SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (8 April) he hopes that the new leader of Singapore’s fourth-generation team will be chosen before the next general election.
His comment comes after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced his decision to step aside as the leader of the 4G team.
Speaking at a media conference to announce Heng’s decision, Lee said, “This is a process which takes more than a few months but I think that it should not take more than a couple of years, and I hope that very much there will be a clear outcome before the next general election. And that would be a reasonable timeframe to work towards.”
Lee said that he understands and respects Heng's decision. "I know that he has made his decision in the best interest of the party, of the government, and also of Singapore," he added.
Singapore held its previous General Election (GE) on 10 July last year. The next GE is scheduled to be held in Singapore by 23 August 2025.
When asked at the conference if he is expected to remain as PM for the next five years, he replied, “I hope not. I will stay on a bit longer so that the new successor can be identified and can get ready. And as soon as he's ready, I would like to hand over to him.”
He added that he hopes to help his successor and the new team to take Singapore forward beyond the period when he is PM. “I think that's a responsible thing to do.”
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said at the conference that the 4G team will manage the issue of succession “holistically” and make a collective decision on the choice of their new leader in due course.
Chan said that the succession planning goes beyond just choosing a leader. “It is always about finding and forming the strongest team possible for Singapore. So that Singapore has the best chance to defy the odds of history, to not only survive but to thrive,” he added.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung also spoke at the conference, saying that succession planning is a “very, very serious matter”.
He said that the ruling People’s Action Party does not look at the leadership selection process as a race. Rather, the party looks at how the team members work together and complement each other's strengths while being aware of their shortcomings.
“And over time, the individual members rally around someone who then emerges as a leader, first among equals. So first among equals doesn't mean the person is the boss that directs people to do work but the person that can best bring up the talent and strengths of everybody else,” Ong said.
Using a sporting analogy, Ong said there is no one winner standing on a podium with a medal but rather a team who is striving to win “a trophy for the nation”.
Given Heng’s announcement, the 4G team is undergoing “a big reconfiguration”, Ong said.
“We seek your understanding and support to give us some time to regroup and in due course, we will select a leader amongst us. Rest assured, the 4G team, we are very aware, very conscious of the urgency and seriousness of this task.”
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