The recent ruling party PAP Central Executive Committee (CEC) selection handpicked by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have displaced 2 out of 4 potential candidates for the next premiership role.
Unfortunately, Minister of Social and Family Affairs (MSF) Tan Chuan Jin barely made the mark into the Prime Minister’s preference as he was ranked 13th – just out of the inner 12 circle. Minister of National Development (MND) Lawrence Wong has been totally kicked out of the picture, with no mention made by state media Straits Times.
Minister Tan Chuan Jin’s popularity was hyped when he joined the Cabinet in 2011, by hitching a ride on the GRC group of former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. In 2014, the former army general received his first full minister profile as Manpower Minister but crashes as soon as he picked up the role. Manpower malpractices like salaries kickbacks practices and abuse of work permit quota were rampant, but Minister Tan Chuan Jin failed to pick up the problems, leading to his resignation a year later – the shortest stint ever for a Minister in Singapore.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave the SAF general a second chance and put him in-charge of a tamer ministry – the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs (MSF). The Minister was soon embroiled in a public relation disaster after he denied the existence of the poor and claimed that cardboard collectors were just exercising. After receiving whips of backlash from the public, Minister Tan Chuan Jin has since stayed low profile and refrain from making public statements. The seat-warmer and safety-first approach may have helped kept his job for over a year now, but he apparently fell out of the Prime Minister’s favour.
When Minister Lawrence Wong entered politics through the GRC group of Trade Minister S Iswaran in 2011, he was not given any position until 2014 when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was increasingly frustrated at his limited choice of successor then. Minister Lawrence Wong took the role of an “attack dog” in the ruling party, and often smear the Opposition Workers’ Party accusing them of corruption and dishonesty. Appreciating his effort, the Prime Minister in return created two new profiles for Lawrence Wong, Second Minister for Culture in 2014 and Second Minister for Finance in 2016. Minister Lawrence Wong was also given a full minister role at the Ministry of National Developments (MND) in Oct 2015, but his lackluster performance was burdened with several high profile HDB lift incidents.
The only two contenders shortlisted for the Prime Minister role is now reaffirmed in the latest PAP CEC lineup. Minister-without-portfolio Chan Chun Sing was given the Organising Secretary position and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was given a membership in the inner 12 circle. When it comes to competency and qualifications, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat surpassed the other former army general Minister Chan Chun Sing. However, Minister Chan Chun Sing is widely-known as a staunch follower of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, often singing to his ears and pouring praises for the Prime Minister. The quiet and reserved Finance Minister is not as apt at apple polishing and might lose out on the race as one of Lee Hsien Loong’s requirements for the next premiership role is to listen to him even as he take the backseat – the same manner Lee Hsien Loong was following his father Lee Kuan Yew’s advice even though he was Prime Minister while Lee Kuan Yew was just a MP.
While most Singaporeans are of the view the Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shamugaratnam should be Prime Minister, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said “may not happen soon” because Tharman is an Indian minority. The dictator Prime Minister’s rhetoric however turned 180 degrees when it comes to the Presidency, insisting that a Malay be President in the coming election.