In an emotional speech at the PAP's convention at the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre on Sunday (5 November), PM Lee added that Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong is set to lead the party in the next general election (GE), which must be held before November 2025.
"Because of the COVID-19 (pandemic), I did not manage to pass on the baton by my 70th birthday as I had hoped to do. But if all goes well, I will hand over by PAP's 70th birthday next year," the 71-year-old said.
PAP was set up on 21 November 1954.
'Full confidence' in DPM Wong taking over the reins
PM Lee's speech marks the clearest indication of the impending transition of leadership within the PAP, as he expressed full confidence in handing over the reins to DPM Wong at the convention, which was attended by over 1,000 party members.
"I intend to hand over to DPM Lawrence before the next GE," he said.
"After that, I will be at Lawrence’s disposal. I will go wherever he thinks I can be useful, I will do my best to help him and his team to fight and win the next GE, and to fulfil their responsibilities leading the country.
"Lawrence has told me that he is ready... I have full confidence in Lawrence and his team, there is no reason to delay the political transition."
PM Lee emphasised that the ministers had already chosen DPM Wong to be their leader, and the PAP Members of Parliament have also endorsed this choice.
Strategic considerations, leadership transition, and the road ahead
PM Lee explained that if the handover is to take place before the general election, DPM Wong would lead the party in the campaign, securing his own mandate and taking the country forward with the full backing of the nation.
He acknowledged the significance of leadership transitions, highlighting the scrutiny from both Singaporeans and international observers.
He stated, "Leadership transition for any country is always tricky. Many things can go awry. Both Singaporeans and people outside Singapore, near and far, are watching very closely. Everything depends on the success of this third transition in our history."
He added that he had carefully considered this decision and thoroughly discussed with DPM Wong and ministers from the 3G and 4G leadership generations.
He praised Wong and the 4G leadership team for their years of service and increased responsibilities, especially amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said they have played a pivotal role in shaping the national agenda, exemplified by initiatives like the Forward Singapore exercise.
Wong's vision for inclusive leadership and effective communication
In his speech at the convention, DPM Lawrence Wong expressed his commitment to taking on the leadership role from PM Lee and emphasised that he won't be working in isolation.
He highlighted the collective strength of the 4G leaders he has closely collaborated with over the years, stating, "I will not be in this alone. I will have a team of 4G leaders whom I have worked closely with over the years. We are ready to lead."
DPM Wong also urged the party's activists to expand their outreach efforts and diversify the demographics of the individuals they engage with. He stressed the importance of connecting with Singaporeans through various platforms.
"We must engage a wider range of groups, and grow the diversity of people we bring into our PAP," he said.
Furthermore, DPM Wong, who also serves as the party's deputy secretary-general, stressed the need for the party to enhance its communication strategies.
He highlighted the importance of clearly articulating the party's core values, long-term plans, and activities across the board. He also underlined the need for the party to communicate effectively not only through actions but also through improved messaging, especially via social media.
Policy clarity, organisational strengthening, unity in the party's mission
DPM Wong called for the party to explain how its policies differ from those proposed by the opposition. He noted that while some similarities exist, the PAP must clarify why its approach is better for the benefit of Singapore and its citizens.
He also highlighted the necessity of reviewing and strengthening the party's organisational structure. He recognised the dedication of party activists across different branches and emphasised the potential of young members brimming with innovative ideas. He expressed his commitment to providing resources and support to help activists turn their ideas into action and engage the Singaporean population.
DPM Wong highlighted the party's dedication to the mission of uniting Singaporeans and working together to build a shared future, stating, "Together, we will demonstrate our resolve and dedication as a party, fully committed to the mission of uniting Singaporeans and building our shared future together."
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