Three weeks, 19 leaders interviewed: How Lawrence Wong was picked as PAP's 4G leader

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SINGAPORE - Former minister Khaw Boon Wan started sounding out the ministers on their pick of the People's Action Party's (PAP) fourth-generation (4G) leader after the ministerial budget debates concluded in March.

Giving details of how he went about his work at a press conference on Saturday (April 16), the former PAP chairman said he spoke to the ministers individually and each interview took up to an hour. The whole process took three weeks.

The former minister said that when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked him to take charge of the process, PM Lee told him to find a way to bring the team together while doing so.

"He stressed that we approach this choice in the right spirit. We are trying to make a very consequential choice: who would be best able to unite the team, make the most of the different strengths of the ministers, provide the leadership to both the team and to Singapore, and give ourselves the best chance of continuing to succeed," said Mr Khaw.

He added: "PM told me that my task was not only to ascertain who has the strongest support from the ministers, but to do so in such a way as to foster a consensus and bring the team together.

"I therefore took a team-building approach to facilitate forthright and candid discussions of each potential candidate's strengths and weaknesses. Our overriding objective is to promote unity, and to ensure a strong 4G team to lead Singapore forward."

Mr Khaw spoke to Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, who were former 4G ministers; and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat as well as the following ministers: Dr Ng Eng Hen, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Mr K. Shanmugam, Mr Gan Kim Yong, Mr S. Iswaran, Ms Grace Fu, Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Lawrence Wong, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Mr Ong Ye Kung, Mr Desmond Lee, Mrs Josephine Teo, Ms Indranee Rajah, Dr Maliki Osman, Mr Edwin Tong and Dr Tan See Leng.

During the interviews, Mr Khaw assured them of full confidentiality and told them that only the overall results and anonymised findings of the discussions would be shared with only those who needed to know them.

He took the leaders through key political leadership attributes in order to encourage them to make a considered and dispassionate decision.

They were asked for their views on their preferred choice, other than themselves, and to rank their potential candidates in order of preference.

Mr Khaw said the leaders were emphatic in wanting to pick someone with unquestionable commitment to Singapore, who inspires trust in Singaporeans, colleagues and MPs, who has the backs of his colleagues and is most able to unite them to serve the nation.

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Asked who they will choose as their leader, bearing in mind the need for the leader to bring others together and to win elections, 15 of the 19 voted for Finance Minister Lawrence Wong as their top choice. None of the other choices for the 4G leader received more than two votes.

Asked to give details of how the voting went, Mr Khaw said that there was already a clear outcome on who the next 4G leader is.

"Now that we have a clear outcome, there is really no need for me to discuss who was the second or the third choice. Suffice to say that Lawrence was the first choice of an overwhelming majority," he said.

Read the full transcript here and watch the full video below:

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