Heng Swee Keat has stepped aside at 60 because he finds the runway too short. But the runway for 69-year-old Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been extended for as long as COVID-19 is alive and kicking.
We are confronted with the greatest of mysteries: What makes PM Lee such an indispensable force for the COVID-19 pandemic? What exceptional skills does he bring to the fight?
Announcing a cabinet reshuffle on 23 April, PM Lee said it was timely because the COVID-19 situation had become more stable.
He was dead wrong. Two weeks later, on 8 May, a spate of COVID-19 cases in the community led to stricter measures. And now we suddenly find ourselves in the dire situation of no dining in and social gatherings capped at two, with ever more restrictions introduced by the day. And with a new Health Minister at the helm!
How did PM Lee get it so wrong? How did we get from stable to unstable/volatile/critical situation in such a short time?
Remember, too, that in March last year, PM Lee urged Singaporeans to “go about our lives as normally as possible” by visiting local attractions and trying out staycations. He said that “the situation is under control” and unlike elsewhere “we are not locking down our city.”
He gave utterly bad advice. We know what happened the following month – a nationwide lockdown termed a circuit breaker was imposed.
When there was an explosion of cases in migrant worker dormitories, we were given a litany of excuses.
The latest one is that the “virulent” mutant virus “broke through” Changi Airport defences.
In truth, the virus did not creep in stealthily. The gates were wide open to welcome the virus with open arms despite the massive risks, danger signals and cries of the people.
As citizens, we can only hope and pray that they get it right. But if we have a situation of ownself excuse ownself, and mistakes are never acknowledged, then how can we possibly expect them to learn from past mistakes?
In this country, the buck does not stop with the ministers, and certainly not the Prime Minister. Tragically, the buck stops with Singaporeans who are made to suffer.