by Vincent Low
A month ago on the last day of last year (31 Dec 2017), ESM Goh Chok Tong suddenly made a Facebook post talking about settling 4th generation political leadership in Singapore.
He began his post by lamenting that 2017 did not "end with the glorious sunset" he had hoped. Still, he hopes that this year, 2018, will offer a "fresh start". He said that Singapore needs to tackle the pressing and longer term challenges for Singapore and one challenge is to settle Singapore's 4th generation political leadership.
"Every succession is different, but one thing remains the same: each cohort will have to pick one amongst themselves to lead, and support him," he said. "I hope the current cohort will do so in 6 - 9 months' time. Then PM can formally designate their choice as his potential successor before 2018 ends."
Clearly, ESM Goh urgently wants to see PM Lee to be succeeded quickly. He added that whoever is chosen, the team will have to work together to form a cohesive 4th generation Cabinet.
"They must write a new inspiring chapter for Singapore, be courageous to make difficult decisions, stand tall with integrity, and earn the respect and trust of Singaporeans and the world at large," he said.
"This is my wish for the new year - a Singapore in good hands, a Singapore that all of us build together."
PM Lee rebukes ESM Goh
However, despite the good intentions coming from ESM Goh to quickly see Singapore placed in good hands of the next generation prime minister, Singapore's present Prime Minister was not amused.
Speaking to the media in New Delhi on Friday (26 Jan), PM Lee Hsien Loong said, "ESM (Goh) is speaking with the privilege of watching things rather than being responsible to make it happen. I think we know it's a very serious matter."
That is, PM Lee is saying ESM Goh is not running the show presently since he is not the Singapore's PM and therefore, not responsible to make things happen as one. As such, ESM Goh's words meant nothing.
"Also, they (4th gen ministers) need a bit of time for Singaporeans to get a feel of them - not just to be known as public figures, but to be responsible for significant policies... carrying them, justifying them, defending them, adapting them, making them work, and showing that they deserve to lead," PM Lee added.
"I would not be able to say for certain that it will be settled within the next six to nine months, but it will have to be done in good time."
"Successor designation - that will depend on the dynamics and I would not say that that is imminent," he said. "If it is settled, everybody will know."
In another words, PM Lee is not prepared to name any successor to him this year.
PM Lee also said that there would be a Cabinet reshuffle after this year's Budget in February and that no new DPMs will be appointed. This means there will be no clear front runners made known to the public even after the Cabinet reshuffle.
ST, however, quoting some "observers", said that the selection of Singapore's next PM will be narrowed to three candidates: Heng Swee Keat, Chan Chun Sing and Ong Ye Kung.
Chan blames fake news on Internet for contributing lack of trust in countries' leaders
Meanwhile, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Minister Chan blamed the spread of fake news and dubious reports on the Internet for contributing to the public's growing lack of trust in societies and their leaders.The spread of fake news, and modern communications technologies which have allowed everyone to be a publisher and share information, has undermined the role of traditional gatekeepers and the mainstream media, making it harder for people to know who they could trust or what information they could believe, he said.
Both this intangible aspect of trust as well as the delivering of tangible benefits as promised were critical in building up the people's sense of belief in the system and their leaders, he added.