When it was announced 2 years ago (23 Apr 2019) that Heng Swee Keat will become Deputy Prime Minister from 1 May 2019 in a move to prepare him to become the next prime minister of Singapore, Heng said he was “honoured” and promised to “do my very best” to fulfill the responsibility to serve Singaporeans.
At the time, he wrote on his Facebook page, “I am honoured by PM’s trust and will do my very best, together with my colleagues, to fulfil our responsibility to serve Singapore and Singaporeans.”
“We have a strong and united team in place – not only in the Cabinet but as a whole Singapore society,” he added.
“I am also constantly inspired and encouraged by my residents in Tampines, and of course by Singaporeans here and abroad. All of us in this team are excited to work together and forge ahead for you. We look forward to partnering with all Singaporeans for Singapore.”
In another statement, he also reiterated that he was deeply honored by the trust and confidence of PM Lee and his Cabinet colleagues in entrusting him with the DPM appointment.
Throws in the towel in less than 2 years
But yesterday (8 Apr), Heng publicly threw in the towel and announced that he will no longer consider taking up the prime minister position (‘Heng Swee Keat throws in the towel as touted successor to Singapore premiership‘).
In his official letter to PM Lee, Heng who noted that he would be 60 this year, said that he would have “too short of a runway” to become the next PM as he would be in his mid-60s when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“I would have too short a runway should I become the next prime minister then,” he said.
“We need a leader who will not only rebuild Singapore post-COVID-19, but also lead the next phase of our nation-building effort.”
PM Lee who is currently 69, replied that he understood and respected Heng’s decision.
Separately, the next generation of leaders — the fourth-generation (4G) leadership — said in a statement yesterday that they would “need more time to select another leader from among us” given their priority to handle the country’s pressing immediate challenges and ensure that Singapore emerges stronger from the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have therefore requested PM Lee Hsien Loong to stay on as Prime Minister until such time when a new successor is chosen by the team and is ready to take over. We are grateful that PM has agreed to our request,” the statement read.