Mr Lee Kuan Yew did not stick to the ministerial forum theme ‘The Way Forward’, but made it up with his personal touch and humour nonetheless, students said on Monday.
The forum, organized by the NTU Students’ Union on Sept 5, was received with enthusiasm with all some 1,800 tickets snapped up within 24 hours. During the dialogue, students were given a rare opportunity to ask the former Prime Minister about Singapore’s future.
But irrelevant questions could be a reason why the former Prime Minister did not stick to the theme, said communication studies student Kristle Yeow.
“I felt the questions asked today were not thought provoking,” the second-year student said. “The theme was ‘The Way Forward’ and the questions didn’t really fit into the theme.”
Questions dealing with the September 11 terrorist attacks and Singapore’s colonial history were posed to Mr Lee in the dialogue, pushing the discussion into Singapore’s past instead of its uncertain future.
In a surprise move, organisers had removed the opening speech, giving students an unprecedented 45-minute QnA session with Mr Lee.
But this has disappointed third-year student electronic and electrical engineering (EEE) student Daniel Low. “The session should be more towards what Mr Lee wanted to tell us,” said Low.
“We don’t have quality control in selecting the questions,” he added. “The 45 minutes were not fully utilised.”
Not all is lost, however. Alvin Ang, a fourth-year EEE student, found the dialogue engaging and was surprised by Mr Lee’s sense of humour.
When Mr Lee advised PhD student Joan Sim, 27, not to ‘waste time’ in starting a family as it is more important and satisfying than her doctorate, the audience burst into laughter.
“I didn’t expect that out of him,” Ang said.
The calm manner with which Mr Lee answered the questions impressed Daniel Lee, a first-year Art, Design and Media (ADM) student.
“He is just the composed person you expect, and not one who rushes into decisions,” he said.
But first-year accountancy student Kumari Sonam feels that beneath the composed exterior, age is catching up with Mr Lee, who is fast approaching his 88th birthday.
“He didn’t look as vibrant as in other forums,” she said. “It’s surprising to see him so fragile.”
Additional reporting by Janie Chee