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Launch of Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to keep Singapore going

Singapore, 13 January, 2011 – SINGAPORE PRESS HOLDINGS is pleased to announce the coming launch of a new book by its fully-owned book publisher Straits Times Press.

Titled “Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to keep Singapore going”, the book is based on 16 interviews with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew over 10 months. In these interviews, MM Lee engaged with Straits Times journalists on a range of issues, from the future of Singapore’s political system, relations with neighbouring countries, immigration, the rise of China and India, to climate change. He also spoke at length about his family, children and grandchildren.

Straits Times Editor Han Fook Kwang, who led the project, said: “This is an important book because it's the first time MM's views are being subjected to such extensive questioning and scrutiny in 32 hours of interviews with seven journalists from The Straits Times. He gave us unprecedented access and time because he wanted to reach out especially to younger Singaporeans who may be unconvinced whether his views are still relevant in this day and age.”

The project began in August 2008. Reporters Rachel Lin and Robin Chan from The Straits Times did considerable preliminary research, poring over Mr Lee’s past writings, and books and articles on and about Mr Lee and his thinking. Mr Han, together with Deputy Editor Zuraidah Ibrahim, who coordinated the work of the writing team, worked with Deputy Review Editor Chua Mui Hoong, Deputy Political Editor Lydia Lim and Sunday Times Editor Ignatius Low, to distill Mr Lee’s diverse ideas and thinking into key themes. They then brainstormed the issues that needed to be raised and refined their questions for Mr Lee. The team also organised focus group discussions with young Singaporeans and academics, to find out what questions they would like posed to Mr Lee.

Said Ms Zuraidah: “The book looks at issues that have emerged as hot-button topics in recent years, such as foreign talent, inclusive growth, rising religiosity, and climate change. To get a feel of the issues that preoccupy Singaporeans, the team spoke to more than 200 people, including many from the younger generation. From there, we came up with a strong mix of questions, reflective of the dilemmas our society finds itself confronting.”

The interviews began in December 2008 and continued into October 2009. They were all conducted at the Istana, beginning in the late afternoon and lasting for over two hours. The SPH team took another nine months to write and edit the chapters.

The result is a book that offers readers a first-hand glimpse into the thinking and views of Mr Lee. Each of the book’s 11 chapters start off with an introductory segment that puts an issue in context, and then goes into a Q&A format. This format allows readers to follow the cut and thrust of the conversations with Mr Lee.

The book comes with an exclusive DVD of video footage culled from the interviews. Explaining the team's decision to include the DVD, Straits Times Press Executive Director Shirley Hew said: “Seeing and hearing the cut and thrust of the conversations at the Istana with MM in the DVD is definitely a plus for the whole book package.

“Every pregnant pause from MM, interspersed with every incisive question from our writers, truly makes the whole read much more rewarding. The book and DVD set also makes for a wonderful gift and keepsake on the history and the making of Singapore."

The title of the book Hard Truths to keep Singapore going is a reference to Mr Lee’s remark, repeated several times in the interviews, that there are hard truths or facts about Singapore that cannot be changed, and that make it critical for Singapore to have a stable society and strong, effective government.

Former United States President Bill Clinton said of the book: “In this engaging series of new interviews, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew candidly imparts his wisdom, as well as his fears, as he contemplates Singapore’s role in a rapidly changing, and profoundly challenging, global society. An important addition to Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to keep Singapore going illuminates his conviction that a prosperous, sustainable future must be built upon the lessons of the past.”

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, an old friend of Mr Lee, added: “The 32 hours of interviews that Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew gave are unprecedented in their candour and in the variety of issues discussed.”

President of the Republic of Korea Lee Myung-bak said of Mr Lee: “Lee speaks out his mind with clear, candid and forceful words that will surely have strong and lasting impact on the readers.”

Former Malaysian Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin said: “Lee Kuan Yew remains, as always, passionate about Singapore, its citizens, its future and its relationship with its neighbours. That passion has driven him to make Singapore vibrant and relevant, and towards this he is committed to shaping the minds of young Singaporeans. This latest book illuminates his thinking that is bound to raise discussions about the future of Singapore. ”

Younger Singaporeans given early access to the book also praised the book. David Zhang, 24, co-founder of an Internet start-up, found the Q&A format lively, candid and genuine, adding: “The focus on income inequality and his views on egalitarianism and foreign talent strike a very hot spot, especially among Singapore’s youth.”

Julia Chan-Lee, assistant human resource manager, 30, said: “To someone who has grown up abroad, this is a fascinating introduction to MM Lee’s life and ideas. The dialogue made me feel a part of the conversation.”

Undergraduate Chan Yuping, 23, said: “MM recognises that our generation is full of individuals who are not afraid to express themselves through their choice of music, clothing or sexuality. He seems to have softened with age and the understanding that the times change, inevitably so."

Public relations consultant Nanny Eliana, 32, said: “It’s an absorbing read. The writers weave in MM’s personal anecdotes to reflect his own vulnerability as a person. There’s a human quality to the copy that I did not quite expect an MM memoir to have.”

The book will be launched by MM Lee on 21 January at the John Jacob Ballroom 1, The St Regis Singapore. It will be available at leading bookstores for $39.90 (inclusive of GST) from the launch date. Copies may also be ordered from or from 63198347 (May) and 63198341 (Jasmine). The book can also be purchased online from the Straits Times Press Online Bookstore: from 22 January.

Thirty copies of a limited edition of the book in hard cover, with MM Lee’s signature, are available for sale at $10,000 each, with the proceeds going to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. Donors are welcome to give more for these signed copies. Interested buyers can email Wee Ngiap Hiang at

Hard Truths to keep Singapore going is the latest in a series of books by SPH on MM Lee. The others are: Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas (1998), The Singapore Story (1998) and From Third World to First (2000).

Issued by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd
Co. Regn. No. 198402868E

For more information, please contact:

Chin Soo Fang
Corporate Communications
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
DID: 6319 1216

Adrian Cheong
Corporate Communications
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
DID: 6319 2261
HP: 9798 6097

About Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Incorporated in 1984, main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009. It is Southeast Asia’s leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms.

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In Singapore, SPH publishes 17 newspaper titles in four languages. Every day, 3 million individuals or 77 per cent of people above 15 years old, read one of SPH's news publications. SPH also publishes and produces more than 100 magazine titles in Singapore and the region, covering a broad range of interests from lifestyle to information technology.

Internet and Mobile

Beyond print, the Internet editions of SPH newspapers enjoy over 225 million pageviews with 15 million unique visitors every month. Apart from SPH AsiaOne portal, SPH's online and new media initiatives include an online marketplace for products, services and employment, ST701; Stomp (Straits Times Online Mobile Print), a portal that connects, engages and interacts with readers on the Web and via mobile phone messaging;, a bilingual news and interactive portal and The Straits Times RazorTV, a free access interactive webcast service offering live chat shows and video-on-demand clips.


SPH has a 20 per cent stake in MediaCorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd, which operates free-to-air channels 5, 8 and U, and a 40 per cent stake in MediaCorp Press Limited, which publishes the free newspaper, Today. In the radio business, SPH has an 80 per cent stake in SPH UnionWorks Pte Ltd, which operates entertainment stations Radio 100.3 in Mandarin and 91.3FM in English.

Events and Outdoor Advertising

SPH’s events subsidiary Sphere Exhibits organises innovative consumer and trade events and exhibitions. In addition, SPH has ventured into out-of-home (OOH) advertising through its wholly-owned subsidiary, SPH MediaBoxOffice Pte Ltd, Singapore’s leading Digital Out-of-Home advertising company.


SPH owns and manages Paragon, the prime retail and office complex in the heart of Orchard Road, Singapore's main shopping belt. SPH's wholly-owned subsidiary, Times Development Pte Ltd, has also developed a 43-storey upmarket residential condominium, Sky@eleven, at Thomson Road. The Clementi Mall, SPH's latest retail mall, will be operational in 2011.