SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday (April 9) said he and his team in East Coast GRC remain committed to serving their residents in the coming years, and that they would fulfil promises made when they were voted in at the polls last year.
He was speaking to reporters late that evening at the People's Action Party's headquarters in Bedok after a two-hour meeting with activists in his constituency, a day after he announced he was stepping aside as leader of the party's fourth-generation team.
His East Coast GRC team - also comprising Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman, Minister of State Tan Kiat How and MPs Jessica Tan and Cheryl Chan - had arrived at the PAP HQ shortly after an earlier closed-door meeting for PAP branch secretaries.
Various meetings among PAP leaders, MPs and activists were organised on Friday to address concerns and questions about the party's succession plans.
Mr Heng said his team told their activists during the hybrid meeting that "nothing has changed".
"We told them, the residents of East Coast have given us a mandate. And we have promised them we will work to build a vibrant, caring and green East Coast," he said.
"The five of us will work together with all of them, and with our residents to carry out what we have promised, and to serve our residents to the best of our ability."
The PAP retained East Coast GRC in GE2020 with 53.41 per cent of the votes, down from 60.73 per cent in 2015.
Mr Heng said he also spent some time to explain what he had said at Thursday's press conference to announce his decision to step aside as Singapore's potential next leader - and to reiterate why it was better for the country to have someone younger with a longer runway to take on significant challenges facing it in the years ahead.
Mr Heng, who turns 60 next week, said his activists understood his decision and that some retired MPs had also reached out to communicate the same.
"They understand the need for us to say this, in order to facilitate the changes that will come."
Asked if he would be involved in deliberations to choose the next 4G leader, he said that he would continue to chair meetings to discuss national issues and to provide his inputs.
He said the rest of the 4G team were discussing the matter among themselves and that he would meet them later next week.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who will remain at the helm till his successor is ready to take over, has said that he hopes a new leader can be identified before the next general election.
Mr Heng will relinquish his finance portfolio when a Cabinet reshuffle takes place in two weeks, but will remain as Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.
He also remains the PAP's first assistant secretary-general.
Asked for his ideal candidate to be the next finance minister, Mr Heng said this person should have a very good background in economics, experience in managing a ministry before, and the ability to work with all the other ministers.
"Because every budget requires significant inputs from every ministry, and it is to support the whole-of-government," he said. "We have several suitable candidates, in my mind."
This article was first published in The Straits Times.