruling party.

PM Lee is also thankful that the people trust him enough to vote for him again despite the opposition’s message: ‘Vote for us, the PAP will work harder’.


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Featured image via Bloomberg/ mf architecture
With reference to the Prime Minister’s Office