4G leaders ask Lee Hsien Loong to stay on as PM until a successor ready to take over

The 4G team asked for Singaporeans' support and understanding as they choose another leader.

Joshua Lee | April 08, 2021, 06:00 PM

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Singapore’s 4G leaders have issued a statement in response to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s announcement that he is stepping aside as the leader of the 4G leadership.

Below is a summary of the statement, with the full statement following after:

  • The 4G leadership respects and accepts Heng’s decision, noting that he did so with Singapore’s interest at heart.
  • They are glad that Heng will stay on as Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, noting that his experience will be beneficial in Singapore’s economic recovery.
  • Bringing Singapore out of the current crisis remains their “foremost priority” hence the 4G team needs more time to select a new leader among themselves.
  • The 4G team has requested PM Lee to stay on as prime minister until they choose a new successor to take over. PM Lee has agreed.
  • The team acknowledges that Singaporeans will be concerned about the setback in succession planning brought on by the "unexpected turn of events".
  • They seek Singaporeans' support and understanding as they choose another leader

4G leadership’s full statement

The statement was produced after a meeting attended by Cabinet ministers, senior ministers of state and ministers of state.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Secretary-General of NTUC Ng Chee Meng were present too.

"We respect and accept DPM Heng Swee Keat’s decision to stand aside as the leader of the 4G team. We appreciate what a difficult decision it must have been. But no one could have foreseen the disruption of Covid-19, the great uncertainty it has created, and its long-lasting impact. We know that he has made the decision with Singapore’s long-term interests at heart.

Over the past two years since he was appointed as DPM, Mr Heng has played a critical role in leading key initiatives of the Government – championing the Singapore Together movement, guiding our national R&D and economic restructuring efforts, and delivering five budgets in twelve months to protect lives and livelihoods in the midst of a global pandemic. Believing in the collective strength of our people, he has engaged individuals, communities and groups widely, and enabled their active participation in improving our economy and society.

We are glad that DPM Heng will remain a member of our team, and will continue in his roles as DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies. We have all benefitted from his experience and expertise, and we look forward to his continued advice and contributions as we navigate our recovery and chart Singapore’s path forward.

Tackling Singapore’s pressing immediate challenges and ensuring that Singapore emerges stronger from this crisis remains our foremost priority. Under these circumstances, the 4G team will need more time to select another leader from amongst us. 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.

This unexpected turn of events is a setback for our succession planning. We recognise that Singaporeans will be concerned. We seek your support and understanding, as we choose another leader for the team. We will continue working as a team to serve our people, and to earn the confidence and trust of all Singaporeans."

PM Lee: Succession cannot be put off indefinitely

In a press conference held this afternoon (April 8), PM Lee said that while the political leadership's immediate focus is on the health and economic crisis, they are conscious that "succession remains an urgent task and cannot be put off indefinitely".

"I think it will take longer than a few months, but I hope that they will reach a consensus and identify a new leader before the next General Election. I have no intention of staying on longer than necessary."

Heng Swee Keat: In best interests of nation to choose someone younger to tackle challenges ahead

In his letter to PM Lee, Heng said that given the current prolonged crisis that Singapore faces, it would be in the country's best interests to be led by a younger leader with a longer runway to train to become the next prime minister.

Heng, who is 60 this year, said that by the time the crisis is over, he would be in his mid-60s.

He added that while he is in good health today, he recognises that the top job imposes "exceptional demands" on the office holder, and they will be "even more exacting" in a post-Covid world.

"It is in the best interests of the nation, for someone who is younger to tackle the huge challenges ahead."

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Top image via Heng Swee Keat/Facebook