UPDATE 25 June: Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has posted in his Facebook that he has been discharged from hospital and that he has regained most of his functions. He also said that he will continue to be on medical leave a little longer to focus on his rehab.
The editor-at-large of the Straits Times predicted last year that Mr Heng Swee Keat is most likely to succeed Mr Lee Hsien Loong as Prime Minister. Considering that he was hand-picked by Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and that he was under the tutelage of the elder Lee for 3 years before his career graph took-off dramatically, the editor’s prediction may not be far-fetched.
Mr Heng did not have to serve as Acting Minister like the other fourth-generation (4G) leaders Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin had to. He was made Minister immediately after the 2011 election. Since then, he has led several high-profile committees which is almost unheard of for new political office holders of the PAP Government.
PM Lee had previously said that he would want to hand over the Prime Ministership to a fourth-generation leader before he turns 70. He is now 64. He has barely another 5 more years, and there seems to be no one else in PAP’s 4G to fill Mr Heng’s shoes.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman said Mr Heng “represents the best in Singapore”, while the ex-Premiere Goh Chok Tong said, “we need him (Heng)”. Religious leaders, welfare organisations and grassroots organisations have all started wishing that Mr Heng makes a full recovery soon.
If Mr Heng is truly the anointed one, then it could be highly possible that the People’s Action Party (PAP) is facing a leadership crisis.
We at TISG are also concerned. We have started this watch for Mr Heng and will keep it appropriately updated as and when further news about Mr Heng breaks.
|1 Nov 1961||Born|
|1983||A Singapore Police Force Overseas Scholar, he joined the Singapore Police Force as a constable after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Economics from Cambridge University. Was promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police when he left|
|1993||Obtained a Masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard University|
|1997||Joined Administrative Service and served in the Ministry of Education|
|Mar 1997||Hand-picked by Mr Lee Kuan Yew for the job of Principal Private Secretary for Senior Minister. Mr Lee said Mr Heng was one “”finest minds among the civil servants I (Lee) have worked with”.|
|2000||Appointed Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry|
|2001||Chief Executive Officer, Trade Development Board (concurrent appointment with previous appointment in Ministry of Trade and Industry|
|Oct 2001||Appointed Permanent Secretary (Trade and Industry)
Mr Heng oversaw the negotiations of free trade agreements, and led the negotiation with India as the Chief Negotiator. He coordinated the work of seven economic agencies under MTI.
|June 2005||Appointed Managing Director of MAS|
|Apr 2011||Retired from Administrative Service and joined People’s Action Party (PAP). Ex-premiere Goh Chok Tong tipped Mr Heng to be a potential minister and core member of PAP’s fourth generation leadership team.|
|May 2011||Contested and won General Election from Tampines Group Representation Constituency|
|18 May 2011||First to be appointed as Minister (Minister for Education) from PAP’s fourth generation leadership team. (Team includes individuals like Chan Chun Sing, Lawrence Wong and Tan Chuan-Jin). He brought bold changes to Education Ministry, doing away with school ranking system, not naming top-scorers in national exams, created more university spaces, shifted emphasis from grades to talent|
|Sep 2012||Led the Our Singapore Conversation which reached out to 47,000 Singaporeans for dialogue|
|Nov 2013||Appointed Chairman of SG50 Celebrations Steering Committee (An initiative to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday|
|Sep 2015||Contested and won General Election with 72 percent of votes cast going to the GRC team he anchored|
|Oct 2015||– Appointed as Finance Minister
– Appointed Chairman of Committee for the Future Economy (an effort to lay out the roadmap for future jobs, resources, technology and markets)
|Mar 2016||Delivered Budget 2016 which some hailed as going the extra mile for struggling SMEs and other sectors|
|12 May 2016||-Collapsed at Cabinet Meeting due to stroke
-Doctors in Cabinet attended to him
– Brought to hospital in ambulance
– Hospital confirms that stroke was due to an aneurysm
– Underwent initial neurosurgery to relieve pressure in his brain due to the bleeding. The aneurysm was successfully closed
– Admitted to Intensive Care Unit of National Neuroscience Institute of Tan Tock Seng Hospital
– PM Lee said that he hoped Mr Heng will be alright and described him as a valuable member of PM Lee’s team
– DPM Tharman describes Mr Heng as a leader with much promise
– Ex-PM Goh Chok Tong said “we need him”
|13 May 2016||– PM Lee said that Mr Heng is sedated and is still in the Intensive Care Unit and that he will remain there for some time
– Religious leaders from all 10 faiths of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) gathered to pray for Mr Heng’s speedy and full recovery. In attendance were DPM Tharman and Tampines MP Baey Yam Keng. Mr Tharman said Mr Heng “represents the best in Singapore”
|14 May||– PM Lee commends SCDF Officers who came to Mr Heng’s aid
-Minister Masagos Zulkifli announced that PAP member, Sin Boon Ann, will be standing in for Mr Heng’s duties in his constituency, while he is in hospital
|15 May||Religious organisations and grassroots organisations hold various events to pray for Mr Heng to wish him a speedy recover|
|16 May||PMO announced that in view of Mr Heng Swee Keat’s illness, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) Mr S Iswaran will be appointed as Co-Chairman of the Committee of the Future Economy (CFE), and that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Mr Chan Chun Sing will be appointed as the Deputy Chairman in place of Mr Iswaran, with immediate effect.|
|20 May||Fellow MP from Tampines GRC told The Straits Times yesterday (19 May) that a week from collapsing from a stroke attack, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat remains sedated. It is unclear if he is still in ICU, but Baey said that Mr Heng’s condition was stable.|
|21 May||A participant at Function 8’s event ‘Cause Lawyering: Madam Vellama and by-election’, in alluding to Minister Heng’s condition (without directly referring to him) asked if a by-election should be called in a GRC if an MP is unable to represent his constituents in such a constituency. Constitutional law professor Dr Kevin Tan said that the Constitution does not provide for a by-election in such a situation. Moderator of the event and lawyer Ms Jeannette Chong- Aruldoss, referring to several hypothetical situations suggested that the constitutionality of that interpretation can be challenged. Dr Tan agreed.|
|30 May||Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his Facebook that he visited Mr Heng Swee Keat in the Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Neuro-Intensive Care Unit at National Neuroscience Institute this evening (30 May). PM Lee said that Mr Heng was recovering well, and making steady progress. He further reported that the Finance Minister was fully lucid, communicative, and cheerful.
According to the PM, the doctors are happy with his recovery as well, but they have discouraged visitors so that he can have as much rest as possible. Mr Heng gave PM two-thumbs up when Mr Lee told him that the Party has made arrangements to look after his residents in Tampines while he recuperates.
“Swee Keat wants to thank everyone for their support. He especially sends his greetings and best wishes to his Tampines residents and volunteers, who have been asking after him.” – PM Lee Hsien Loong
|7 June||Government slams online publication TR Emeritus for publishing misleading article about Mr Heng’s hospitalisation benefits. TRE apologised. (link: https://theindependent.sg.sg/govt-slams-tre-wp-says-boundaries-of-expression-can-be-unclear/)|
|8 June||Blogger Philip Ang asked in his blog how ill Mr Heng really is (link: http://bit.ly/1UotCQM). The blogger said:
“What the people need to know, and the PAP is obligated to disclose, is Heng’s real condition:
Is Heng experiencing paralysis on the left or right side of his body?
How bad is the paralysis?
Are his muscles strong enough for him to sit or stand?
Does he have any trouble understanding speech or writing?
Does he require cognitive therapy?
PAP should be upfront and cease treating Singaporeans as if everyone is dumb.
The truth is Heng will no longer be able to discharge his responsibilities as an MP/minister and the PAP should be ready to execute plan B soon. Stroke victims are known to be at significantly increased risk of recurrent strokes and, logically, Heng will likely prioritise his health over dollars and cents…The government should stop all this wayang on Heng’s medical condition: his medical condition and rehabilitation will not allow him to discharge his responsibilities. So what is plan B?”/)
Article was first published on 15 May 2016.