SINGAPORE: Singapore’s fourth generation (4G) leaders have taken a stronger hold of the People’s Action Party (PAP) Central Executive Committee (CEC) following the party’s internal elections held on Sunday morning (Nov 11), with several senior leaders stepping down.
The three 4G leaders identified as potential successors to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when he steps down – Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat – were all among 12 members who were voted in by PAP cadres.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam as well as Health Minister Gan Kim Yong were among the more senior members remaining in the CEC.
Other 4G leaders elected by cadres to the CEC, the party's highest decision-making body, were:
Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu;
Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli;
Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan;
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng;
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, and
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo were co-opted into the CEC.
PM Lee is likely to remain secretary-general and lead the party through the next General Election, which must be called by April 2021.
READ: DPMs Tharman, Teo Chee Hean among 5 senior PAP members to step down from Central Executive Committee
He has been the PAP's secretary-general since 2004, a position held by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Mr Lee Kuan Yew when they were Prime Ministers.
Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan stepped down from the CEC, as did assistant secretaries-general Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. The three will continue to serve in Prime Minister Lee’s Cabinet.
Former Cabinet ministers Lim Swee Say and Yaacob Ibrahim also stepped down from the CEC.
President Halimah Yacob, who was a member of the previously-elected CEC, had in August 2017 resigned from the party to stand as a candidate for the Elected Presidency.
The election for the party’s highest decision-making body was conducted at the Singapore Expo by around 2,000 of the party’s cadres.
With the CEC election on Sunday, Mr Lee said in his speech to the party conference that the PAP was taking a “major step in political renewal”. He said following the elections, the new CEC would meet within “a couple of weeks” to elect a new slate of office holders.
"A HANDING OVER OF THE BATON"
Speaking to reporters after the announcement of the CEC, Ms Indranee said being part of the CEC is a "heavy responsibility" and is something that has to be done for Singaporeans.
She also paid tribute to the five senior members who stepped down from the CEC.
"The first thing I should say is that we’re very grateful to the five who have served for so long and chose selflessly to step down, because they still have so much more to contribute.
"But in the spirit of self renewal they voluntarily agreed to step down and to allow younger ones to take on the responsibility. So it's basically a handing over of the baton and understanding that we want the transition to be smooth, to be seamless," she added.
Dr Yaacob, one of the five who has stepped down from the CEC, expressed confidence in the ability of the new leaders to "come together as a team" and lead the party into the next election.
"I think whatever it is we have to get prepared for the next election. I think this transition is a very important part of that plan to make sure that the 4G ministers are not only in charge of the CEC but ready to plan for the next GE. This is their GE, as mentioned by PM, and this is something in which they have to come together.
"I have confidence in the 4G ministers. I've worked with them in Cabinet, I know who they are and what they're capable of doing," he added.
Senior member of the CEC Mr Shanmugam added that the 4G leaders in the new committee have worked together, both before and after they joined politics.
"Many of them are holding key positions. So I think they hold a lot of promise. That process has got to be quickened and they’ve just got to take on and shoulder the responsibilities," he added.
In response to a question on the positions of the members of the new CEC, Mr Shanmugam said it will be decided when the elected members meet.
"My personal view is the lineup, particularly the assistant secretary-general (posts), should reflect the future," he said.