SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s estranged younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, has questioned whether soon-to-be PM Lawrence Wong can really call the shots if the current premier remains in the Cabinet.

PM Lee announced this week that the long-awaited handover to his successor, Finance Minister Wong, will take place on 15 May. The current PM will stay on as a Senior Minister within the Cabinet, echoing the role his predecessors took when they stepped down as head of government.

Expressing doubt as to whether Mr Wong will be able to lead Singapore without influence, Mr Lee Hsien Yang questioned on Facebook: “PM Lee Hsien Loong will become SM Lee Hsien Loong. So can Lawrence Wong really call the shots? Is Lawrence Wong taking over the reins of the PAP or does LHL intend to remain secretary-general? Is this a false dawn?”

Mr Lee Hsien Yang has closely observed the role Senior Ministers play in the Singapore cabinet, having witnessed the influence and reach of his father – Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew – after he stepped down as PM and became Senior Minister in 1990. The late elder statesman’s influence in the Singapore cabinet remained considerable and his opinions carried weight within the cabinet and among the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

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In Singapore, the role of Senior Minister is an advisory position within the government hierarchy. The primary role of Senior Ministers is to provide guidance, advice, and support to the current Prime Minister and the government. They often serve as mentors to younger leaders and offer insights gained from their years of service in government.

Aside from PM Lee’s impending shift in cabinet position, the rest of the cabinet will remain as it is. Mr Wong has announced that the next Cabinet reshuffle will only take place after the next election.

Mr Wong said he plans to retain existing ministers in their current portfolios, with significant reshuffling taking place post-election, adhering to Singapore’s tradition of continuity and gradual succession. He said:

“Our system works on the basis of continuity and progressive change. It has never been the case that when there is a leadership transition, all the older ministers step down at the same time. Instead, they continue to contribute in different ways, while making room for the younger ones to step up. So I will adopt the same approach when I take over.”

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Acknowledging PM Lee’s decision to remain in the Cabinet as Senior Minister, Wong expressed gratitude for his continued presence and highlighted the precedent set by former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

He added, “I will also look at possible promotions as well as consider bringing in a few backbenchers to strengthen the team. I won’t be able to bring in people from outside to join the team until the election, so for now, the broad shape of the team remains intact.”