They came, they saw and they didn't shy away from asking tough questions. For more than two hours, students fired a salvo of queries on everything from leadershi p renewal to whether the position of Minister Mentor will be made permanent.
At the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum at NUS Cultural Centre, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke to over 1,200 people, mostly undergrads, on leadership renewal, history of the PAP's ascension and its challenges.
Moderator Ng Pei Yi, 23, final year, National University of Singapore (NUS), Law:
Q: "When I took on this role as moderator, many of my fellow undergraduates expressed much scepticism in the nature of such a forum. They primarily wondered, to what extent can they really ask questions?"
PM Lee: "I think the more frankly you speak and ask, the more valuable this session will be, and the more interesting it will be. If you ask boring questions, I'm forced to give you boring answers. So please don't!"
Mr Seah Yin Hwa, 25, fourth year, NUS, Engineering:
Q: "I'm from an SMC (single-member constituency) where the majority of the people in my constituency decided to pick a "teochew nang" (Teochew person, Mr Low Thia Khiang) who doesn't wear a white uniform. When it comes to upgrading, what's being told to us is we do not have the funds to go ahead with lift upgrading and shelters for the bus stops. I look over across the road, to the Aljunied GRC and they have everything."
PM Lee: "Low Thia Khiang says he has no difficulty funding the lift upgrading programme...your question is, why is the opposition ward not treated at least as good as or maybe even better than the PAP ward?
And the answer is that there has to be a distinction because the PAP wards supported the Government and the policies which delivered these good things. All the basics apply to everybody, your roads, your trains, your houses, your schools, hospitals, your security and defence."
Mr Khoo Lih Han, 25, final year, NUS, Engineering
Q: "The PAP has recently introduced slate of new candidates. How do they remain relevant to older generations like my parents in terms of dialects, languages and ideals?"
PM Lee: Our range of MPs in Parliament contains a mix. We have younger and older candidates so voters have someone to identify with. Secondly, some people are quite good with communicating with old folks...the empathy, the concern, and the human engagement, that can be done whether the MP is young or old."
Q: "I'm just asking like, if that particular young MP, I'm not sure..."
PM Lee: "You may not have anybody in mind, but I think the audience does. So, are you asking about Tin Pei Ling? As far as the web is concerned, all the flaming, that's the way the web is...people sometimes get carried away...as far as the candidate is concerned, Tin Pei Ling, we first noticed her I think it was in this hall in 2007 and we had a party convention. She was one of the speakers and she impressed the audience. She spoke sense and engaged the audience. She was bilingual. So we made some enquiries because the party is always looking for names and faces."
Mr Yernar Zharkeshov, 25, Master in Public Policy candidate, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, from Kazakhstan
Q: "How does the role of Minister Mentor contribute to political stability in Singapore. Is the position of Minister Mentor going to be institutionalised in the Singapore legal system and if yes, in the long run do you have any aspirations to become Minister Mentor?"
PM Lee: "There's only one Minister Mentor. You can give him any title you like, he is Mr Lee Kuan Yew and he is unique. And his role and his contribution is also unique. How does he contribute to stability? I think as far as running the Government is concerned, he's not running the Government. My team is running the Government. But in terms of his international stature, in terms of his network, in terms of the weight the people give to what he says, I think he's a very precious resource. But there will not be another MM and I will not be an MM."