SM Teo Chee Hean to be acting prime minister in PM Lee's absence

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean will be acting prime minister whenever Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is absent.
Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean will be acting prime minister whenever Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is absent.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean will be acting prime minister whenever Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is absent, an arrangement that will continue until the fourth generation (4G) political leadership chooses a new leader among themselves.

This follows the decision for Deputy PM Heng Swee Keat on Thursday (April 8) to step aside as leader of the 4G team, citing the long-term and profound challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, his age, and the demands of the top job, as reasons.

Responding to queries from the media, PM Lee said that previously, SM Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, was appointed acting prime minister in his absence.

"When Mr Heng Swee Keat was chosen as the leader of the 4G and appointed Deputy Prime Minister, I changed this to make him Acting PM in my absence," he explained in a statement.

He added that with DPM Heng stepping aside as leader of the 4G team, he will revert to the previous arrangement and in future appoint SM Teo as acting PM in his absence.

"This is the interim arrangement until such time as the 4G chooses a new leader from among themselves," said PM Lee.

On Thursday, DPM Heng, who is 60 this year, said in a letter to PM Lee that he would be close to his mid-60s when the crisis is over.

"The 60s are still a very productive time of life. But when I also consider the ages at which our first three prime ministers took on the job, I would have too short a runway should I become the next prime minister then," he wrote.

"We need a leader who will not only rebuild Singapore post-Covid-19, but also lead the next phase of our nation-building effort."

Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was 35 when he took on the job, his successor Goh Chok Tong was 49 and PM Lee was 52.