Why is there a paucity of political leadership in SG?

Over the past few days many in Singapore and overseas have expressed surprise at the seeming paucity of political leadership talent in the ruling People’s Action Party.

I actually think this has been a long time coming, and in many ways is just reflective of our city-state’s economic and democratic maturation, about which there is plenty to cheer.

I explain why in a commentary, “Concerns about ‘seeming paucity’ of PAP leadership talent”, published in The Home Ground Asia, a new Singapore-based media outfit.

First few paras reproduced below, but if you want more, do visit their site:

The little moments often offer the best insights into a relationship.

On Thursday evening (8 April) Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s Prime Minister, opened a press conference by acknowledging that Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister and the person designated by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) to one day succeed Mr Lee, was no longer in contention.

After the dismal showing by Mr Heng at last year’s general election, stuttering on stage and leading his team to a narrow win, there was an air of inevitability about it all.

Having spoken for over a minute, Mr Lee invited Mr Heng to say something. It was intended as a sort of self-criticism struggle session, effectively signing off on his own political demise. “It’s not you, it’s me.”

The camera panned to Mr Heng, who is seen fumbling around with the table-top microphone, unsure how to turn it on.

“Is the mike, is the mike tu-“

“You press [the button],” Mr Lee thundered, without missing a beat, like the impatient, irritable teacher who only teaches, and never lets the student try.

It brought back memories of a 2018 parliamentary session, when Mr Lee is seen, his face knotted with annoyance, coaching Mr Heng how to joust with the opposition’s Sylvia Lim, like a general issuing orders to his colonel in full view of the enemy.

Mr Lee is probably relieved that he no longer has to school somebody who often appears off the pace; and Mr Heng is probably relieved that he is no longer squarely in the teacher’s gaze.

Over the past few days Singaporeans have expressed much surprise and disappointment at the news. For the first time in independent Singapore’s history, the PAP has bungled a leadership transition. 

Never before has there been doubt over the identity of our next prime minister. Those still in contention – all male Chinese scholars – are perceived as mediocre and/or polarising. 

Yet while this leadership crisis should in some ways worry Singaporeans, there are reasons for hope.

Continue reading at The Home Ground Asia.

top image: Channel News Asia, Reuters, Energy Market Authority

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4 thoughts on “Why is there a paucity of political leadership in SG?

  1. More like Mr Heng has to take the blame for the 2020 election even though it was not his doing.
    Moving him to a different constituency did not improve the outcome.
    If not PSP’s poor showing , perhaps 1/3 of the seats would have gone the other way!!
    Wait n see come 2025!!

  2. sad and shocking and disgusting – they cant seem to get their act together. it’s obvious for their personal benefit and not the nation and the people. it’s time they have to think of good governance and not politiking

  3. This should come as no surprise, given the technocratic nature of our system of governance. Passion and loyal dissent has never been valued nor nurtured amongst the PAP backbenchers. True leaders need to be able to deal with crises, and PAP politicans are kept in too isolating a sandbox for them to develop the necessary leadership skills.

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