Photo of Heng Swee Keat from thestraitstimes

Former Finance Minister and unofficial “Prime Minister understudy” Heng Swee Keat is getting unwarranted praises and tributes while he remains sedated in the hospital bed after suffering a sudden stroke in the brain.

The Singapore government set up a “well-wishes table” for ruling party PAP supporters, mostly organised by the People’s Association (PA) grassroots, to offer their tributes. PAP Ministers and MPs each take their turn to offer eulogies-like praises about how “hardworking” MP Heng Swee Keat was like as if he died. The newly-appointed Finance Minister who came out from his retirement, Tharman Shamugaratnam, even went as far to praise MP Heng Swee Keat as “the best in Singapore and someone we all aspire to be.” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s government even paid for 10 religious leaders to pray and offer their blessings at the hospital.

A by-election should constitutionally be the right thing to do given MP Heng Swee Keat’s inability to serve his constituent. If MP Heng Swee Keat really deserves the unwarranted praises he is getting, he should resign and up the MP spot up for other able politicians willing to serve. However, a by-election for Tampines GRC would realistically be a musical chair for the PAP because Singaporeans have expressed that they are willing to tolerate corruption as in the case of Bukit Batok SMC by-election. A contest even by the Workers’ Party team would be futile, and hence making the by-election only a fulfillment of a democracy’s obligation.

MP Heng Swee Keat’s stroke may sadly mark an abrupt end to his political career, but the person feeling a greater loss is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who has ran out of options. None of his new PAP MPs are economically-trained, and his new men like Tan Chuan Jin, Ng Chee Meng and Chan Chun Sing are more brawn than brains. Given Singaporeans’ penchant for the lightning logo, the country is likely to vote in a “Donald Trump” as Lee Hsien Loong scrap the bottom of the barrel pushing a “B-grade” Prime Minister candidate so he can retire. After all, any new Prime Minister candidate appointed now can only be second class to Heng Swee Keat.

Despite so, even the death of Heng Swee Keat may actually not be a loss to Singapore either. After all, the man is just another cog in the PAP mechanism. Replacing Heng Swee Keat is as easy as getting another party loyalist. Directing the Finance Ministry is as easy as following the advice of the numerous economics scholars working in the Ministry. The golden standard of a Minister is to listen and follow every word of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The political brain drain in Singapore is however fortunately limited to the ruling party PAP, as well-educated men like Rhodes scholar Chen Show Mao prefer to put their talent into better use with Opposition parties which are credible.