Is Lawrence Wong destined to wait in vain like Heng Swee Keat?

Is Lawrence Wong destined to wait in vain like Heng Swee Keat?

by Augustine Low

In this country, you are called the Prime Minister-in-waiting for good reason – you need to wait and wait for your turn.

In the case of Heng Swee Keat, his turn never came despite all the waiting. He emerged as the PM-in-waiting after a long and winding process. Then he waited while he got tested until he finally threw in the towel, saying the runway was too short for him.

Now it’s Lawrence Wong’s turn to be the PM-in-waiting. He turns 51 this year, so he is 11 years younger than Heng and presumably has more time to wait.

Wong was heaped lavish praise for the handling of the COVID-19 crisis. But Heng also garnered plentiful ownself praise ownself and still he got stuck at PM-in-waiting.

What’s next for Lawrence Wong? The one who knows best is PM Lee Hsien Loong. Having expressed his wish several times to step down before his 70th birthday, he turned 71 last month without stepping down.

The reason PM Lee previously gave was COVID-19.

“A lot will depend on how events unfold and all I can say is I will see this (pandemic) through and I will handover in good shape as soon as possible to the next team,” he said back in 2020.

Singapore’s COVID-19 rules have been relaxed and the Multi-Ministry Taskforce has stood down, signifying the country’s emergence from the pandemic.

Yesterday in Parliament, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah was already speaking of a post-pandemic future. What is the post-pandemic plan for PM Lee on leadership succession?

Does he now want to see through the elected presidency, due to take place by September this year? He might also want to see through the next general election—due by end 2025. What next after that? Isn’t there always a next?

In any case, PM Lee seems to have taken his foot off the pedal for some time now. He has only spoken in Parliament once since the commencement of the 14th Parliament, has not participated in recent Parliamentary debates, and has shied away from personally addressing major issues like the Keppel bribery scandal.

When Jacinda Ardern, 42, resigned as PM of New Zealand recently, her successor, Chris Hipkins, 44, was identified quickly and sworn in as the new PM within a week. Just like that – sweet, sharp and decisive.

Here, Heng Swee Keat was made to wait until he lost hope. The People’s Action Party (PAP) and East Coast GRC lost ground in the last general election and it was a black mark on him and his leadership.

If Lawrence Wong is tasked to fight the next election and the PAP loses yet more ground, will the blame fall on him? Then he could go the way of Heng Swee Keat and PM Lee would have to delay his retirement yet again.

Can lightning strike twice?

It seems that lightning does have a habit of striking twice in this country. Due to the force of circumstance, Dr Tan Cheng Bock found himself ineligible to stand for the 2017 presidential election.

The turn of events in the Lee family saga means that Lee Hsien Yang could somehow find himself ineligible to stand for the 2023 presidential election.

Not surprising or shocking really. Just lightning striking again.

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