Getting Singapore through Covid-19 comes first, succession matters will be dealt with later, says Lawrence Wong

A member of the public waves a People’s Action Party flag in Simei on July 3, 2020. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - The Government's main focus is getting Singapore through the Covid-19 crisis, and the question of political succession will be dealt with at a later point, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Saturday (July 18).

Speaking to reporters at the PAP's Bedok headquarters during a press conference that was livestreamed to party activists, Mr Wong also said there was "nothing to be read" from who chairs such press conferences.

"We are at the stage where we are still in a crisis, we are really looking at getting Singapore out of this huge crisis: healthcare, economic issues, (and) so our focus right now is to have the team all working as one focusing on this, overcoming the crisis and emerging stronger from the crisis," he said.

"It doesn't matter whether it's 4G, 3G, whatever G, right? I think whoever is in Government, all of us are focused on this particular issue.

"There will be time later on to talk about succession but now, let's focus our minds on overcoming the crisis and getting through it. That's our main focus."

Asked about the timing of the press conference and why he was helming it instead of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat or Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, Mr Wong said the People's Action Party (PAP) conducts a post-mortem after every election, and the party felt it would be useful to set the context of its preliminary findings of the election results.

Mr Heng and Mr Chan are, respectively, the PAP's first and second assistant secretaries-general. Mr Wong is a member of the party's central executive committee, and adviser to the PAP Policy Forum, which organises regular dialogues for rank-and-file party members to engage government leaders on policies.

"We are doing a thorough review as we do after every general election, but this time round we decided not to wait until the end of the review, which might take a month or more, but just to come out earlier to set this in context and to give our perspectives," said Mr Wong.

"I'm doing it today but it could have been any one of us. I don't think you need to read too much into who is the spokesperson."

Mr Wong was also asked whether the review would also look at whether DPM Heng remains the best person to lead the PAP's 4G team, following GE2020.

Mr Heng's last-minute switch on Nomination Day from Tampines GRC, where he had been MP for two terms, to helm the PAP's East Coast team has been seen by some as a move that prevented the loss of East Coast GRC to the Workers' Party, but observers noted that Mr Heng's team won the five-person GRC with a slimmer than expected vote share of 53.39 per cent.

Mr Wong said the review would be focused on the election, rather than on succession matters.

"At an appropriate time once the review is completed, we might do a similar press conference like this," he said. "It may be a different person, so again, it may be me, may be someone else - nothing to be read from the person helming it.

"Or it may be done later on at the party convention. We find different occasions where we may share some of these, if there are additional things that we wish to share, both with our activists and also with the public," he added.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.