SINGAPORE - It is good that the fourth generation ministers are not constrained by an "artificial deadline" to select Singapore's next prime minister, said Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung on Sunday (Jan 28).
Mr Ong was responding to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's remarks last Friday that it will probably take a little bit longer for the younger ministers to choose a leader than the six to nine month timeline suggested by Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong.
"It is good not to be constrained by six or nine months. We do need time to work together, know each other well, and amongst us, I'm sure a leader will emerge in good time," said Mr Ong, who spoke to the media at a community event.
"I think the PM has made it quite clear. Don't get constrained by an artificial deadline," he added.
PM Lee had said that no new deputy prime ministers will be appointed at the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, which suggests no clear front runners will be made known to the public even after the reshuffle.
The issue of leadership succession came to the fore when ESM Goh said last December that he hoped the younger ministers will choose their leader in the first six to nine months of this year, and that this person can be made PM-designate within 2018.
To this, PM Lee said last week: "My assessment is, it probably will take a little bit longer.
"ESM (Goh) is speaking with the privilege of watching things rather than being responsible to make it happen. I think we know it's a very serious matter."
PM Lee also said the younger ministers need a bit of time for Singaporeans to "get a feel of them", and show that they deserve to lead.
Said Mr Ong on Sunday: "PM has said that it will need a while longer, I think it is useful. As our younger generation ministers have said, we will select someone to be the leader amongst us in good time."
He is regarded by observers as one of the three front runners to be Singapore's next prime minister. The other two are Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing.
On Sunday, Mr Ong - who is MP for Sembawang GRC - joined volunteers from Keppel Land and Republic Polytechnic to distribute red packets and packs filled with healthier food items to about 320 low-income families in his Gambas ward.
The initiative is part of the WeCare @ North West - Service Weeks campaign, which has been organised by the North West Community Development Council for the past five years.