Succession depends on Singaporeans' choice: Ng Eng Hen

At yesterday's press conference in Toa Payoh were PAP members (from left) Chee Hong Tat, Hri Kumar Nair, Josephine Teo, Ng Eng Hen, Wong Kan Seng, Chong Kee Hiong, Zainudin Nordin and Saktiandi Supaat. Mr Chee, Mr Chong and Mr Saktiandi are the new c
At yesterday's press conference in Toa Payoh were PAP members (from left) Chee Hong Tat, Hri Kumar Nair, Josephine Teo, Ng Eng Hen, Wong Kan Seng, Chong Kee Hiong, Zainudin Nordin and Saktiandi Supaat. Mr Chee, Mr Chong and Mr Saktiandi are the new candidates standing in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Rolling out its first group of new candidates for the coming general election (GE), People's Action Party organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said yesterday that political succession depends ultimately on the people's choice, not only on the Government.

Characterising this GE as bringing in "the next half" of the fourth-generation leadership, after the 2011 polls saw the entry of four new ministers into Cabinet, Dr Ng sought the people's endorsement.

"If the country feels that the candidates we put up can measure up to those responsibilities and capabilities required of ministers, then we would have the succession plan.

"Ultimately, succession depends not only on the Prime Minister and the incumbent Cabinet ministers. Succession depends on Singa- poreans' choice."

Dr Ng, who is Defence Minister, was speaking a day after the Government disclosed that Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew would be bowing out of politics after only his second term.

The group of three new candidates introduced yesterday, who will stand in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, includes a potential young minister: former top civil servant Chee Hong Tat, 41.

The other two are Maybank economist Saktiandi Supaat, 41, and real estate corporate chief Chong Kee Hiong, 49.

In a departure from previous practice, the trio were introduced yesterday by the retiring MPs whose divisions they would be taking over.

The three retiring are backbenchers Zainudin Nordin and Hri Kumar Nair, and former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng.

Mr Wong, who entered politics in 1984 and left the Cabinet in 2011, was honoured with a bow and applause from his teammates.

The new candour on where the candidates would be fielded was by design, said Dr Ng, in order that residents can size up their prospective representatives.

"We believe this is good politics for Singapore, and the main message is that it puts Singaporeans rightly at the centre of the elections," he said, adding that both Mr Chong and Mr Saktiandi have been volunteering at the GRC's branches for more than two years.

New, too, was the setting. All eight politicians squeezed into a coffee shop in Toa Payoh Central for the press conference, knee-to-knee amid a media scrum.

"It reflects our message that this is what elections are about," said Dr Ng. "We want to do it in the heartlands to put across that elections are about electing MPs who can take care of you and be of help."

Asked if the ruling party was capitalising on Golden Jubilee celebrations and the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew by holding the elections now, Dr Ng said: "We began preparations for GE in earnest four years (ago)... We did not cobble up this team at a whim. We thought very carefully about where we put our candidates, who best fits the profile but we still have to govern in the meantime."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline ''Succession depends on S'poreans' choice''. Print Edition | Subscribe