For the previous five Hari Raya gatherings, Ratnah Mohari, a 55-year-old housewife, had invited one special guest to celebrate the holiday at her home in Tampines St 82: her Member of Parliament (MP) and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Showing a photo that she took with her husband and Heng to this reporter, the long-time resident said she plans to invite the minister again at the next Hari Raya gathering. She was among the Tampines residents approached by Yahoo News Singapore who welcomed Heng’s new appointment as the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) first assistant secretary-general on Friday (23 November).
“He’s very good and has my full support. We saw him walking around the area several times (before he got sick). He is a very low profile and friendly person,” said Ratnah, referring to the period before Heng collapsed from a stroke in 2016 during a Cabinet meeting.
Heng has since made a full recovery and gave his assurance to the media on Friday that his doctors have given him the clean bill of health.
The appointment of Heng as the second most senior leader in the PAP was among the latest changes in the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC). Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing has been appointed as the PAP’s second assistant secretary-general.
Potential prime minister
Heng, 57, is now considered the prime candidate to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The former chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore entered politics during the 2011 general elections and successfully won his MP seat in Tampines Group Representative Constituency (GRC).
When asked about Heng being a potential PM, a Tampines resident for over 20 years who gave his name as Ang, said the former Education Minister is the best among the leading candidates for the job. “He will be a better choice to steer the economy, not just focusing on GDP but also enhancing the well-being of people,” said Ang, who works in the financial industry and is in his 40s.
Eric Koh, a 61-year-old delivery man who has lived in the area for over 25 years, said, “I don’t really follow politics but I know Heng is soft-spoken. I am okay with him being the next PM (if that happens).”
Several residents also spoke about Heng’s demeanour whenever he was on his walkabouts in the area, with many describing him as down-to-earth.
Speaking in Mandarin, Mary Wong, a Tampines resident for half a decade, said, “I have seen him in the area more than 10 times now, and shook his hands once. My impression of him is that he is very kind-hearted and easygoing.”
The 58-year-old cook at a childcare centre also said, “The (PAP’s) announcement doesn’t really matter to me. But when he was in the Ministry of Education, he was very good…As for whether he is a good or bad PM, it is too early to say now.”
Teo Ee Seng, a Tampines resident for seven years, noted that Heng appeared very friendly and humble, even to his subordinates. “I recall him telling them to not be anxious while meeting residents. Whatever requests are made by residents, he will try his best to help,” said the 54-year-old hawker in Mandarin.
Teo’s brother, Beng Kong, a Tampines resident for five years, said he took a photo with Heng once during the 2015 general elections when the minister visited his flat. The 65-year-old lorry driver said in Mandarin, “I think he is not bad and an excellent choice for PM if he becomes one.”
But for Tan Swee Chye, who has lived in Tampines for the past 30 years, he is more concerned about his financial situation and felt that it does not matter who is the next PM.
The 63-year-old owner of a provision shop in Tampines said in Mandarin, “Business is bad, I would want the next PM to help cut rent for struggling business owners.”