For 16 years running, Singapore’s supreme power couple have been Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and wife Ho Ching. The year that PM Lee took the top job in 2004 was the year his wife became Temasek CEO.
Singaporeans often wondered what the country would be like after Lee Kuan Yew. Since his passing in 2015, there has been no change in one key respect – the Lee family, notwithstanding the feuding and acrimony, continues to wield the greatest power in the country.
Will we see another Lee in politics, to cement the dominance of the family?
For that to happen, history would have to repeat itself.
Another seat-warmer Prime Minister?
Heng Swee Keat is slated to take over from PM Lee sometime after the next general election. Will Heng emulate Goh Chok Tong, Singapore’s second Prime Minister?
Goh was snuggled in between father and son – in the shadow of Lee Kuan Yew while warming the seat for Lee Hsien Loong.
When Heng takes over as PM, he would most likely find himself in the shadow of Lee Hsien Loong, keeping a watchful eye as Senior Minister or Minister Mentor. The question is who could be waiting in the wings to take over the hot seat.
There is constant speculation that Li Hongyi, son of PM Lee and Ho Ching, is that special one.
Will PM Lee’s siblings be proven right?
The spectre of Li Hongyi entering politics was first raised by Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling. In 2017, they alleged that their brother was grooming his son for a political career. PM Lee called it an “absurd claim” while Li Hongyi said he had “no interest in politics.”
But Li Shengwu, son of Lee Hsien Yang, gave this rebuttal: “He (Li Hongyi) only said he has no interest in politics, but my uncle Lee Hsien Loong also once said he wasn’t interested in politics when he was in his 20s. These words can easily be taken back.”
Li Hongyi’s star has been quietly rising. In the latter part of last year, as Deputy Director of statutory board Government Technology Agency (GovTech), he was given the extraordinary latitude of founding a new unit within GovTech, with its own branding and website.
Li Hongyi is now Director of the unit called Open Government Products, which builds and deploys software products and services such as Parking.sg, FormSG and ISOMER.
If history is to repeat itself, we could see Heng Swee Keat playing mentor and seat-warmer to Li Hongyi when he enters politics.
Not at anyone’s behest
Goh Chok Tong took pains to emphasise that when he roped Lee Hsien Loong into politics, it was “not at Lee Kuan Yew’s behest.”
Similarly, whoever ropes Li Hongyi into politics, be it Heng or another Minister, could easily say that it was not at Lee Hsien Loong’s behest.
It’s not only Singaporeans who engage in speculation. International media such as Nikkei Asian Review have also predicted that Li Hongyi is expected to be mentored to be Singapore’s 5G Prime Minister.
Li Hongyi turns 33 this month. His father was 32 when he entered politics.
Despite the denials, will the son of PM Lee be fielded as a People’s Action Party candidate in the upcoming general election? Wouldn’t a COVID-19 election present the perfect opportunity?