Monday, April 15, 2024

PM Lee to step down: Key milestones of his political career

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a Merdeka Generation Appreciation ceremony at the ITE Central, on June 2, 2019. 
Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that he will hand over the premiership to his deputy Lawrence Wong
Mr Wong will be sworn in on May 15, 2024 at 8pm at the Istana
TODAY looks at the key milestones and events of Mr Lee's illustrious political career


April 15, 2024

SINGAPORE — After 40 years on the Singapore political scene, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 72, on Monday (April 15) announced the timing of his stepping down and handing over the premiership reins to his deputy Lawrence Wong, 51.

A statement by the Prime Minister's Office on Monday said Mr Lee would relinquish his office on May 15 while Mr Wong, who is Deputy Prime Minister, will be sworn in that day at 8pm.

The announcement comes two years after Mr Wong was picked as the leader of the fourth-generation (4G) team of political leaders and 12 years after Mr Lee said in 2012 that he did not want to be prime minister beyond the age of 70.

Mr Lee, who has served as prime minister since 2004, has undertaken several political reforms and guided the nation through various challenges, such as the "great recession" in 2008 and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

He has led the People's Action Party (PAP) to four General Election (GE) victories.

TODAY takes a look back at what political observers regard as an illustrious political career and some of the key changes and major events that took place during Mr Lee's career including his tenure as prime minister.

July 1, 1983: Before entering politics, Mr Lee had a 13-year career in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). He was promoted to become Singapore's youngest brigadier-general at age 32. During his SAF service, Mr Lee, then a colonel, helmed the operations behind the Sentosa cable car crash on Jan 29, 1983, which rescued 13 passengers.

Dec 22, 1984: Mr Lee contested the GE that day after earlier leaving the SAF to enter politics.

Mr Lee was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for the Teck Ghee Single Member Constituency (SMC) for the PAP.

After Teck Ghee SMC was merged into the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in 1991, Mr Lee continued to be the MP for the Teck Ghee division and has helmed the GRC since then.

Jan 1, 1985: As part of a leadership transition that took place in the PAP in the mid-1980s, Mr Lee was appointed a member of the PAP's Central Executive Committee when all the previous members of the committee resigned to make way for younger leaders.

He also chaired the Government's economic committee in the same year, which recommended policy changes to revive the Singapore economy which was facing a recession.

Jan 1, 1987: Mr Lee became a full member of the Cabinet as Minister for Trade and Industry and Second Minister for Defence.

Nov 28, 1990: Then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong succeeded Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Lee's father, to become Singapore's second prime minister. Mr Lee Hsien Loong was named as one of two deputy prime ministers alongside Ong Teng Cheong.

Mr Ong later became Singapore's fifth president in 1993.

Nov 16, 1992: Mr Lee announced that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer. He underwent three months of chemotherapy, which brought the cancer into remission in 1993. He relinquished his position as Minister for Trade and Industry following his diagnosis.

Jan 1, 1998: Mr Lee was named chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 1998.

Nov 10, 2001: Mr Lee became Finance Minister.

Aug 12, 2004: After 14 years of serving as Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Lee succeeded Mr Goh as Prime Minister and relinquished his role as MAS chairman.
TODAY file photoMr Lee Hsien Loong swearing in as Singapore's third Prime Minister on Aug 12, 2004.

Aug 22, 2004: In his first National Day Rally speech, Mr Lee introduced several initiatives, among them the "five-day work week" which removed the half-working day on Saturday and extended maternity leave from eight to 12 weeks.

May 6, 2006: In his first GE since becoming the PAP's secretary-general, Mr Lee led the party to win 82 out of 84 seats, with an average of 66.6 per cent of overall votes. The Ang Mo Kio GRC was also contested by the opposition Workers' Party for the first time in 15 years, with the PAP emerging victorious with 60.42 per cent of the votes.

Mr Lee led the PAP to three more GE victories in 2011, 2015 and 2020.

September 2012: Mr Lee first expressed his wish of not remaining as prime minister beyond the age of 70. Asked in an interview with national daily The Straits Times if he saw himself staying on in the top job beyond 70, Mr Lee, then 60, said: “I hope not.”

Feb 15, 2015: Mr Lee was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent a robot-assisted keyhole prostatectomy to remove his prostate gland.

Oct 19, 2017: In an interview with American news network CNBC, Mr Lee said that he was “ready” to step down in the next few years and Singapore’s next prime minister was “very likely” already in the Cabinet.

April 23, 2019: Mr Heng Swee Keat was promoted to deputy prime minister, in a move widely interpreted to mean Mr Heng would succeed Mr Lee as Singapore's fourth prime minister.

April 8, 2021: Mr Heng, then 60, stepped down from seeking to become prime minister, citing his age and health as factors behind his decision.

Feb 10, 2022: Mr Lee announced a delay to his planned retirement mainly due to the demands of the Covid-19 pandemic.

April 16, 2022: After a year of deliberation, Mr Wong was named as the successor to Mr Lee, with Mr Lee adding that the move was "endorsed by the ministers, as well as the PAP MPs".

June 6, 2022: Mr Wong was promoted to the position of Deputy Prime Minister.

April 15, 2024: After serving five terms as Singapore's Prime Minister, Mr Lee announced on Monday that he would be stepping down as the country's leader and handing over to Mr Wong, who will be sworn in on May 15.

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