Singapore—The fourth generation of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) or 4G have give their full support to Prime Minister-designate Heng Swee Keat, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
On July 25 Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced his new cabinet, not only affirming Mr Heng as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, but also announcing that he is now the coordinating minister for economic affairs.
Questions regarding the PAP’s succession plan arose in the aftermath of the General Election, which many perceived to be a referendum on Mr Heng as Prime Minister-designate. The PAP’s poor showing at East Coast GRC, where Mr Heng and his team won narrowly over a Workers’ Party team headed by the young and popular Nicole Seah, was perceived to reflect a lack of confidence in his leadership.
The Straits Times quotes Dr Balakrishan as telling reporters on July 26 (Sunday), “We are – all of us – in complete unity – behind the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, so there’s no need for any discussions or questions on that. We are in absolute unity under this issue.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister spoke to the press after a meeting with Hishammuddin Hussein, his Malaysian counterpart, when the two met to finalise the deal for reopening the border between Singapore and Malaysia.
Dr Balakrishnan told the press that PM Lee’s announcement the day before is a reflection of “the need for continuity, the need for rotation and the need for renewal” in Government.
He added, “And if you look carefully at the composition, and, in fact, at the moves that the Prime Minister has made, it reflects all these three priorities.”
PM Lee has said he will step down as Prime Minister before he turns 70, which is on February 10, 2022, and Mr Heng is expected to fill his position.
These plans may change, however, due to the crisis of a generation, as PM Lee has characterized the coronavirus pandemic.
“I had expressed a hope that I would be able to hand over by the time I celebrate my 70th birthday but I do not determine the path of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lot will depend on how events unfold and all I can say is I will see this through and I will handover in good shape as soon as possible to the next team,” he said on Saturday.
Dr Balakrishnan’s comments about 4G’s support for Mr Heng may have come about as a result of some words from Chan Chun Sing.
When asked about the support of 4G leaders for the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister directed the question to the Trade and Industry Minister, also the Second Assistant Secretary-General of the PAP, who made a remark that became much discussed on social media.
Mr Chan said, “We entirely focus on helping our country overcoming economic challenges and saving the jobs at this point in time. We have no plans to do otherwise. And we have no plans, no discussion on any change in plan.”
Question on change in succession plans. PM and ccs felt evasive. Or were they just uncomfortable with this question? pic.twitter.com/nenqcxhD3g
— KX Liang (@liangkaixin) July 25, 2020
In a Facebook post on Sunday, July 26, PM Lee wrote this about the new cabinet:
“This is a team with a good mix of experience and ideas that will bring us through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
It has the experienced senior members, tempered by the many challenges they have gone through.
It has younger Ministers – Heng Swee Keat, Chan Chun Sing, and the others, who are increasingly setting the agenda, and preparing to take over from me and my older colleagues.
It is reinforced by new members who will bring different perspectives, fresh ideas and energy to take us forward.”
Today I announced my new Cabinet line-up. This is a team with a good mix of experience and ideas that will bring us…