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SINGAPORE, April 9 — Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean will be the country’s acting prime minister in Lee Hsien Loong’s absence, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat would act in his absence in office but now that Heng has taken himself out of the running to be Singapore’s next prime minister — as announced yesterday — PM Lee said in response to media queries that he will reinstate Teo in that role.
Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, used to be the acting prime minister when Lee was away.
When Heng was chosen as leader of the fourth-generation (4G) team and appointed as deputy prime minister in 2019, he took over that role from Teo.
Lee said: “Now that DPM Heng has stood aside as leader of the 4G, I am reverting to the previous arrangement, and will in future appoint Teo Chee Hean as acting PM in my absence.
“This is the interim arrangement until such time as the 4G chooses a new leader from among themselves.”
Earlier yesterday, Heng took himself out of the running for the top job, two-and-a-half years after emerging as the frontrunner to succeed Lee.
Heng, who is also finance minister, said that he would have too short of a runway — given that he would be near his mid-60s when he takes over as prime minister after the Covid-19 crisis is over.
He will also relinquish his finance minister portfolio at the next Cabinet reshuffle, which is expected to be announced in about two weeks.
Separately, the 4G leaders have asked Lee to stay on in his role, saying that the unexpected news of Heng stepping aside as their head is a “setback for our succession planning”.
In a statement issued to the media, the 4G team said that it will need more time to select another leader from among themselves and have therefore asked Lee to stay on as prime minister until they have chosen a new successor and the successor is ready to take over. — TODAY