SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday (Sep 28) "categorically" ruled himself out from becoming Prime Minister.
"Just to be absolutely clear, because I know there's this talk going around ... I'm not the man for PM, I say that categorically. It's not me," he told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of the Wong Fong Industries Building.
"I know myself, I know what I can do and it's not me. I'm good at policy-making, good at advising my younger colleagues and supporting the PM, not being the PM. That's not my ambition and that's not me," he said.
"Just think back to our early years, when we had people like Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Rajaratnam. Their contributions to Singapore were immense, and till today they are in a league of their own, but even they would not have been ideal as a Prime Minister," DPM Tharman said.
"I mention them as illustration. I myself and no one in future is going to come close to Dr Goh and Rajaratnam’s contributions to Singapore, but even they would not have been ideal as Prime Minister."
Mr Tharman also emphasised that Singapore's Cabinet operates "as a team", "not as a group of individuals".
"Whoever’s the next Prime Minister will be part of this team culture. He or she would be first amongst equals, first among equals in a team," he said. "We each find a way to contribute to Singapore, that matches our strengths, and we each contribute to a strong team."
Mr Tharman added that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's team has been focused on building up the fourth generation of leaders to take over in the next term of Government.
"We have a good team. We have a strong team in the fourth generation - each with strengths and weaknesses but together I would say a strong team and they can count on some of us in the third generation to stay around and support them - that too is important," Mr Tharman said.
DPM Tharman has expressed similar sentiments when asked about his political future. At the SG50+ conference last year, he said: “We all have our preferences, and I was always in sports, centre-half rather than centre-forward; I enjoy playing half-back and making the long passes, but I am not the striker unless I am forced to be. And I don't think I'll be forced to it because I think we've got choices."