National Day Rally 2016: Heng Swee Keat will resume duties; Lawrence Wong appointed as second Finance Minister

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will be resuming his duties after recovering from a stroke. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong will be appointed Second Minister of Finance to help run the ministry, said PM Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech on Aug 21, 2016. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

SINGAPORE - Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who suffered a stroke in May, will resume his duties.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong will be appointed as second minister for Finance to help run the ministry, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Aug 21) night.

After he returns to work, Mr Heng, 54, will focus on next year's Budget and the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), which he co-chairs with Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.

Mr Lee announced this shortly after resuming his National Day Rally speech at 10.40pm.

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Ensuring a minority president is elected from time to time, enhanced ElderShield and a second Minister for Finance to help Mr Heng Swee Keat. These were some points raised during the National Day Rally on Aug 22

He was taken ill earlier midway through the English portion of his speech. The event was suspended for more than an hour after he was helped off the stage by ministers. The Prime Minister's Office said he was feeling unsteady because of prolonged standing, heat and dehydration. His heart is fine and he did not have a stroke.

Resuming his speech, Mr Lee, 64, stressed the importance of leadership succession. Building up leadership and preparing for succession is the top priority, he said.

"Nothing that has happened has changed my timetable, or my resolve to press on with succession."

Mr Lee noted that "minister or not, all of us are mortal".

"Heng Swee Keat recently gave us a bad scare, worse than what I gave you just now," he said.

Mr Heng, a key member of the fourth-generation leadership, had collapsed during a Cabinet meeting on May 12 from a stroke caused by an aneurysm, a localised weakening of the blood vessels.

He was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he underwent surgery to seal off the aneurysm and was later placed in intensive care.

He was discharged from hospital six weeks later, and a video showed him thanking the medical staff who cared for him .

"It is a miracle that he is alright," Mr Lee said, as he lauded the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) team that responded to the emergency for "an excellent job".

The same team of paramedics helped treat Mr Lee on Sunday night.

He added that doctors have recommended Mr Heng avoid crowds for a few more months to minimise the risk of infection.

While this rules out community and grassroots work, Mr Heng has been given the green light to do office work "with minimal interaction".

With Mr Heng returning to work, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will stop covering him as Acting Finance Minister.

Turning to the issue of succession, Mr Lee said he plans to reinforce his team again at the next General Election.

"Soon after the next GE, my successor must be ready to take over from me," he added. "Sui yue bu liu ren (Time does not stand still for man). You cannot wait."

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