SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party (PAP) cannot afford a succession gap in East Coast in "these uncertain times", Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday (Jun 30), after his move from Tampines GRC to East Coast GRC was revealed.
He will be taking over as anchor minister from former East Coast GRC MP Lim Swee Say, who retired from the Cabinet in 2018 and is now stepping down as an MP.
"About 18 months back, I had a long dinner with Swee Say," wrote Mr Heng on Facebook after having his candidacy confirmed. "In his usual way, he spoke at length about everything he was passionate about. Especially his concerns and hopes for the residents of East Coast, where he has been serving as MP since 2011."
He said he had a discussion with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after this talk, as both Mr Lim and Mr Lim's fellow East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan would be stepping down, leaving East Coast with a succession gap.
"The question was: should I move to East Coast? I thought long and hard about it. After serving for almost a decade, I am very attached to Tampines and the people there," said Mr Heng, who has been MP in Tampines GRC since 2011.
"But Tampines has a very good team," Mr Heng continued. "The MPs have been working well together, and with the residents. If I move, Tampines residents will still be well taken care of. I have every confidence that Masagos Zulkifli and the rest of the team can lead Tampines to new heights. I have a strong successor in Koh Poh Koon."
Dr Koh has served as an MP in Ang Mo Kio GRC since 2015, after losing Punggol East SMC to WP's Lee Li Lian in the 2013 by-election.
"If I move, I can do my part in East Coast. We cannot afford a gap in East Coast in these uncertain times," said Mr Heng. "We need a full team that can take care of the residents and position them to come out of this crisis stronger than before. I told PM, I will move to East Coast."
Mr Heng will be standing for East Coast GRC alongside Senior Minister of State Maliki Osman, Ms Cheryl Chan, Ms Jessica Tan and new face Mr Tan Kiat How, former chief executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority.
Mr Heng's team goes up against Workers' Party members Nicole Seah, an associate director at a multinational marketing group, Singapore Cancer Society deputy director Kenneth Foo, banker Dylan Ng, lawyer Terence Tan and former researcher Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim.
Mr Heng was previously MP in Tampines GRC since 2011, while East Coast GRC was helmed by former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, along with Lee Yi Shyan, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman and Ms Jessica Tan Soon Neo.
In 2015, PAP won East Coast GRC with 60.73 per cent of votes against a team from WP, while it won Tampines GRC with 72.06 per cent of votes against the National Solidaty Party.
"Our team looks forward to working together with our residents, to get through this crisis safely, to continue to build the East Coast spirit of care and support for one another, and to emerge stronger," said Mr Heng. "We will build on the good work by Swee Say, Yi Shyan, and the team. There is so much to learn, and I will work hard to learn it."