by Joseph Nathan
It must be hard for Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat to announce that he is not going to be Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s successor.
At GE2020, Singaporeans were as surprised as Heng on Nomination Day when he was moved from Tampines GRC to East Coast GRC.
By then, it was clear to him that his days in People’s Action Party (PAP) were numbered.
Heng is a typical public servant, one who will work diligently and stay out of trouble type. He was simply too honest and competent to be just another “soulless” politician for the 4G (4th Generation) PAP.
On matters of economic, finance and public policy, it is clear that Heng is competent, unlike many of his 4G PAP politicians, who are outright incompetent and arrogant. Nobody in their right mind will argue otherwise.
As such, Singaporeans were generally not sold when Heng tried using his age as an excuse to justify why he is stepping down.
This and other justifications by the PAP can be seen as a “managed” public relation exercise at best and begets the question, why?
Did he simply get tired of waiting for Lee to step down or has he lost faith in his 4G peers and their politicking?
A Divided PAP:
Until Lee step down and hand over his premiership, there will be some degree of power struggle within the PAP, and with unlimited access of money, internal politicking within the current 4G PAP is to be expected.
Using a broad stroke, the 4G PAP can be divided between the ex-generals at one end and those from the private and public sectors at the other end, with a few strays in the middle.
Heng is obviously at the opposite end to the ex-generals.
If competent politicians like Heng are busy working to earn their keeps, one does wonder what will be the main preoccupation of those incompetent politicians.
Concerned Singaporeans have already initiated petitions against Chan Chun Sing, an ex-general, as they do not see him fit to be the replacement for Heng.
Chan is looking like he may just be the most hated politician of the 4G PAP, and based on the endless comments online, there are several valid reasons raised that Lee ought to consider seriously if he values honest feedbacks from concerned Singaporeans.
More Than Meets The Eye?
When Heng claimed that he will not take on any job if he cannot do it well, it opens up the probability that there may be some “undue” constraints than meet the eye, and his stepping down may be his way of adverting any failure on his part to do what is right and good for Singapore.
Is that why Heng is relinquishing his portfolio as Finance Minister because he think his recent budget could be more pro-Singaporean rather than pro-GLCs?
Successor Of Successor:
In itself, such a scenario has low traction but when the sudden talk of a need to have a longer runway, and his excuse of age is to be reinterpreted, then these statements collectively may be a hint that Lee may be already grooming someone much younger to be the successor of his successor.
If so, then the immediate successor to Lee may just be an interim maneuver to prepare the stage for someone who Lee thinks is going to lead Singapore into greater greatness, just like his father, the late Lee Kuan Yew.
Is this even remotely possible?
If so, then this “successor of successor” must be someone with exceptional intelligence and must have greatly impressed Lee.
If there is indeed such a great talent concealed within the PAP, then this person is most probably in his thirties or near forty.
I use “his” as PAP is too conservative a party to be pushing for a female prime minister now or in the foreseeable future.
That means none of the hopefuls currently in waiting to succeed Heng, could be this highly prized successor of Lee.
So who could this be?
If the stage is indeed being set for the possibility of such a “successor of successor”, then Lee is likely to pick a weak immediate successor for obvious reasons.
If this remote possibility should come true, then Lee may just ignore the petitions of concerned Singaporeans and pick Chan instead as his immediate successor so that this future successor will have a much easier time when he finally takes over from Chan.
But if all these were to be even remotely possible, then Lee must be applauded for being shrewd enough to be strategising such an elaborate plan that literally kills two birds with one stone.
If true, then it is obvious that Lee has been pretty busy putting together a new game plan for the next General Election and is confident about winning big.
Otherwise, all such painstaking efforts of his may just go to waste if he falters at the next GE.
Reality Check – More Pressing Matters At Hand:
Whatever the reason that prompted Heng to resign or however great a succession plan Lee may have, l hope he and the many hopeful “premier-in-waiting” have not forgotten that Singapore is still caught in a precarious economic crisis.
Singapore and Singaporeans are too hard-pressed socially and economically to be overly concerned about PAP’s failed succession plan or who is going to succeed Heng as ultimately, only Lee, and Lee alone, gets to decide on that.
As such, Lee and his 4G politicians should set aside any grand plan for now and dedicate all of their efforts and resources to help Singapore forward if they still believe that Singaporeans deserve better…