Written by Mertice Ho

Keat believe this.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat spoke at an NTU forum on 28 March. Mr Heng, who is expected to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, answered questions on having a minority race as Prime Minister (PM). He said that when the time is right, Singapore will have a Prime Minister from a minority ethnicity, but for now, the older generation is still not ready. A quick poll of the audience showed a willingness from the students to accept a non-Chinese PM. Mr Heng said the result was encouraging, crediting the government’s racial harmony policies for the students’ willingness.

When asked by NTU’s Assistant Professor Walid Jumblatt whether it was the PAP who are not ready for a non-Chinese PM, Mr Heng responded by saying that in his experience, people hold different views depending on their background. Asst Prof Walid asked a follow-up question wondering if it was contradictory to reserve the 2017 presidency for the Malay community but still claim that Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese PM. Mr Heng emphasised that the reserved presidency was born out of necessity to institutionally ensure that minorities have representation because “we recognise that we have not arrived”.


What are the people saying?

Some are wondering where Mr Heng’s evidence is. After all, the PAP has typically emphasised on the need for hard facts when making decisions. Critics bring up the 2016 survey by Market research consultancy Blackbox, which stated that 69% of 900 respondents would choose Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman as their top choice to succeed PM Lee. However, others also point out that often times political leaders have to make decisions based on their judgments and information that may not be publicly released.

Bernard Chen, Workers’ Party Candidate in the 2015 General elections, also stated that the Singapore government has traditionally made decisions for Singaporeans that were unpopular for the progress of Singapore. To him, it was ironic that the pioneer generation, the generation that had to accept tough and unpopular decisions during Singapore’s early years, is now framed as the generation least receptive to change.

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