Speculation that I will be PAP assistant secretary-general 'off the mark': Shanmugam

Shanmugam, 59, is the most senior MP in the PAP's CEC after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who occupies the secretary-general post.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on Tuesday (13 November) that speculation over him becoming an assistant secretary-general (ASG) in the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) is “off the mark”.

On Sunday, five top members stepped down from its central executive committee (CEC) following the party’s leadership elections at the biennial PAP conference. The five included Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who had occupied the two assistant secretary-general (ASG) posts.

Assistant sec-gen posts usually filled by DPMs

While the respective roles in the CEC have yet to be decided, the party’s ASG positions are usually filled by deputy prime ministers.

Shanmugam, 59, is the most senior MP in the PAP’s CEC after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who occupies the secretary-general post.

When the 14 elected and co-opted CEC members went on stage after the party elections, he had stood beside PM Lee, who was also flanked by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. This led to political watchers speculating that he could become a deputy prime minister.

However, in response to media queries, Shanmugam noted, “I have said on Sunday, in response to a question as to whether I will be one of the ASGs, that these matters have to be decided by the CEC, but that my own view is that the appointments must reflect the future and not the transition.

“So quite a bit of the breathless speculation may be off the mark.”

Other CEC members stepping aside

The new CEC will lead the party into the next general election, which has to be called by January 2021. Other ministers who have stepped aside in the CEC include Co-ordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan, who was the party chairman; and former Cabinet ministers Lim Swee Say and Yaacob Ibrahim.

PM Lee said during the party conference that the PAP is taking a “major step in political renewal”. He added that the new CEC would meet within “a couple of weeks” to elect a new slate of office holders, and that he would follow up with changes in the cabinet line-up.

On Monday, citing party sources, Today reported that Education Minister Ong Ye Kung is out of the running to become the country’s next leader.

Related stories:

COMMENT: Singapore’s political succession in a disruptive world

Most Singaporeans would choose Tharman as the next Prime Minister: survey