Even before it is revealed who has been selected to be Singapore’s fourth Prime Minister (PM), speculation that current PM Lee Hsien Loong’s son, Li Hongyi, will be inducted into politics and eventually become the nation’s fifth Prime Minister is heating up.
While Singaporeans watched the People’s Action Party (PAP) Central Executive Committee (CEC) election results to get a hint of who might succeed PM Lee, some have opined that the CEC election results make it clear that some members of the CEC were installed to groom Li Hongyi to join politics.
Citing “word from the grapevine,” local filmmaker Martyn See speculated on Facebook that Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan may have been re-elected into the ruling party’s highest decision-making body to catapult Hongyi into politics, since Balakrishnan has allegedly been “mentoring Li Hongyi to be a potential candidate under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.”
See wrote: “Is Vivian Balakrishnan’s re-election into the new PAP CEC a dress rehearsal for his appointment as Lee’s Kingmaker?
“Word from the grapevine is that he has been mentoring Li Hongyi to be a potential candidate under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, and thereafter spearhead a PR campaign to catapult Li to the upper echelons of the PAP leadership. Simultaneously, Lee Hsien Loong is expected to say that he played no part in his son’s decision to enter politics.
“This orchestra will start performing in 2019 or 2020. Lawsuits against accusations of nepotism may fly in all directions.”
The filmmaker’s post has received more than 130 shares and over 110 reactions on Facebook, besides sparking intense debate on the HardwareZone forum.
Netizens at HardwareZone further speculated that Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing will be appointed as the nation’s 4th PM, only to serve as a “seatwarmer” for Lee’s son – much like how many perceive Singapore’s second PM Goh Chok Tong to have done, succeeding founding PM Lee Kuan Yew and preceding Lee’s son Lee Hsien Loong.
Goh, who now serves as Emeritus Senior Minister, asserted he knew he was not a “seat-warmer PM,” in his recently released authorised biography:
“It was interaction and confidence in him (Lee Kuan Yew). If I suspected that he was just putting me to be a seat warmer for his son, and just for two, three years, what is the point? Then I would have said ‘let us find a way for Lee Hsien Loong to take over from you.’ There was no need to have me. There was no point.
But I never worried about the seat warmer joke. In my heart, I knew that Lee Kuan Yew never meant for me to be a seat warmer. Politicians must have some thick skin and be able to laugh it off because in my view, that is not what Lee Kuan Yew regarded me as.
“You must have self-respect. If Lee Kuan Yew used me for his own purpose, then what is the point for me? History would laugh at you, isn’t it? I have the self-confidence. I was prepared to do the job and I knew he was honest with me, with my strengths and weaknesses.”
Despite Goh’s clarification, the rumours that he was appointed as a “seatwarmer PM” remain. Some netizens even doctored his original “Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story” book cover title to “Take Order: The Seat Warmer Story”.
Netizens on HardwareZone speculate that Chan Chun Sing will follow this perceived model and only be a “seatwarmer” if he is appointed as PM.
Others responding to See’s post said that Hongyi’s cousin, Li Shengwu – the son of Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest son Lee Hsien Yang who is currently being sued by the authorities over a private “friends only” Facebook post – may be a better politician than Hongyi.
This is not the first time that Martyn See has speculated that Hongyi – who serves as Deputy Director (Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Division) at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), an institution that sits under the Prime Minister’s Office – will be “parachuted” into politics.
In June this year, See wrote that “all recent indicators point to Li Hongyi entering politics soon to perpetuate dynastic rule in Singapore.” He speculated:
“PM Lee’s most cogent task has been to establish the following three conditions which will propel his son to the top of the hierarchy.
“1. REMOVE obstacles by continuing to crush dissent, neutralise opposition and demolish competition. No one stands in the way, be it an ex-Straits Times editor, an ex-PAP veteran or his own nephew.
“2. ACCUMULATE abundant reserves in the government coffers to ease the future PM’s job of sustaining the economy, fixing the opposition and buying supporters votes. To this end, no policy is too sensitive to implement – raising fees, taxes, new compulsory CPF premiums, etc.
“3. SWEETEN the ground for Hongyi to make an impression. This will take some time, for it entails an elaborate PR campaign to hype his superhuman qualities in order to make the public forget earlier denials of dynastic ambitions made by himself and his father.
“Good news for him is that he doesn’t need to win the hearts and minds of the national majority. He just need to do enough to secure an electoral win in a GRC.
“Once in Parliament, with the orchestrated support of the PAP cadre system, the Lee brand and relentless cheerleading and astroturfing from grassroots groups, PAP IB and the mainstream media, Li Hongyi will eventually become the 5th Prime Minister of post-independence Singapore (circa 2033), with the loyal soldier Chan Chun Sing making way as seat warmer.
“Majulah PAP forever. Long live Lee Dynasty.”
Just last week, PM Lee responded to whether the next generation of Lees would join politics. Noting that it would be unkind of him to “burden” his children since it is “difficult enough” for them to carry his name, PM Lee said:
“Not sure any of them have shown any interest in coming to politics. They are entitled to, but I don’t think it’s likely they feel the same compulsion that I did – duty that I do. They have their own responsibilities, their careers. I’m sure they’ll make contributions in their own ways.
“But it would be unkind of me to add more burden on them. It’s difficult enough for them as it is to carry my name.”
Last year, Li Hongyi himself said that he really has no interest in politics, after his paternal uncle and aunt accused his father of grooming him for politics, during the explosive Lee family dispute.
Hongyi’s cousin Li Shengwu later noted that Hongyi’s comments on a potential entry into Singapore politics is “vague” as he told the press: “He only said he has no interest in politics, but my uncle Lee Hsien Loong also once said he wasn’t interested in politics when he was in his 20s. These words can easily be taken back.”
Shengwu added that he and Hongyi are no longer on speaking terms, despite once being described as “very close”, after the Lee family dispute: