Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was appointed as the first assistant secretary-general of the People’s Action Party (PAP) last Friday (23 Nov) after much speculation as to which one of the fourth generation (4G) leaders will succeed Mr Lee as Prime Minister.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, one of the 4G leaders who was initially rumoured to be a candidate to the premiership post, was picked as second assistant secretary-general.
PM Lee remains PAP’s secretary general.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli were appointed as the ruling party’s chairman and vice-chairman respectively.
Law Minister K Shanmugam and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung were chosen as the party’s treasurer and assistant treasurer respectively.
The 4G PAP leaders who took up the posts of organising secretaries are Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu and Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee.
In a Facebook post on the PAP’s page last Friday, PM Lee labelled the election of the new CEC as “a major step forward in our political renewal”.
He added that “Leadership transition is always a complex and delicate matter,” which is why “the younger ministers themselves must decide who is to lead them, as they have done in this process.”
“This way, they will give their full support to the leader whom they themselves have chosen,” said Mr Lee, adding that he fully supports “the decision of the younger team, and am happy with this outcome.”
Touching on the appointment of Mr Heng, PM Lee said: “They [the younger ministers and political office holders] have reached a consensus that Heng Swee Keat will be their leader.
“In turn, Heng Swee Keat has asked Chan Chun Sing to be his number two. Chun Sing has agreed, and the younger team has endorsed Swee Keat’s decision.
“It was therefore natural for the CEC to elect the two of them as 1st and 2nd Assistant Secretaries General,” said PM Lee.
PM Lee added: “I have known and worked with Swee Keat and Chun Sing for some years now, and watched them grow in their different responsibilities. They have complementary strengths, and make a strong pairing.”
Commenting on the political succession by the 4G leaders in general, PM Lee said: “A smooth transition to the new team to lead us beyond the next elections is important not only for the PAP, but also for Singapore’s future.
“The older Ministers and I will do our best to help the new team succeed. As I told the Party conference, I will announce Cabinet changes in due course,” assured PM Lee.
Mr Heng a “careful, deliberate person” and a person of “the utmost integrity”: Law Minister K Shanmugam
Expressing his confidence and optimism regarding the 4G leadership team which will be under the helm of Mr Heng and Mr Chan, Law Minister K Shanmugam said last Sunday (25 Nov) that Mr Heng “works very hard” and is “brilliant,” on top of being “very empathetic.”
Speaking to media after the official ceremony of the opening of a community healthcare centre in Khatib, he added that Mr Heng “does not just look at (these problems) from a top level”.
“(Instead), he wants to understand the deeper reasons why people have come to some views.
“He asks for viewpoints from different people, and then he comes to a decision,” said Mr Shanmugam.
“Many others (in the party) have similar qualities… they will combine as a team.”
Citing Mr Heng and Mr Chan’s humble backgrounds, Mr Shanmugam also highlighted that both 4G leaders embody the “true Singapore spirit” of upward mobility and meritocracy.
Mr Heng hailed from a modest family in Bukit Merah, while Mr Chan was raised in a rental flat by a single mother.
“You can start (from a humble background) and reach the very top,” said Mr Shanmugam in reference to the two 4G leaders’ upbringing.
While he noted that the team of 4G PAP leaders have been putting in a lot of effort in their work, Mr Shanmugam suggested that the team can be “further strengthened by bringing in more people during the next elections”.
“I think people might remember when Swee Keat had his stroke, I put up a post that advised him that he is working too hard and that it was not sustainable to work at that pace. But he is back to working very hard,” said Mr Shanmugam.
Mr Heng suffered a stroke in May two years ago, and was not able to carry out his duties for several months as a result. However, Mr Heng said last Friday that that he had made a “very good recovery”, adding that his health is “better than before”.
Mr Shanmugam, who is the second longest serving Member of Parliament in the CEC just after PM Lee, said — in response to queries regarding his upcoming role in the new CEC — that the leadership transition “is about a collective team,” and “not about the individual.”