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Photo of PM Lee Hsien Loong from pap.org.sg

What are the implications of PM Lee steering clear of Ministers’ pay and leadership succession?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced that he will speak on four issues that are on people’s minds at the National Day rally tomorrow (Sunday 19 August).

They are all bread and butter issues: cost of living, water and electricity prices, medical costs and housing.

There is no mention of Ministers’ pay and leadership succession.

Of Ministers’ pay, it is not difficult to see why. It is a hot potato and he would rather distance himself from it.

It also shows that PM Lee is not about to throw his weight behind the controversial remarks of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong regarding Ministers’ pay. That is not unexpected, given that relations between the two do not seem exactly cosy.

What about leadership succession? After all, this is his most important speech of the year and there isn’t a more opportune time to address it.

PM Lee has been mum about it for sometime now. Going by his past words, he would be handing over the baton and stepping down as Prime Minister by the next general elections, due to take place either next year or 2020.

But there has been a long delay in the anointing of a PM-designate and the urgency seems to be lacking.

This was the thing that ESM Goh found troubling – about eight months ago, he said that Singaporeans should know who their next PM is before 2018 is over. Those comments of his did not go down well with PM Lee, and it alerted Singaporeans to the fact that the two men do not see eye to eye.

With PM Lee potentially steering clear of the succession issue, and his own definitive passing of the baton and stepping down, it can only give rise to further speculation.

Does he feel that he has unfinished business and needs to cling on? If so, what is it?

Is it related to the lingering dispute with his siblings?

Could it be related to Temasek and wife Ho Ching?

Has it to do with his son Li Hongyi?

PM Lee’s siblings, Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling, along with nephew Li Shengwu, did make allegations that he harbours political ambitions for his son and that he wants to perpetuate a Lee dynasty. Those allegations were dismissed as unfounded.

But it doesn’t help matters when there is continuing rampant talk of Li Hongyi being seen going through the paces of constituency and community work. Are those sightings real or imagined? Perhaps there is nothing to it and he is just a volunteer?

All the same, the more PM Lee steers clear of leadership succession, which he previously declared as urgent and vital to the interests and future of Singapore, the more questions are being asked

There is no smoke without fire. Unless he says or does something to douse the flames, speculation will mount and conjecture will build up.