PM Lee will stay on until new 4G leader is chosen
He describes Deputy PM Heng Swee Keat's move to stand aside as 'selfless'
With Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat stepping down as the fourth-generation (4G) leader, Mr Lee Hsien Loong will stay on as prime minister until the 4G team chooses a new chief.
At the media conference announcing the move yesterday, PM Lee called Mr Heng's decision to stand aside a "selfless" one.
"His actions are made with the best interests of Singapore in mind, and they are fully in keeping with the spirit of public service and sense of duty that motivated him to step forward and stand for election when I asked him to do so in 2011," he said.
"Nevertheless, as the 4G statement acknowledges, this is a significant setback to our succession plans."
In a statement issued yesterday, the 4G team called the unexpected turn of events "a setback for our succession planning".
Mr Heng was managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore from 2005 until 2011, when he stepped down to contest the general election that year. PM Lee appointed him to the Cabinet as the education minister in May 2011.
Noting that the 4G team want to give themselves more time to work out new succession arrangements, PM Lee said he had therefore agreed to stay on "until such time as the new 4G leader is chosen and ready to take over".
He added that while the Government's immediate focus is on the health and economic crisis, succession remains an urgent task and cannot be put off indefinitely.
"I think (the 4G team will) take longer than a few months, but I hope that they will reach a consensus and identify a new leader before the next general election. I have no intention of staying on longer than necessary."
He called the next general election - which must be held by November 2025 - a "reasonable time frame" to work towards deciding who will helm the country's top post.
This time frame, he said, was also the reason why the team decided to come out with this issue now rather than wait until a new leader is identified.
PM Lee previously said that he hoped to step down before his 70th birthday, which would be in February next year.
But after the pandemic hit, he pledged to see Singapore through the Covid-19 crisis before handing over the reins of the country to the next generation of leaders.
Yesterday, he stressed that choosing a leader is not just about ranking people and saying who is going to be the best choice.
"It is really about team building and developing the team, and developing the relationships among the team members - so that over time, from that balance and that chemistry, you are able to identify who among the people can most maximise the performance of the team, make all the pieces fit together and end up with more than the sum of its parts," he said.
PM Lee stressed that the Cabinet will continue to work as one united team to overcome the challenges and lead the country forward.
"That is what Singaporeans expect of us, and rightly so. It is also the only way to maintain confidence in Singapore and to keep our country succeeding year after year."