Lee Hsien Loong’s most memorable quotes 


Mr Lee Hsien Loong was Singapore’s third Prime Minister for 20 years. During that time, he had given innumerable speeches, interviews and statements, giving us insights on a variety of subjects. Here are some of his most memorable quotes from his legendary political career.  

On building diversity  

“Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas, or simply be different. We should recognise many paths of success, and many ways to be Singaporean. We must give people a second chance, for those who have tasted failure may be the wiser and stronger ones among us. Ours must be an open and inclusive Singapore.” – 2004, Inauguration speech 

On integrity in politics  

“Good politics is first and foremost about integrity. Singapore has succeeded because we have honest, upright people in politics: people who can be trusted to uphold the public interest, to speak the truth even when it is inconvenient, and to admit mistakes when things go wrong. This is how we have built trust between Singaporeans and their leaders, worked together to build the nation and improved everyone’s lives.” – Statement on the AHTC Hawker Centre Cleaning Incident 

“We have to call a spade a spade. If you have changed the position and your previous position was wrong, say so…If you hold by your position, have the guts to reaffirm it and take the consequences. But to weasel away, play with words, avoid the issue and then claim to be responsible, that is what we fear can drive Singapore’s politics into the same place where many other countries have gone.” – Response to the WP during the debate of the President’s address in Parliament  

On the inner conflict of voters 

“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.” – Interview with the Financial Times 

On divergent views  

“I try not to surround myself with “yes, sir” men. That is important because if all you have are people who say, “three bags full sir”, then soon you start to believe them and that is disastrous. You need people who have their own views, whose views you respect, whom you can have a productive disagreement with, and work out ideas which you might not have come up with, or who improve on ideas you had.” – Response at Camp Sequoia Dialogue  

On service in Singapore  

“If you ask any tourist, or even a Singaporean, which country has good service, I do not think Singapore comes immediately to mind.” – Speaking at the Singapore Service Excellence Medallion 

On nation building 

“Singapore is a nation by design. Nothing we have today is natural or happened by itself. Not our economic growth, not our international standing, not our multiracial harmony, not even our nationhood. Nothing was by chance.” –  Speaking at the SUTD Ministerial Forum 

On Singapore exceptionalism   

“If … like any other country, where the politics of division takes hold and policies oscillate from one end to the other with the political winds, we will have lost a precious competitive advantage. And it will be very difficult for us to ever become special again.” – Speaking at the Administrative Service Dinner & Promotion Ceremony 

On equal opportunity 

“Every Singaporean will have equal opportunities. Whatever your starting point in life, you will have access to good education, healthcare, and housing. If you fall down, we will help you to get up, stronger. You can be sure you will be taken care of. In Singapore, no one will be left to walk his journey alone.” – Address to Singapore during the COVID-19 crisis. 

On achieving unity in diversity 

“In Singapore, when faced with a divisive issue, our approach has always been to find a middle way, bridge the differences, strike compromises and heal divisions…Not grand posturing; not playing cultural or identity politics; not dividing and polarising people. Our instinct always is to keep Singaporeans together.” – Speaking at the Debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President 

Photo Source: PMO/ The Strait Stimes© Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.