By Tan Bah Bah
The latest changes in the Singapore Cabinet are very much according to script. The main story was that Tan Chuan Jin and Lawrence Wong fulfilled expectations of their ministerial caliber.
Together with Heng Swee Keat, the Minister for Education, and Chan Chun Sing, the Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Defence Minister, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, they will be part of the core group of People’s Action Party leaders in the near and midterm future.
All four are fairly engaging personalities in their respective roles and widely seen by party elders as leaders who can effectively carry the ground. They have to be, in the now new ever shifting political landscape where politicians have to talk the talk and walk the walk and also have a credible presence in the new social media.
Tan, the Minister for Manpower, Wong, the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Communications and Information, with Chan and Heng will forge their own bonds with an entirely new generation of voters whose political loyalties are now not coloured by any memory of deprivation and gratitude. They do not have any fixed mindset whatsoever. Consistently, in fact, polls have shown rejections of a one-party dominated system.
How will the new young PAP leaders respond? Will they also stop clinging to outdated styles of governance, the autocratic talk-down days, or themselves affect the changes from within the party to renew rapport with voters?
I have more than a modicum of confidence that these younger leaders will persist with the ridding of cobwebs and opening up of the windows.
All four seemed to have hit the ground running. They all knew they were joining the PAP at a time when the party’s stock was not exactly very high. They knew it was not going to be cushy. They were also aware of some resentment towards wet-behind-the-ears scholars/army generals helicoptered in without any political experience or record of serving the community.
Some of the portfolios were tough ones, calling for urgent answers. Education and manpower (foreign workers and jobs for Singaporeans) were hot potatoes.
All the four ministers have emerged unscathed and actually grown in the public eye. I think they have earned the respect of many Singaporeans for the work they have done – and, more importantly, for the respect they have shown voters as they carried out their duties.
I would not mind if the next Prime Minister comes from any of these four leaders.