So April 8 2021 was a day of shock for Singapore.
The presumptive PM-apparent/PM in waiting/PM designate Mr Heng Swee Keat announced that he would not be taking up the PMship after all, and would rather another younger person be the PM-designate. His reason, or his publicly stated reason was that he was 60 years old this year, and by the time the Covid-19 crisis was settled he would be close to his mid-60s. He would have limited time to provide leadership and stability for Singapore.
In other words, he had already been selected as the next PM of Singapore. If he had just coasted along, taking things one day at a time, and just making sure that he doesn't screw up big time, he would be Singapore's 4th PM.
But he had to go and think about whether he was the right person (at the right age) to lead Singapore.
And decided that Singapore needed a younger PM, with a "longer runway" to lead Singapore through these unprecedented (Covid-19) times.
Meanwhile, in the US, the most incompetent POTUS ever is clamouring for his old job. For him, POTUS is a power to be desired, an achievement, a glory for his self-aggrandisement.
He does not understand that Leadership is a responsibility to be taken on with ponderous deliberation and humility. A wise man would be humbled by the task. A less than wise man - a fool - may rush in where wiser men - angels(?) - fear to tread.
Mr Heng realises that what he faces is not just personal glory, but great responsibility. The reasons he gave (being too old) is plausible. After all , the current PM is already 69 years old, and he wanted to hand over the PM-ship 5 years ago. If Mr Heng took up the PM-ship within the next 2 years, he would have to start planning to hand-over almost immediately! In fact, with Singapore's (and the PAP's) penchant for planning way in advance, he would already be thinking about his successor, and that may well have been triggered his decision.
For reference, Lee Kuan Yew became PM in 1959, at the age of 36. (It was a different time then).
Goh Chok Tong was 49.
Lee Hsien Loong was 52.
So Mr Heng's point about his age is relevant and plausible. (Though I wonder if he might have other perhaps more personal or private reasons...)
Of course you are free to speculate that the drop in support for the PAP in GE 2020 was a pertinent consideration for Mr Heng.
Even if that were true, it just speaks to Mr Heng's consideration for the will of the people. If that speculation is that the lower support of the voters were a reflection of their lack of confidence in Mr Heng as PM-designate, then his stepping down would be in response to the will of the people.
However, if Mr Heng were like most politician and in it for personal glory, why would he care for the will of the people? He was already the "crown prince". He would become PM regardless.
But he chose to step aside, step down.
Because he would not have enough time to give Singapore the stable leadership and "long runway" that would need.
Of course if he were like Mahathir, he would think perhaps he could go as PM until he was 90.
That's Mahathir for you. And that's Malaysia for you - In the face of great challenges, they turn to the past.
And remember, all Mr Heng had to do to become PM, if that was the most important thing for him, was to stay the course, don't rock the boat, and all will be handed to him on a silver platter.
That he made this decision, that he decided NOT to "stay the course", that he "ROCKED the boat", suggests that becoming PM was NOT the most important thing for him.
[Which begs the question: what is more important? And if you have to ask that, the answer is not going to be obvious to you.]
With Mr Heng's decision, the question of who will be the PM toss these four candidates:
- Chan Chun Sing is 52 this year (2021)
- Desmond Lee is 45.
- Lawrence Wong is 49.
- Ong Ye Kung, also 52
And because the media is used to conflict, controversy, and drama, or because selling newspapers or getting eyeballs behooves them to dress up all issues in colours of confrontation and contentious drama, they have to drum up the false drama of a shaky succession, or the dilemma of a derailed (or deranged?) DPM. [Hey! I may have a future in newspapers!]
Yes, this is a serious issue.
More serious than Covid-19. Because Covid-19 is in the process of being tamed and contained (even if it cannot be completely eliminated).
But Singapore's next PM will be someone who should be leading Singapore for the next 20 years.
Covid-19 will pass. In 5 years time, we might still talk about it, but it would not (or should not) dominate and dictate our lives as it is doing right now.
But the PM would be leading the team to guide Singapore's development.
For a decade or two.
But though it is a serious question, it is not a troubling issue for the ordinary Singaporean. The PM is the person that the cabinet ministers have the most confidence in working with them. Primus inter pares - first among equals. The PM of Singapore accorded the honour of leading the cabinet by virtue of the respect the other members of the cabinet have for his leadership.
For those who do not understand this, they think that the PM is for the voters to select.
This is misguided and a misunderstanding of how a Westmister parliamentary system works. Voters elect their Members of Parliament (MP). The party with a majority of MPs gets to form the government. The winning party then gets to choose their ministers and the Prime Minister. The electorate does not elect the PM directly.
So then there is the "opposition view": that Singaporeans are apathetic about who the ruling party chooses to be PM. Because, regardless of who is chosen, the lives of ordinary Singaporeans will still be bad, they will still be ignored, and they will still be trampled on by the monolithic and unfeeling PAP.
Which is why they keep voting the PAP back into power.
Which is why the opposition cannot make inroads.
In every open democracy, there are two ways you can vote. The first way is via the ballot. If the govt of the day has not delivered, and enough of the voters feel that way, come Polling Day, they will vote out that govt (assuming a clean election).
If the polls don't go your way (maybe its rigged. Maybe the brainless sheeple dun know what's good for them. Maybe there were no viable options amongst the opposition.), you have the second way: vote with your feet.
If the sheeple in this flawed democracy CANNOT see what you see, CANNOT recognise the govt of the day for the crooks that they are, and CANNOT vote their conscience (because they have none?) then the RIGHT thing for you to do is to find a place where you can be happy (or happier), where you can live free (or at least more affordably), and where you can be RESPECTED as a human being (or at least have your human rights respected) and not be treated as sheep.
Here (on your choice of Social Media), you can let your fingers do the talking, but if you're being silenced at the ballots, then you should let your feet do the walking.
Or you can continue to let your fingers do the talking.
It's a good pastime.
Anyway, two weeks or so after the bombshell from Mr Heng, the PM has announced a cabinet reshuffle (because Mr Heng is also relinquishing his Finance Minister portfolio), and it is telling that Mr Lawrence Wong has been named Finance Minister.
At least, it seemed to suggests that he is the lead contender to be PM-designate.
Though that has not been formally announced.