PM's packed schedule

Mr Lee arrived at the White House on the morning of Aug 3 (far left) and was received by US President Barack Obama. He came back to Singapore on Aug 5 and days later attended the National Day Parade (left). Mr Lee spent the next few days at National
Mr Lee arrived at the White House on the morning of Aug 3 (above) and was received by US President Barack Obama. He came back to Singapore on Aug 5 and days later attended the National Day Parade. Mr Lee spent the next few days at National Day events. PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, ST FILE
Mr Lee arrived at the White House on the morning of Aug 3 (far left) and was received by US President Barack Obama. He came back to Singapore on Aug 5 and days later attended the National Day Parade (left). Mr Lee spent the next few days at National
Mr Lee arrived at the White House on the morning of Aug 3 and was received by US President Barack Obama. He came back to Singapore on Aug 5 and days later attended the National Day Parade (above). Mr Lee spent the next few days at National Day events.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had a hectic schedule in the six weeks leading up to his Aug 21 National Day Rally speech, during which he suffered a health scare before returning to the stage to a standing ovation.

He packed in three official trips abroad, plus numerous national and community events in Singapore. Mr Lee travelled to Mongolia from July 13 to 16, was in Malaysia for a day on July 19, and then took an almost 24-hour flight to the United States from July 31 to Aug 5.

This was on top of his weekly meetings with Cabinet ministers as well as attending national and grassroots events, which are virtually daily affairs in August as Singapore celebrates its independence.

This weekend, he is in China for a bilateral visit as well as the Group of 20 leaders' summit.

Mr Lee's brief falter at the Rally, when he felt unsteady and had to take a break, put the spotlight on his heavy schedule as head of the Singapore Government.

MP Darryl David, who is a member of Ang Mo Kio GRC which Mr Lee leads, says the Prime Minister makes it a point to attend as many grassroots events as possible in his Teck Ghee ward.

"He tries to attend events in the other Ang Mo Kio wards as well," he says. "Residents always want to take photos with him. Mr Lee is very obliging. He rarely says no to them."

Mr Lee's Facebook page, updated often with his activities, gives an insight into the packed nature of his schedule. A week before he left for the US on July 31, he attended at least four grassroots events: a Teck Ghee fund-raising concert at the Esplanade, Jalan Kayu Day with MP Intan Azura Mokhtar, Hari Raya celebrations at Yio Chu Kang Community Club, and a dialogue with MPs from Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang West on town upgrading plans.

Mr Lee also recorded his National Day message at the Safra clubhouse in Punggol and attended the wake of former People's Action Party MP Chor Yeok Eng.

Earlier, on July 18, just after he returned from Mongolia where he attended the Asia-Europe Meeting, he was guest of honour at the South Asian Diaspora Convention's gala dinner and also took part in a dialogue. The next day, he was in Putrajaya where he witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the high-speed rail that will connect Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

The next morning, he was at the Building and Construction Authority Academy where he launched its high-rise laboratory and spoke of Singapore's environmental and sustainability drive.

Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong, who was part of the delegation that accompanied Mr Lee on his visit to the US, says his schedule was packed from day to night.

"If he was not at an official event, he would be at some internal meeting or debrief," she says.

"You'd think he did not know what it's like to be jet-lagged. He did not look like he was fighting it at all. He was energetic and impressive at official events, saying and doing what he needed to."

Hours after Mr Lee flew in from the US on Aug 5, he was at Singapore General Hospital to see former president S R Nathan, who had been in intensive care for three weeks after a stroke. Mr Nathan died on Aug 22.

Mr Lee spent the next few days after his return from the US at National Day events. Apart from the Aug 9 parade, he also attended a special dinner, a community walk and a street carnival with residents, as well as an observance ceremony at the Istana and a reception hosted by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at Gardens by the Bay.

And the punishing schedule will only continue, says MP Alex Yam. "The schedule is very taxing on Cabinet leaders indeed, and it is easy to outpace yourself. But it's all part of the package when one signs up for this vocation. We can't cherry-pick and say we only want to do this and this today."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 04, 2016, with the headline 'PM's packed schedule'. Print Edition | Subscribe