Heng Swee Keat continued to meet residents in his East Coast GRC meet-the-people session (MPS) on April 12, 2021, the first following his surprise announcement on April 8 that he was stepping aside.
When the former prime minister-in-waiting arrived, it was impossible to ignore the excited murmurs emanating from residents, who took queue numbers and waited their turn outside the PCF Sparkletots at 30 Upper Changi Road.
With the attention on him, Heng scanned his temperature and turned to the waiting residents.
“I passed,” he quipped with a chuckle before heading inside.
It was, for him, business as usual.
Heng reassured residents
Earlier, Heng had gone about his normal routine, starting at the Community Centre where he met with his volunteers.
Together they ate dinner before setting off on his habitual pre-MPS walkabout.
Even as residents greeted Singapore's deputy prime minister, there was no doubt as to the hot topic on some minds.
With Heng taking himself out of the running to be the next prime minister, and deciding to relinquish his portfolio as finance minister, some residents were worried about what this meant for their ward.
“Are you going to leave?” asked one man.
The message to that resident, and to all the other residents that evening, was simple: Heng was not going anywhere.
He chatted with some groups and reassured them, saying, "I'm still here, I'm still your MP."
Heng repeated his message in his Facebook post also on April 12, thanked volunteers for their dedication, and thanked residents for their care and concern.
Residents feel it is his choice
A couple waiting outside the MPS said they had “no idea” how to feel about the announcement as they discussed how much of a surprise it was to them.
“Ultimately it’s his decision,” said the woman, in her 40s.
“It’s his individual choice and we must respect that,” added her husband.
About three hours after he first entered the Sparkletots centre, Heng exited, seemingly in high spirits.
Clasped in his hands were “thank you” cards, given to him by residents.
Top image by Andrew Koay.