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Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s future PM?

"Political pundits now say he could well be a contender for prime minister one day," says the executive editor of Straits Times, Sumiko Tan

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Singapore—First was a mention in a Straits Times’ profile. And then, election into the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), the highest decision-making body for the first time, the Central Executive Committee.

Added to this is a much-commended performance in the unenviable job of co-steering the multi-ministry task force assigned to address the myriad of problems stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

All this has led to speculation that Education Minister Lawrence Wong may be in the running to be Prime Minister of Singapore in the future, according to an article in the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The 47-year-old Mr Wong was the subject of a profile in a “Lunch With Sumiko” column, wherein the Education Minister sat down to a meal with the executive editor of ST, Sumiko Tan, that highlighted his monumental task of leading the team that managed the pandemic.

Early in the article Ms Tan wrote, “He has a reputation among civil servants for being a smart, serious guy who gets the job done. A teary moment in Parliament in March, while he was paying tribute to front-liners, humanised him.

Some political pundits now say he could well be a contender for prime minister one day.”

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And the SCMP article, published before the PAP’s biennial conference, said that pundits are looking for “any clues on the party’s thinking about education minister Lawrence Wong.”

In the article, Mr Wong was praised for his handling of the pandemic by the director at the Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Lawrence Loh, who is quoted as saying he has a “steady hand with clear articulation skills”.

Even more compelling was a quote from former PAP MP Inderjit Singh, who said that Mr Wong was “emerging as a potential choice as a future PM”.

According to Bilveer Singh, a political scientist with the NUS, Mr Wong “is being tested in different portfolios and is definitely in the running for the post of the prime minister in the near future.”

Mr Inderjit Singh and others added that if Mr Wong is among those included as an elected CEC member, this could open doors for him to take even bigger roles in the party.

And elected to the CEC he was, for the first time, along with National Development Minister Desmond Lee. The two men join Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, Parliamentary Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan as the top 12 nominees voted by more than 2,000 party cadres for a 2-year term.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who received the 13th and 14th highest number of votes, respectively, have also been co-opted into the CEC.

FB screengrab: Lawrence Wong

Writing about his election into the CEC in a Facebook post on Sunday (Nov 8), Mr Wong said, “We have lots to do in the coming years – to steer Singapore through this pandemic, and to continue our never-ending of building a fairer, more equal and just society. I will do my best to serve.

The challenges ahead are great. But we will walk this journey alongside every Singaporean. Join us to make a difference and build a better Singapore together!”

—/TISG

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