Get well soon, Mr Heng

May 13, 2016 10.25AM |

by Bertha Henson

SO WE have a key member of the Singapore Cabinet down with a stroke. A brain aneurysm, which TODAY described as a “localised weakening of a blood vessel’’. It means a blood vessel ruptured. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was operated on last night and the aneurysm was successfully closed.

Plenty of wishes for a speedy recovery have poured forth. We wish Mr Heng well too. The news that he collapsed during a Cabinet meeting was the stuff of movies. How it must have shocked his colleagues. Drs Ng Eng Hen, Janil Puthucheary and Vivian Balakrishnan were on hand to “resuscitate’’ him. That’s such a shocking word.

Mr Heng is just 54 and no doubt the media will be full of information about the cause and effect of a stroke, and how it can hit anyone. Already, people are referring to his workload and work ethic. The Prime Minister described Mr Heng as a valuable member of his team and that value he placed is reflected in how Mr Heng was catapulted from newbie MP to Cabinet Minister right after the 2011 general election, only the second person after Mr Richard Hu in 1985.

Eyes were further opened when he took charge of the Our Singapore Conversation and the SG50 celebrations, said to be platforms for the former career civil servant to hone his political skills. Or, it can be seen as an exercise to stretch this member of the so-called fourth generation leadership further. No one doubted that he, along with a few others like Mr Chan Chun Sing, was being “hot-housed’’ for bigger things.

Now there’s a wrinkle in the formation of a future Cabinet. Not the first time though. Things were a lot more dire in 1992. When both then deputy prime ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Ong Teng Cheong contracted lymphoma. Formers ministers Tony Tan and S Dhanabalan had to be drafted back into Cabinet. It was a blessing that both DPMs bounced back well enough to take on top jobs: Mr Lee as PM and the late Mr Ong as Singapore’s first elected president. Why and how they came to contract cancer is anyone’s educated guess or gross speculation. In the case of Mr Heng, the word “work’’ has been invoked.

But it also says much for the Cabinet system that it has a buffer. So Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam stepped right back into his old Finance Minister job. That he is also Mr Heng’s co-ordinating minister also helps. Doubtless, there are also able minds who will help Mr Heng with his duties on gathering proposals to mould the Future Economy.

Now it remains for us to wish him a speedy recovery and to tell those who wish him ill to…shut up. Talk about his incapacitation and fitness for further duties is premature. And how much disaffection people feel for the G or the People’s Action Party shouldn’t translate into mean remarks and off-colour jokes about the man.

Let’s wish him well.


Featured image by Sean Chong.

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