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PAP in Disarray?

Was anyone really surprised by the news that my old Cambridge contemporary, Heng Swee Keat, is stepping down from leadership of the 4G team and from contention to be the next PM?

The ostensible reason, and the one Heng gave, was that he would be too old by the time the pandemic was over:

“The 60s are still a very productive time of life. But when I also consider the ages at which our first three prime ministers took on the job, I would have too short a runway should I become the next prime minister then.”

Age as a reason does not make much sense. After all Lee Hsien Loong is almost 70 and has announced that he will continue to be PM for at least the next two years. Two years can of course turn in to ten or even twenty, as the Lees seem to have a different definition of time based on quantum theory (which already served LHL well in allowing him to be both in the polling station and not there at the same time and thus avoid prosecution for election offenses in Cheng San in GE1997). Other world leaders are much older The new US President, Joe Biden, is 78 and Trump was 74.

Nor does health appear to be a major factor. While Heng and his doctors may be worried that he will have another stroke under the stresses of office, he appears to be and says he is in good health. Health issues did not stop Lee Hsien Loong becoming PM, after the last seat warmer Goh Chok Tong, stepped down after two terms, despite having had cancer for two decades. In 2015 LHL was diagnosed with prostate cancer but, instead of stepping back if anything he has increased his personal grip on power as many of his generation, like Tharman, have retired, leaving him with a group of relative youngsters who are undoubtedly easier to manipulate.

Heng was typical of the charisma-free candidates favored by LHL, presumably on the grounds that they are unlikely to develop a personal following and remain dependent on the goodwill of the Lees. He might seem to be carrying the can for a poor PAP performance in the GE (summed up by his rambling “East Coast Plan” speech) but he is not markedly worse than any of the other so called 4G leaders now vying to fill his shoes. And while Goh Chok Tong in retrospect seems to tower above any of the other 4G candidates, he was initially known as  “Woody” Goh.

When he was first anointed by LHL as his chosen successor, I wrote about my personal experience of Heng Swee Keat when I invited him and some of the other scholars studying Economics to dinner in Queens’ College, Cambridge. Heng was introduced to me by his colleagues as the “Police scholar” and I remember being blinded by the light glinting off his well-shined black leather shoes (familiar as the style favoured by policemen the world over). Heng was polite but reserved, did not reciprocate the invitation, and after Cambridge Heng was obviously worried that association with me might damage his career. I wrote about Heng’s career path, and  in a 2018 blog entitled “From Shiny Shoes to Seat Warmer: The Career Progression of a PAP Apparatchik”

While he appears to have forgotten most of the Economics he should have learnt at Cambridge (even if he only got a second class degree), displaying an understanding of ledgers that would stand him in good stead if running a mama shop but not a country, he has certainly been just as capable as his predecessor, Tharman, in presenting a fake fiscal position and concealing information about the reserves. I have written many articles about his misleading Budgets and loose, maybe even criminal, methods used to obscure the true size of the surplus (see links below). He has also been an enthusiastic user of the Government’s shiny new Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to try to intimidate ordinary citizens into accepting the Government’s falsehoods at face value, despite the fact that ironically he should have been on the receiving end of several himself.

Heng also was assiduous in use of the POFMA law to protect his masters, tying himself into an impossible contradiction as he issued a POFMA to citizens who repeated a Taiwanese news channel’s claim that Ho Ching earned US$100 million a year (very possible and indeed probable) while maintaining the absurd fiction that Temasek is a private company and therefore under no obligation to reveal what it pays its executives.

His decision to step aside may have been his but it is hard to believe that Heng would have voluntarily decided that he did not want to be PM unless his health was not up to it. It is far more likely that LHL decided to cull him, which seems consistent with LHL’s mealymouthed praise for him as an “important member” of the team.

The conventional wisdom was that Chan Chun Sing was in pole position to succeed Heng as Seat-Warmer-in-Waiting, though he was previously in that position before Heng supplanted him. I have written before about CCS’s tendency to talk down to Singaporeans and mouth inane platitudes and tautologies as though they were pearls of wisdom (see here and here)

However LHL has announced a cabinet reshuffle which seemingly puts Lawrence Wong, the youngest of the 4G leaders, ahead in the race by handing him the Finance Ministry, the most important ministry after the PM and giving CCS the Education Ministry. While my impression of Lawrence Wong is that his English verbal presentation skills are way ahead of CCS, Wong is only a graduate of non-Ivy League American universities compared to CCS who is a Cambridge graduate.

Yet again Singaporeans are being given the message that only men are fit to be PM and only Chinese men at that. Then LHL and the PAP leadership can continue to repeat the mantra that SIngapore is not ready for a minority PM (and by implication not for a woman either).

Some have said that Heng stepping aside signals the unraveling of the PAP. I doubt that. I think it is only a carefully calibrated campaign by LHL to sow uncertainty and keep the candidates for the succession off balance and fighting among themselves. He probably is planning to stay on for at least one more term of Parliament until either his wife or his son is in a position to assume the leadership role. I strongly suspect Ho Ching is stepping down as CEO of Temasek in order to run for President (where no candidate will be qualified to oppose her) or, albeit less likely, to become a Minister. State media are increasingly promoting her in a political role. By favoring interim leadership candidates with mediocre academic qualifications, LHL is likely trying to cement his son’s position as the next generation of SIngapore’s “natural aristocracy”.

 

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

 

About the author: I’m a Singaporean economist who became an opposition activist. I blog to provide an alternative to the porkies that the Pinkies tell. It just so happens that my alternative is the truth. That’s why I’ve never been sued in any civil or criminal court no matter how hard hitting my criticism. I’m quoted and interviewed and asked to speak across the world but largely censored in Singapore in an effort to silence my political opinions. The left hate me because they think I split their vote and because I eschew their outmoded economic models. Models that don’t work. The Right and the Conservatives hate me because I’m a liberal. I’m not sure what the middle think of me. I don’t think there are more than a handful of people in the middle, here in Singapore. I’m a Singaporean born and bred, dual heritage, my parents Singaporean established here before the State of Singapore was created. I’m not Eurasian. I read economics at Cambridge and could be broadly described as from the Keynesian school but I believe in interventions. I was formerly a successful hedge fund manager. After economics and politics my greatest interests are history, film and Makan. I run but I run so I can eat like a Singaporean.

 

 

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13 Responses to “PAP in Disarray?”

  • Will Hong be future PM?:

    Can sg survive without mr Red Shirt man as the future pm aka 5G leader?

    Just now i master baited.

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  • xoxo:

    We need SG TALENTS that are *foreign* to the PAPple.
    Oppo sg talents are in urgent need.
    The PAP has too many over-educated fools running the govt.

    No more fools ,pls!
    We need wise PEOple,not foolish PAPple.

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  • PAP NO FOOL:

    Alamark, sorry to correct you bro. They are no fool. Fools are those who keep voting them. Our problems start here, NOT PAP.

    xoxo:
    We need SG TALENTS that are *foreign* to the PAPple.
    Oppo sg talents are in urgent need.
    The PAP has too many over-educated fools running the govt.

    No more fools ,pls!
    We need wise PEOple,not foolish PAPple.

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  • Dr Tan Tai Wei:

    We can’t educatedly deny that PAP style had always been “make what we want seem to come voluntarily from those we want to impose upon”. Recall those days when everyone’s retirement age was being advanced, but university academic staff’s retirement was still long kept at 55 years? Now, we knew that that LKY had a history of what he regarded as untoward confrontation with university academic staff, and so the suspicion was he probably wanted to retain the power to terminate them at 55, even when everyone else’s, including admin. university staff’s employment was being lengthened to 58, 60 and 65. And so for many years it seemed as if the reason was the universities on their own had requested that their academic staff’s retirement age should remain at 55! And this is only one example. Also, once we wanted to convert our Staff Association into a Union, but Goh Keng Swee didn’t want that. Instead of telling his Registrar of Societies not to approve our application to register, he demanded that we voluntarily withdraw. We called an emergency general meeting but staff voted not to withdraw. Goh Keng then wanted the resignation from employment of all members of the pro-tem committee authorised by staff to initiate the union.

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  • opposition dude:

    It’s a nice drama put out by PAP for sure and the best part is, we do not know how many episodes there are! We were told godly things about the 4G years ago only for them to show just how shit (not even mediocre to be honest) when Covid hit. From taking their own sweet time to enforce Dorscon Red (not circuit breaker hor) to flip flopping on mask wearing and clsure of schools we all saw for ourselves just how the 4G fumbled and stumbled.

    So now with this musical chairs shuffling of the cabinet it changes nothing. Different good for nothing ministers in a new ministry does not magically make the person outstanding. Gan Kim Yong will forever be tainted by the fact that he lost 1.5 million patient health records and a few thousand HIV records, kee chiu for his outstanding sia suay comedy speeches and Josephine for her really dumb comments.

    So now with this bungling of the next PM it has caused PAP big embarrassment whichever way you look at it. There is more to come since PAP loves embarrassing itself so just be patient. We shall see how much they have fallen after the next election.

    Keep up the great work guys and girls, we need more people like you all around!

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  • Dr Tan Tai Wei:

    Generally speaking, it has been admitted that it had been difficult to get those they wanted for leadership. That means those they had gotten in might not be the best? (Would the best be willing to be roped in where initiative had to be reigned in into some group conformity?) But then, might it not be that the best had been not even those at the top deciding who is the best? Maybe, the best might be the likes of Lee Xiang Yang, who weren’t willing to be groomed?

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  • Sperm whale sauce:

    Adminstrator also hinted his gratitude for benefiting from the system.

    Loyalty to who?

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  • Sperm whale sauce:

    xoxo:
    We need SG TALENTS that are *foreign* to the PAPple.
    Oppo sg talents are in urgent need.
    The PAP has too many over-educated fools running the govt.

    No more fools ,pls!
    We need wise PEOple,not foolish PAPple.

    The future future pm will be from opposition. So early birds get the early advantage. First mover advantage. Top talents may be shifting towards opposition with the likes of Jamus.

    Thinga like mickey chan is joining the other team.

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  • Republic of SG:

    Why are people talking about “succession plan” as though SG is ruled by a monarch? SG is a Republic and political leaders are elected by the people. It appears the population has unwittingly accepted the idea that the PM has to be from the PAP. This is only true if the Party wins every GE, or to put it another way, the people allow the Party to perpetuate its rule.

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  • liew mun leong must be jailed:

    just like Singapore is ready for an INDIAN female president,

    Singapore is also ready for a Chinese female Prime Minister.

    the best choice is amongst Ms Sylvia Lim Ms Hazel Poa and such, all from either PSP or WP.

    what is so telling is NONE of the qualified Chinese female PM candidates is from pap. that tells a lot.

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  • #06-191 Lei Chow Hai:

    more of current oppo.

    xoxo:
    We need SG TALENTS that are *foreign* to the PAPple.
    Oppo sg talents are in urgent need.
    The PAP has too many over-educated fools running the govt.

    No more fools ,pls!
    We need wise PEOple,not foolish PAPple.

    GD Star Rating
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  • oxygen:

    IT IS A MAKESHIFT CABINET that is likely to fall apart at the smallest tremor of the next turbulence – be that another global resurgence of Covid pandemic or global financial meltdown.

    Which apprentice can hold the fort as well as the highly experienced HSK in the finance portfolio in another crisis?

    I WISH I KNOW WITH CONFIDENCE TODAY but not.

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  • Pappy bluff & you die slogging:

    Even as they present the national ledgers at “mama shop standards”, faking the fiscal situation must be imperative for a corrupted regime of high ranking global crony-capitalists opaque with their GLC remunerations and manipulating the people’s lifetime CPF savings ie. sheeples operating a society ranked 3rd most transparent (Transparency International).
    The kayu pappies have failed to contain spiralling costs of living to tops of the world levels while the median wages remain very very mediocre. But it appears that sheeples can be fed peanuts to run the show while the high class monkeys run gleefully to their banks…..

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