Youth react to DPM Heng Swee Keat stepping down as leader of 4G team
Mr Heng’s decision to step down will allow for a younger person to become the next Prime Minister of Singapore.
On Apr 8, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that he would be stepping down as the leader of the People’s Action Party’s fourth-generation team.
With his decision, he will pave the way for a younger person “with a longer runway” to become Singapore’s next Prime Minister when PM Lee Hsien Loong retires.
In his letter to PM Lee, Mr Heng, 60, cited factors such as his age, the future challenges of the post-COVID-19 situation and the role of the Prime Minister to meet such demands as reasons behind his decision.
Mr Heng will also step down as the Finance Minister at the next Cabinet reshuffle which will be announced next week. He will remain as the Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.
We spoke to some youths to hear their views on the announcement and find out what they hope to see in their next Prime Minister.
Hopes for a smooth transition period
“It feels uneasy to see an experienced Minister stepping down as things might be different when a new Minister is appointed.
“I’m concerned about the new Minister transitioning and taking on the responsibilities from DPM Heng. If the transition is smooth, then I’m okay with it.
“The next Prime Minister should take in people’s suggestions. We need a younger Prime Minister to relate to us and take part in current issues that affect youth such as mental health and overlooked social issues like welfare, low-income households and at-risk youths.” – Noor Iskandar, 25, Customer Service Officer
Uncertainty towards upcoming political change
“My initial reaction was shock. As with many others, I assumed DPM Heng would naturally be the next Prime Minister of Singapore in the coming years. I felt apprehensive as our political climate is less certain with his departure.
“At the moment, I don’t think it is an appropriate time for Singapore to focus on introducing the next Prime Minister yet. With the global pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, creating a radical change in our political system would only breed further anxiety and worry.
“Our current politicians should weather the storm with their people to build confidence and faith before calmly introducing a new, important member in our system.
“I hope to see an individual who can rally the people and lead with an iron first, much like Mr Lee Kuan Yew did. I hope to see a Prime Minister with a clear direction for Singapore’s growth and can invoke pride for our country through his or her words.” – Tammie Koh, 19, Student
Younger leaders are needed to provide a fresher perspective
“As Singapore progresses to a Cabinet reshuffle, younger Ministers should also rise up to the occasion to lead the nation in the various ministries based on their expertise and experience.
“Having a younger Prime Minister will allow the next generation of leaders to rise up early to the occasion, lead Singapore and work well with the ruling Government as well as seek mentorship from previous leaders and build on their work.
Moreover, having a younger minister will also be more ideal as they will be able to provide fresh ideas and allow a sizeable majority of Singaporeans to be more participative in the Government as they voice out our concerns.” – Steven Situmeang, 20, Student
Hopes to create a more equal society among Singaporeans
“I hope that the next Prime Minister takes greater strides in ensuring equality in Singapore. Singapore has done a great deal to improve racial, gender and income equality but I think it’s time to do more.
“We need more bold decisions, such as when Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that they were doing away with streaming among secondary school students and modifying the entire O-Level format.
“We need a younger Prime Minister who is able to effectively navigate and lead the country through such an increasingly complex and unpredictable world. They would be better equipped with the skills and perspective to do so, and someone who is better able to relate to and understand the perspective of the younger generations too.
“I hope the next Prime Minister follows a similar direction and introduces meaningful change so that no one in this country feels left out or incapable of achieving their dreams, and that no one feels restricted in the paths they can take.” – Cheryl Arun, 19, Student
Young people have a stake in our future
“Younger does not mean any less steady. The acumen that a Prime Minister needs is not something age can compensate for.
“COVID-19 is the beginning of a new era of growth for economies worldwide. A change in management and leadership might be what Singapore needs to remain on edge and on top.
“Youths have a part in this! It’s your future and mine. We all have a vote, a say as to who leads us. The next Prime Minister is responsible for breakthroughs and to ensure our nation is able to weather storms. The youths of today need to understand that whoever it is, in that chair, their decisions have an impact, material impact on our daily lives.” – Kendrick Goh, 25, Self-Employed
Hopes for a good representation of Singapore on a global stage
“I was very surprised by the sudden announcement as it was long touted that DPM Heng would be Singapore’s next Prime Minister with his high political office.
“I hope the next Prime Minister can represent Singapore well on the global stage, have Singaporean’s interest at heart and is genuine in improving Singapore. I also hope that the next Prime Minister is one who can rally the country together in the face of future challenges, willing to work with various stakeholders and not play partisan politics.
“Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister is going to have a direct impact on youths. Many of us will be entering the workforce and as adults, we will be directly affected by future policies.
“The next Prime Minister also has an important role of leading Singapore into a post-pandemic world and the increasing complexities of international relations, with global tensions on the rise. These are also significant factors that are going to affect the future of Singapore and livelihood of youths.” – Maverick Teo, 20, Student
A PM with an open mind is essential for Singapore to stay relevant
“Singapore is a conservative society so it is up to the new Prime Minister to help open up society’s mind. However, they must also be able to retain that sense of harmony amongst the diverse groups living in Singapore because changing society will often create a wedge between older generations and the younger.
“A younger Prime Minister would certainly mean that they are in touch with the current age groups and their trends. So it will be of assistance to Government bodies when they are trying to better Singapore as a whole. This will welcome more youngsters to support the Government and resonate with them because someone young is part of it; which speaks volumes.
“Honestly, the list of candidates announced or being discussed right now are not my choice simply because I think there are better ones like Tan Chuan Jin, the Speaker of Parliament.
“But if you would ask me, I just want a Prime Minister that can safeguard my future as a Singaporean and ensure that this country thrives while making it more affordable for us to live in.” – Muhammad Nazirul Asrar Bin Mohamed Asrin, 18, Student
Written by Sarah Chan, Noreen Shazreen, Jeevana Kalaithasan and Stacey Tay.