SINGAPORE: Whether Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong or Finance Minister Lawrence Wong will lead the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) into the next election will be decided later, said Mr Lee on Saturday (Apr 16).
Mr Lee was answering questions at a press conference at the Istana on Saturday morning about the timeline for Singapore’s leadership transition, following an announcement on Thursday that paved the way for Mr Wong to be the next Prime Minister.
Mr Lee, who is also PAP's secretary-general, had said in a statement that the Cabinet ministers affirmed their choice of Mr Wong as the leader of the fourth-generation or 4G team, after a process of consultation facilitated by former minister and ex-PAP chairman Khaw Boon Wan.
Mr Khaw, who was at the press conference with Mr Lee and Mr Wong, explained the process to the press and said that 15 out of 19 "stakeholders" he spoke to had chosen Mr Wong to lead the 4G team.
The stakeholders were the current Cabinet ministers, as well as Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng. The views of the Prime Minister and the two Senior Ministers were not sought.
When asked to elaborate on what comes next, Mr Lee said: “I will discuss with Lawrence, and we will decide later what the best strategy is for us to fight the next General Election - whether it is for me to hand over to him first, he consolidates, he leads into the next election as leader of 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, and if we win, after that Lawrence takes over, and then the 4G team goes forward."
Mr Lee said that it will depend on “how things evolve” and will be decided later. The next General Election has to be held by 2025.
“Either way, our plan is for Lawrence to be the next PM, if the PAP wins the next GE. That has been settled,” said Mr Lee.
“The reaction from the public over the last two days shows many people are happy that we have taken this decision, and are happy with the decision."
Said Mr Lee: “I'm already 70 and I'm looking forward to handing over to Lawrence once he is ready. This settling of the succession, we've already taken, is a very important step in the leadership renewal.”
Mr Wong was asked whether he feels some pressure bringing the team together as not all of the stakeholders polled picked him as their leader. He replied that he did not as there was an overwhelming majority that had selected him.
“As I had said, I am humbled and grateful for the support that everyone has given to me,” he said.
When asked about whether he feels the need to seek the people’s mandate – and perhaps bring forward the General Election, Mr Wong said that he is “fully aware that the mandate ultimately comes from the people” and he does not take that for granted.
“In due course, we will discuss, we will work out our strategy to fight the GE and we will work hard to fight for the privilege to serve the people of Singapore in Government,” he said.
“But for now, I will need time to consolidate, to discuss with the team to see what next steps we might take, how we would like to organise ourselves to tackle all the pressing challenges that I mentioned just now.”
He added that he is aware that Mr Lee would like to hand over the post soon and he will “bear that in mind”.
“When we seek to renew the mandate, we do so with the strongest possible team that is ready to take on the mantle of leadership – and that's how we ensure continuity and stability in our system,” he said.