Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat suffers stroke

Mr Heng Swee Keat.
PHOTO: Zaobao

SINGAPORE - The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement on Thursday evening (May 12) that the Finance Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, collapsed during a Cabinet meeting today.

Mr Heng, 54, was taken to hospital immediately, the statement said, after he collapsed at 5.34pm. A CT scan showed that he had suffered a stroke.

In an update, PMO said that Mr Heng had suffered a sudden stroke due to an aneurysm, which is a localised weakening of a blood vessel. He then underwent initial neurosurgery to relieve pressure in his brain due to the bleeding, which successfully closed the aneurysm.

He will remain under close monotoring in the intensive care unit of Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Separately, PMO also said that Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, will be covering the duties of the Finance Ministry with immediate effect. Mr Tharman had previously helmed the ministry from 2007, before relinquishing his post after last year's General Election.

Cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) took to social media to express their well-wishes towards Mr Heng soon after the announcement was made.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post that three doctors in the Cabinet attended to Mr Heng, who he called a "valuable member" of his team, when he collapsed. An ambulance was called immediately, and Mr Heng was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that Cabinet members are "expectedly shaken" because of Mr Heng's collapse. He said they managed to resuscitate Mr Heng, but the Finance Minister and his family "will now need all our prayers and support as he undergoes critical procedures and treatment for the stroke".

DPM Tharman described Mr Heng as "one of Singapore's finest sons, and a leader with much promise". "Let's hope and pray for Heng Swee Keat," he said.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong posted an update soon after Mr Heng had undergone surgery. "Let us pray and wish him a speedy and complete recovery," he said. "He is a core member of the fourth generation leadership team. We need him."

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam revealed that he had observed that Mr Heng had been looking very tired recently. "I have been telling him that he was overworking so much that it will affect his health," he wrote. He also highlighted the "incredible load" that Mr Heng was carrying, including the Finance Ministry as well as various other important projects such as SG50 and the Committee of the Future Economy.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan thanked the staff at the National Neuroscience Institute and Tan Tock Seng Hospital for taking good care of Mr Heng.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam also said that he hoped Mr Heng makes a speedy recovery. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time.

Meanwhile, fellow Tampines GRC MPs, which comprises Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Mr Desmond Choo and Ms Cheng Li Hui, assured residents in Mr Heng's ward that they will be taken care of Mr Heng recovers.

Mr Masagos wrote that he was feeling anxious for Mr Heng, but that the GRC team would take care of Tampines residents while he recovers.

Mr Baey wrote that he was "shocked" upon hearing the news, as Mr Heng had seemed his usual self when the two had met at lunch. He added that the GRC team had always worked together to serve Tampines residents, and that the other four members would take care of Tampines Central residents on Mr Heng's behalf.

The opposition Workers' Party (WP) sent their regards to Mr Heng and wished him a speedy recovery, while the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said that it was saddened by the news and that their thoughts and prayers were with him and his family.

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See also: Heng Swee Keat 6th in ranking of Asia Pacific finance ministers