4G leaders in 'complete unity' behind Heng Swee Keat's leadership: Vivian Balakrishnan

Dr Balakrishnan said the 4G team backs the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The fourth-generation leadership team is in "complete unity" behind Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's leadership, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Sunday.

Asked about the implications of the new Cabinet line-up, which was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Jul 25), Dr Balakrishnan reiterated PM Lee's points that the reshuffle "reflects the need for continuity, the need for rotation, and the need for renewal".

"And if you look carefully at the composition and in fact at the moves that the Prime Minister has made, it reflects all these three priorities," he added.

Dr Balakrishnan, who has said that he is part of the fourth-generation leadership team, also said the 4G team backs the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is expected to take over as PM when PM Lee Hsien Loong steps down. On Saturday, it was announced that Mr Heng is taking on an additional appointment as Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.

"We are - all of us, in complete unity - behind the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, so there's no need for any discussions or questions on that. We are in absolute unity under his leadership," he stressed.

Dr Balakrishnan's remarks come in the wake of comments at the press conference on Saturday about the People's Action Party's succession plan.

Responding to a question on whether the 4G leaders had discussed or reviewed their position backing Mr Heng as their leader, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said they had not discussed this - and did not plan to.

"We're entirely focused on helping our country overcome the economic challenges and saving jobs at this point in time," he said.

"We have no plans to do otherwise and we have no plans, no discussion on any change in plan."

There were fewer ministerial movements this year as compared with the reshuffle after the 2011 General Election (GE). Just six out of the 15 government ministries are getting a new minister, while there were top leadership changes made to 11 out of the 14 ministries at the Cabinet reshuffle that followed GE2011.

Fourth-generation leaders that will be taking on new portfolios include Mr Lawrence Wong, who will be the new Education Minister; Mr Desmond Lee, who will take Mr Wong's place as National Development Minister; and Mr Ong Ye Kung, who will relinquish the Education portfolio to become Transport Minister.

Besides Dr Balakrishnan, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen is one of those who retained their portfolio.

Dr Ng said on Sunday that he sees his appointment as a continuity to bring Singapore through the current pandemic.

"This is, for Singapore, an existential threat that is life and death, not just for individuals but for our nation. So we will take it as a continuity and we want to build a strong defence as possible to protect our future," he said.

He was elected into Parliament in 2001 and was the Second Minister for Defence from 2005 before he was appointed as Defence Minister in 2011.

"Whether I serve and where I serve depends on the Prime Minister; we serve under his direction. It's an honour to be appointed under his Cabinet," he said.

"I'm familiar with the challenges and I thank the Prime Minister and other Cabinet colleagues for the confidence. We must do the best we can, whether it's the Ministers, the officials or the rank-and-file soldiers."

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