SINGAPORE: Five senior members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) stepped down from its Central Executive Committee (CEC), party secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday (Nov 11).
They are: Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as Dr Yaacob Ibrahim and Mr Lim Swee Say.
He was speaking at the PAP’s awards and conference, where the party elected a new slate of members into its CEC – the highest decision-making body in the party.
Dr Yaacob and Mr Lim had retired from the Cabinet earlier this year following a reshuffle.
In his speech, Mr Lee said that while Mr Khaw, Mr Teo and Mr Tharman have stepped down from the CEC, they will remain in Cabinet.
With the CEC election on Sunday, Mr Lee said the party is taking a “major step in political renewal”. He said following the elections, the new CEC will meet within “a couple of weeks” to elect a new slate of office holders. In due course, he added, he would follow up with changes in the Cabinet lineup.
PM LEE “CANNOT DO JUSTICE TO THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS”
Describing Mr Khaw, Mr Tharman and Mr Teo as three of his “closest comrades-in-arms”, he said they go back a long way.
“We have fought many battles over the years, and gone through ups and downs together,” he said.
“I cannot do justice to the contributions of these five retiring CEC members in my speech this morning,” he added. “But all five have served the party with loyalty and distinction, and for that, we all owe them a big thank you.”
In his speech, he spoke of the individual contributions each of the five members made.
Every time Singapore faces a difficult challenge, whether in healthcare, housing or transport, Mr Lee said that Mr Khaw had “stepped up to tackle it”.
“Boon Wan made progress on all these difficult problems, at the same time explaining to the public what he was doing, showing them that things were in good hands, and persuading them to be patient a little longer,” he said.
As party chairman, he added, Mr Khaw “did not make many fiery speeches”, but his work between elections “helped enormously” to make sure the party delivered on its promises, and therefore, got good election results.
DPM Tharman, he said, has played a major part in shaping Singapore’s new economic and social policies.
“Whether it is helping SMEs to upgrade their productivity, or coming up with the Special Employment Credit scheme, to help older workers stay employed, he provides not just the ideas, but vivid ways of explaining the essence of what they are, from trampolines to escalators.”
And DPM Teo had given Mr Lee “wise counsel” on the most difficult problems.
“I rely on his independent judgment and steady support on many matters,” he said. “He doesn’t hesitate to tackle spiky issues, and to take political flak on behalf of the team, especially at critical moments and during elections.”
Dr Yaacob strengthened the party’s support from the Malay community, and assured Malay Muslims that they are treated fairly in a multiracial society, said Mr Lee.
Mr Lim’s biggest strength, Mr Lee said, was his ability to relate to ordinary Singaporeans – not just with the “folksy, vivid slogans” that he coined, but with his “amazing persuasive skills” that he used for the “most difficult issues”, face-to-face with residents.
4G LEADERSHIP TEAM HAS WHAT IT TAKES TO LEAD SINGAPORE
At the conference, PAP party cadres also voted for members of the new CEC.
Three fourth generation (4G) leaders identified as potential successors to PM Lee - Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat – were among the 12 members who were voted in.
Mr Lee described the 4G leadership as a team of “able men and women”, with a “good combination of skills among them”.
He said the 4G team has been in Cabinet for several years and has been tested in several portfolios, adding that they are working with each other and learning to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“They are gaining experience, willing to serve, and most importantly, with their hearts in the right place,” he said. “I can see them gelling as a team, and am confident that they have what it takes to lead Singapore.”
Mr Lee added that this party conference may be the last one before the next General Election.
“The new CEC will be leading the party into the final stretch, gearing up to put our record before voters,” he said.
“The PAP must win the GE convincingly.”
Mr Tharman said it has been a privilege for him to serve on the PAP’s CEC since 2002, a year after he entered politics,
Describing the events as a "major transition" in the PAP, he added that he, Mr Khaw and Mr Teo stepped down from the CEC to create space for the 4G team to take on leading roles.
In a Facebook post, Mr Tharman said: "I share PM’s confidence in the 4G team. I have worked closely with them, some for many years.
"They are capable, will work well as a team, and most importantly, have their hearts in the right place. They are in politics because they want to help Singaporeans, especially ordinary folk, achieve what they want for themselves and their children.
"I am sure they will also ensure the PAP remains a broad tent, bringing in diverse views, and will stay in tune with the changing needs and aspirations of Singaporeans."