Singapore—He may have bowed out of contention from being the country’s next Prime Minister, but Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s efforts to ensure the country’s economic health during the pandemic have not gone unnoticed or unrewarded.
On Wednesday (Apr 29), at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) May Day Awards, he was given the Medal of Honour, the highest of all the awards given.
The NTUC conferred the award on Mr Heng for playing “an instrumental role in ensuring that our economy continues to provide a thriving environment for our businesses and generate good jobs for our workers”.
In all, 143 union leaders, tripartite partners and workers were given May Day Awards this year “for their contributions in either advancing workers’ interests or being role models at workplaces,” NTUC said.
Aside from being Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Heng is also the Finance Minister and the Co-ordinating Minister for Economic Policies.
From May 15, however, he will be replaced at the helm of the Ministry of Finance by outgoing Education Minister Lawrence Wong.
DPM Heng received his award from NTUC President Mary Liew and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng at Downtown East. The event was also live-streamed over Zoom.
In a Facebook post, Mr Ng wrote of the latest Medal of Honor awardee, “I know DPM Heng’s tireless efforts to run our economy in #COVID19 and at the same time, take care of our workers. His commitment to workers, determination to advance our brand of tripartism, and unwavering support for our Labour Movement makes him truly our Brother-in-Arms. Thank you for standing in solidarity with our workers!”
On her part, Ms Liew acknowledged the difficulties of last year, noting how “much uncertainty and anxiety” the nation faced. However, she added that “the true spirit of tripartism” prevailed, as the Government, union leaders, and employers came together to minimise the fallout from the pandemic on workers.
“Honouring them at our NTUC May Day Awards is a befitting tribute to all the hard work put in to protecting and caring for our workers, both in good times and bad,” she said.
This was echoed by Mr Heng. He said that he is “deeply humbled to receive the May Day Medal of Honour award today. When I accepted the award, I did so on behalf of all our tripartite partners. We were able to make a difference to the lives of our workers, because of the strong tripartite partnership between the Government, unions and businesses in Singapore.”
Very few Singaporeans have received the Medal of Honour. Its recipients include Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and former Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
Among the other May Day awardees last night was Chee Hong Tat, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport. Mr Chee received the Distinguished Service award.
The NTUC said, “Mr Chee dedicated his award to the late Nachiappan RK Sinniah, the Former Emeritus General Secretary of the Union of Power and Gas Employees. Mr Nachiappan was also posthumously conferred the Comrade of Labour (Star) (Bar) award.”
Mr Heng also said that the award would “serve as a constant reminder that the welfare of our workers and their families will always be at the heart of what we do. Let me also congratulate the other 142 May Day award recipients. By putting our hearts and minds together, we can adapt, grow and emerge stronger in the post-Covid world.”
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