Political transition to 4G leaders

Heng: Life-and-death episode strengthened commitment to serve

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday that surviving a serious stroke two years ago was a "very major life-and-death episode" that strengthened his commitment to serve Singaporeans.

The reason is that "I, personally, and my family, feel the care and support that so many Singaporeans gave to me, including people from different religious groups,'' he added at a media conference after it was announced he is the new first assistant secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party.

He said: "I felt that I should do my very best to serve Singaporeans, to make sure what we have achieved in Singapore can continue and, in fact, build on that because we must continue to improve the lives of all Singaporeans whether in healthcare, creating good jobs or better housing or better education."

He added: "We owe it to all Singaporeans to do this, and I hope certainly with (Chan) Chun Sing and the support of my team, we can do this. I hope many more people would join us in this journey."

Mr Heng, who collapsed in the middle of a Cabinet meeting after suffering a brain aneursym in May 2016, said he would not have assumed leadership of the PAP's fourth-generation team if he was not confident that he was healthy.

"I have made very good recovery; the doctors have given me a clean bill of health.

"In fact, at my latest medical check-up, my results were even better than before. I have lost a bit of weight, but that is because I am fitter now," he added to laughter from reporters at the event held in the party's headquarters in New Upper Changi Road.


Turning serious, he added: "I would not have taken up this appointment if I did not have the confidence that my health allowed me to do it. I consulted my doctors, looked at the medical reports as well as my own energy level."

Mr Heng returned to work three months after the stroke but stayed away from public events as his immunity was low. He gave his first public interview that December, and in February last year, returned to Parliament to deliver the Budget.

Since then, he has made many overseas trips, with his third to Argentina this year taking place next week when he attends the Group of 20 Summit. Just one way, the trip would take about 30 hours.

He said with a smile: "I am travelling more than when I was MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) managing director."

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'Heng: Life-and-death episode strengthened commitment to serve'. Print Edition | Subscribe