Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung has said that the country’s fourth generation leadership team need not be constrained by an “artificial deadline” to select a new leader among themselves.
This was said at the sidelines of a community event in Yishun on Sunday (28 January), in response to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's earlier remarks that it will probably take a little bit longer for the younger ministers to choose a leader rather than the six to nine month timeline suggested by Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong.
Mr Ong said, "It is good not to be constrained by six or nine months. We do need time to work together, know each other well, and amongst us, I'm sure a leader will emerge in good time."
He then added, "I think the PM has made it quite clear. Don't get constrained by an artificial deadline."
The PM has stressed that no new deputy prime ministers will be appointed during the Cabinet reshuffle, which would take place after this year's Budget in February.
When asked about the timeline for the formal designation of the next prime minister suggested by ESM Goh, PM Lee responded, "My assessment is, it probably will take a little bit longer."
ESM Goh had said he hoped that younger ministers will choose their leader in the first six to nine months of this year, and that this person can be made PM-designate within 2018.
PM Lee 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. The team is taking shape. The dynamics amongst them, they are working it out. They are learning to work together."
Responding to this, Mr Ong said, "PM has said that it will need a while longer, I think it is useful. As our younger generation ministers have said, we will select someone to be the leader amongst us in good time. So I think it is good not to be constrained by six or nine months."
Mainstream Media have been over the past months quoting observers‘ prediction that three candidates, Mr Ong along with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister in Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, will likely be the next Prime Minister. However, TOC only heard that one candidate who is pretty much confirmed to be the next PM and the public should be well-aware who that person is.