It's not the Prime Minister, but wave!

Captain Phuah Wei Wen, who is standing in for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at this year's National Day Parade rehearsals, is as tall as Mr Lee at 1.83m. It is his second year playing PM Lee, after his first in 2015. Captain (NS) Calvin Kuah (at rig
Captain Phuah Wei Wen, who is standing in for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at this year's National Day Parade rehearsals, is as tall as Mr Lee at 1.83m. It is his second year playing PM Lee, after his first in 2015.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN
Captain (NS) Calvin Kuah (at right) plays the role of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean during the National Day Parade rehearsals. He played the role of PM Lee in 2011.
Captain (NS) Calvin Kuah (at right) plays the role of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean during the National Day Parade rehearsals. He played the role of PM Lee in 2011.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN

Duo playing PM Lee and DPM Teo at NDP rehearsals study videos to learn their walks

A tall man in a smart white shirt and black trousers steps out of the car, flashes a big smile and waves to the crowd at The Float@Marina Bay.

He is introduced as the Prime Minister. Some light laughter is heard when the crowd realises the man is not Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

Instead, he is Captain Phuah Wei Wen, 29, who is standing in for PM Lee at National Day Parade (NDP) rehearsals.

Despite the crowd's amusement, Capt Phuah takes his role seriously.

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"The position of the PM is a prestigious one, and I receive a salute from the whole contingent (during the rehearsal)," he told The Straits Times.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force regular , who stood in for PM Lee at an NDP rehearsal last weekend, said it was an honour for him to get such a grand welcome. He believed he was chosen for his composure and height - at 1.83m, he is as tall as PM Lee.

He plays a part in helping to make sure the NDP proceedings go on smoothly, he said.

"It's important to watch out for the timing. There are many cues behind a simple walking down the stairs to the saluting dais and back up, because all these timings will add up to affect the proceedings."

He prepared by reviewing videos of past NDPs starting from the 2010 edition, watching each video at least twice and observing PM Lee's composure, walking speed and interaction with the crowd. Capt Phuah said of the Prime Minister: "He is warm towards the crowd and always wears a smile when facing it."

It is his second year playing PM Lee - the first was in 2015, when the NDP was held at the Padang. Having done it before helps, he said.

But the different NDP venue meant that Capt Phuah had to make some adjustments. There are differences in the number of steps and the way PM Lee faces the crowd, as the seating galleries are around the stage at the Padang, but on just one side of the stage at the Marina Bay floating platform, he said.

Apart from stand-ins for the PM, there are also substitutes for other key office holders such as the two deputy prime ministers. Captain (NS) Calvin Kuah played PM Lee in 2011 but stands in for Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean this year.

On his role, Capt Kuah, 28, said: "Everybody (in NDP) has an important role to play. I don't think one role is more important than the other, because they all contribute to the success and smooth execution of NDP."

It was hard to find video footage of DPM Teo at past NDPs, so Capt Kuah reviewed videos of him at Parliament sittings and community events instead, to observe his mannerisms and walking style.

While most people see PM Lee and DPM Teo as having different walking styles and mannerisms, Capt Kuah zooms in on what they have in common: "I think the key word is professionalism. As public figures, I think the way they carry themselves is very similar."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2017, with the headline 'It's not the Prime Minister, but wave!'. Print Edition | Subscribe