Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong has expressed support for presumptive future prime minister Heng Swee Keat in a Facebook post published in the wake of the People’s Action Party (PAP) convention that took place on 10 Nov.
Mr Goh succeeded founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore’s second PM on 28 November 1990 and served until 12 August 2004, when he stepped down and was succeeded by Lee Kuan Yew’s son, Lee Hsien Loong.
PM Lee Hsien Loong has said that he wishes to step down as head of government sometime after the next election. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has emerged as the frontrunner among the PAP’s fourth-generation (4G) leaders as the candidate most likely to take over PM Lee’s mantle, after his recent appointments as Deputy Prime Minister and first assistant secretary-general of the PAP.
Sharing photos of PM Lee and DPM Heng addressing ruling party members and activists at the PAP Convention, ESM Goh indicated his support for Mr Heng and said that his Marine parade ward welcomes leadership transition. Asserting that the smooth renewal of leadership is “critical to Singapore’s continued stability, growth and prosperity,” he said:
“Marine Parade fully supports a smooth political transition from one generation of leaders to another, which is critical to Singapore’s continued stability, growth and prosperity.”
This is not the first time ESM Goh has spoken about the importance of leadership renewal in his party. In December last year, Mr Goh said that he hopes the party leadership will select the 4G PM in “six to nine months”. No clear frontrunner for 4G PM had emerged at that time.
PM Lee disagreed with his predecessor’s comments and shot back: “ESM (Goh) is speaking with the privilege of watching things rather than being responsible to make it happen. I think we know it’s a very serious matter.”
Eleven months later, Heng Swee Keat was finally announced as the party’s second-in-command and the most likely candidate to succeed PM Lee, after the party’s Central Executive Committee election that took place in late November. In December 2018, ESM Goh said that he is glad that the party leaders have finally decided who to back as 4G PM.
On Mr Heng specifically, ESM Goh recalled the Finance Minister’s days as director of the central bank during the 2008 global financial crisis and said: “I saw how he worked. I think he could take crisis, and he could manage crisis.”
ESM Goh said that the other candidate who was billed to be a PM frontrunner, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, makes a “strong pairing” with Heng. Mr Chan was appointed the PAP’s second assistant secretary-general.
Asserting that the pair have complementary strengths, ESM Goh said that while Heng is experienced in governance, he “hasn’t quite been exposed to the mobilisation of people, working with the PAP, the NTUC (National Trades Union Congress), and working with the PA (People’s Association). Chan Chun Sing has that.”
Meanwhile, he added that Chan has “experience in running some ministries, but his strengths so far have been exposed in those mobilisation areas. So, the two will work very well, they’ll complement one another.”