In what would be an interesting turn of events, Singapore’s President, Speaker and the next Prime Minister may all have come from the same ministry – the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), previously known as the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports (MCYS).
The three individuals who are expected to fill the three roles are:
- President: Halimah Yacob, former Minister of State, MSF/MCYS
- Speaker: Tan Chuan-jin, former Minister of MSF
- Chan Chun Sing, former Minister of MCYS/MSF
What would this spell for Singapore?
Looking at the personal and professional background of the three, one could (perhaps would) expect that they will bring a softer tone to society.
Mdm Halimah, for example, has said she hopes to continue focusing on her association with the less fortunate, even if she is president. Indeed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded her record of such work in his press release accepting her resignation from government.
“Whether it was the rights of ordinary workers to fair employment and decent wages, opportunities for single mothers and children of poor families, or healthcare for the disabled and elderly, you were a consistent and fearless voice in the unions, the Parliament and the Government, pushing us all to build a more equitable society,” PM Lee said.
Mdm Halimah, who lives in a HDB flat, is seen by many as the outright favourite to win the presidential race later this month. She is also known for her warm and down-to-earth ways.
Mr Tan, whose move to the Speaker’s role has been in the news this past week, is also someone who is seen to have a soft spot for the weak and vulnerable. A former general in the SAF, he took on the role of the Minister of MSF, seen as the “welfare” ministry, about 21/2 years ago, after his stint at the Manpower Ministry.
Among the work his ministry did were initiatives which urged Singaporeans to reach out to those they come across who may be in need of help. This is something which he himself does in the evening in his constituency.
Mr Chan, one of three serious frontrunners for the PM role, was Mdm Halimah’s boss at MCYS and later at MSF. The two of them worked well, as witnessed by the slew of initiatives which the two rolled out when they were appointed to their posts following the 2011 general election.
These initiatives included expanding the number of Family Service Centres around Singapore so that the less fortunate could more easily seek help.
Mr Chan himself comes from a poor background, living with his mother in a one-room flat, before he received a scholarship from the government which gave him a leg-up in life.
While, of course, we do not know for sure if Mdm Halimah and Mr Chan will indeed become President and Prime Minister, respectively, it is interesting to ask if all three will envisage a more compassionate Singapore.
If they do, it would not be a bad thing. Singapore, while charging ahead with new economic masterplans and what not, has sometimes took its eye off the less fortunate, which include the poor, the elderly, the sick, the single parents, and more.
Having three people in these key positions in government will, hopefully, shine an even brighter spotlight on these groups who need assistance.
Whether that will truly happen is left to be seen, however.