In the COVID age, shocking news headlines hardly surprise us anymore.
“New COVID-19 Variant Found to be 10 Times More Infectious
“New COVID-19 Strain Found to be 100 Times More Transmissible”.
“New COVID-19 Variant Found to be Quite Amusing and May Pursue Career as Stand-up Comedian”.
But today, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat dropped a bombshell that would shock even the most politically apathetic Singaporean:
DPM Heng: I’m Stepping Down as 4G Leader
In short, DPM Heng will not be our next prime minister.
The finance minister announced today (8 Apr) that he will step aside as the leader of the fourth-generation PAP so a younger one can take his place.
DPM Heng first informed PM Lee Hsien Loong of his move in a letter before announcing it in a press conference on the same day.
In his letter, DPM Heng noted that Singapore’s first three prime ministers all took on the post when they were younger than he is now.
“The next Prime Minister should have a sufficiently long runway – to master the demands of leading our nation; formulate and see through our longer-term strategies for our country; and win the confidence and support of Singaporeans to build this shared future together,” he wrote.
“This year, I am 60. As the crisis will be prolonged, I would be close to the mid-60s when the crisis is over. The 60s are still a very productive time of life.
“But when I consider the ages at which our first three Prime Ministers took on the job, I would have too short a runway should I become the next Prime Minister then”, he added.
For those curious, PM Lee was 52, Mr Goh Chok Tong was 49, and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was in his 30s when they became Prime Minister.
Both Mr Goh and Mr Lee stepped down before they turned 70, and PM Lee once said he plans to do the same.
“After careful deliberation and discussions with my family, I have decided to step aside as leader of the 4G (fourth-generation) team, so that a younger leader who will have a longer runway can take over,” DPM Heng said.
DPM Heng also mentioned the stroke he had in 2016, which prevented him from carrying out his duties for several months.
While he’s in good health today, DPM Heng said it is in the country’s best interest for someone who is “younger to tackle the huge challenges ahead.”
Simply put, if not for COVID-19, he would’ve been PM now but because of COVID-19, he would be PM at a later date so he won’t be PM for long due to his age (rumours have it that politicians also grow old like all of us), and so he stepped down.
So, What Happens Now?
Well, nothing is going to change as of yet.
Mr Heng will remain Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.
He will, however, step down as Minister of Finance at the next Cabinet reshuffle, which will take place in around two weeks.
PM Lee’s Response
In response to the stunning announcement, PM Lee said he understands and respects Mr Heng’s decision.
Both of them had also agreed that Mr Heng will give up his duties as finance minister.
In his response letter, PM Lee acknowledged Mr Heng’s “many contributions” during his time as Education Minister and as Finance Minister, particularly during the pandemic.
“I thank you for your selfless decision to stand aside. Your actions now are fully in keeping with the spirit of public service and sense of duty that motivated you to step forward when I asked you to stand for election in 2011,” PM Lee said.
As for who’s taking over, the 4G team said during a press conference today that they’d make the announcement in due course.
When Minister Chan Chun Seng was asked whether he would be the successor since he’s next in line (he’s the Second Assistant Secretary-General of the PAP), he, well, said the same thing:
The announcement will be made in due course.
In other words, we can now guess who’s going to be our next PM. Again.
Featured Image: YouTube