TOKYO - It is up to the younger members of the Cabinet to decide among themselves who the next Prime Minister will be, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Sept 29).
"They have to decide, because they have to support him, and help to make the system, make the team work," he said at a special session of the 22nd Nikkei International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo.
Mr Lee was responding to a question on Singapore's leadership succession from session moderator Sonoko Watanabe, who is editor-in-chief of business publication Nikkei Asian Review.
His remarks came a day after Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 59, categorically ruled himself out of the running to succeed Mr Lee, 64, who has been prime minister since 2004.
The question of Singapore's political leadership succession took on added significance after Mr Lee briefly took ill during his speech at last month's National Day Rally. He recovered and returned after an hour to complete it.
Mr Lee himself has repeatedly said that he plans to step down some time after the next general election, which must be held by April 2021.
At the Nikkei forum on Thursday, he said Singapore wants its leaders to be "able people, good people, committed people - people who can connect with the population, who can lead Singapore, who are prepared to fight for what they believe in and fight for what they can do together."
Based on these qualities, he said, he has assembled "to the best of my ability" a team in Cabinet.
And as for who will eventually assume his mantle, PM Lee said: "I've said very likely the next PM will come from amongst the younger members of my Cabinet.
"Who, (that) is up to them to work out among themselves and I hope in good time - I'm sure in good time - a consensus will develop among them as to who the next leader will be."