Lawrence Wong will be the next Prime Minister if PAP wins the next general election: PM Lee

A new way of choosing the 4G leader.

Sulaiman Daud | April 16, 2022, 04:12 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates:

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shed some light on the developments leading up to the selection of Finance Minister Lawrence Wong as the new leader of the "4G" leadership.

In 2021, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat decided to step aside after being selected as the next leader.

The ministers told PM Lee they needed more time to settle the matter and he said yes, adding "get Covid done first."

"After Covid was coming under control...I decided this thing cannot wait. Time is passing, we have to settle the matter, uncertainty is not good," PM Lee said.

"So last year, towards the end of the year, I told the ministers and I said at the party convention, now that Covid is coming under control, we have to deal with this matter," he added.

'People must be able to speak honestly': PM Lee on selection process

PM Lee discussed with some of the ministers how they should proceed, to get the selection done in a systematic and thorough way that encourages candour, introspection and objectivity, yet without impairing mutual relations and trust among the team.

"People must be able to speak honestly, to express their view of the strengths and weaknesses of the different potential candidates. And to speak frankly - what do they worry about, what do they feel comfortable about, whom they would like to support.

But do it in such a way that the views can be put together, if there are different views...if there are different concerns...then the concerns can be surfaced without it being a personalised 'I like you, I don't like you' manner.

And then people can think it over again and maybe reconsider their conclusion, but we want you to be in a collective, dispassionate, almost zen state of mind where you say 'I think, for Singapore, this is the best choice'. Putting aside personal preferences, ambitions and biases.

And we felt that a more systematic way of doing this rather than we all sit down and nod our heads politely, is to have a process, and we concluded that Mr Khaw Boon Wan is the best person to lead the process."

PM Lee called it a "heavy responsibility" for former Transport Minister and PAP party chairman Khaw to undertake.

PM Lee also explained that NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng was also consulted because "NTUC is important" and Ng was involved in the previous decision to choose Heng Swee Keat, and Tan Chuan-Jin because he was also involved in that decision, and is the Speaker of Parliament.

He added that this was a different way of choosing the new leader, but it "worked".

Consequential choice

PM said that the process led by Khaw started after the conclusion of the Budget debate in March.

Khaw gave more details on the process, as he interviewed the 19 stakeholders (ministers, NTUC Sec-Gen and Speaker) individually.

He said,

"He stressed that we approach this choice in the right spirit. We are trying to make a very consequential choice: who would be best able to unite the team, make the most of the different strengths of the ministers, provide the leadership to both the team and to Singapore, and give ourselves the best chance of continuing to succeed.

PM told me that my task was not only to ascertain who has the strongest support from the ministers, but to do so in such a way as to foster a consensus and bring the team together.

I therefore took a team building approach to facilitate forthright and candid discussions of each potential candidate's strengths and weaknesses. Our overriding objective is to promote unity, and to ensure a strong 4G team to lead Singapore forward."

Timeline for handover

Answering a question from the media about the timing of the handover and succession, PM Lee said he is "looking forward to handing over to Lawrence, once he's ready" as he is "already 70".

He added that it will be done "carefully and deliberately", but the settling of the succession is an important step in the leadership renewal.

One factor to take into account about when the transition will take place is the next general election, due by 2025.

PM Lee said he will later discuss with Wong the best strategy to fight the next election.

"Whether for me to handover to him first, he consolidates, he leads (the team) into the next election, it's clearly the 4G team and will be in charge after the next election.

Or I go into the next election leading the PAP, fight the next election, win, and if we win, after that, Lawrence takes over, and then the 4G team goes forward.

It will depend on how things evolve, it's something we will decide later on. But either way, our plan is for Lawrence to be the next PM, if the PAP wins the next GE. That has been settled.

And the reaction from the public over the last two days shows that I think, many people are happy we've taken this decision, and are happy with this decision."

Top image from PMO YouTube.

Follow and listen to our podcast here