Lawrence Wong: Not everyone can be ‘lead vocalist’ among 4G ‘band’ members

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong plays the guitar in a class with current Tanjong Katong Secondary School students during an interview with presenter Tung Soo Hua. (SCREENCAP: MeWatch)
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong plays the guitar in a class with current Tanjong Katong Secondary School students during an interview with presenter Tung Soo Hua. (SCREENCAP: MeWatch)

SINGAPORE — Being part of the People's Action Party (PAP) fourth-generation (4G) team is like being in a band, where "not everyone can be the lead vocalist", said Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawerence Wong.

"You need a pianist, a guitar player, a drummer, etc. Everyone has a role but we also need to work together to make a great piece of music," he said in Mandarin during the fourth and final episode of Be My Guest season 4, which aired on Saturday (11 June) night on Channel 8.

The hour-long episode saw Wong, 49, who is also Finance Minister and the multi-ministry COVID-19 taskforce co-chair, being interviewed by news and current affairs presenter Tung Soo Hua.

Wong and Tung had visited the DPM's office and participated in a brisk walking event in Limbang, one of the four divisions within the Marsiling-Yew Tee group representation constituency (GRC), where Wong is a Member of Parliament (MP).

According to Tung, the filming of the episode took more than a month. During the filming of the last scene, Wong had already become the leader of the 4G team, she added.

On 14 April, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced that Wong was chosen to head the 4G team. Lee followed with an announcement on 6 June that Wong will be DPM from 13 June.

"Everyone in the 4G team has their own expertise. Everyone is crucial to the team. We fought the pandemic together over the last two years. We have built incredible rapport and a strong bond," said Wong.

Hence, the team members know each other's strengths and how to work with one another to achieve the best results, he added.

Wong admitted that he was initially daunted by his appointment to be the 4G team leader, describing it as a "tremendous responsibility". It was a "tough task" to familiarise himself with other aspects of governance, in addition to his Finance portfolio, he said.

"I told my colleagues if you think I am the best candidate, then I am happy to step up to the plate. They trust me and I don't wish to let them down."

Wong was the top choice for 15 out of the 19 stakeholders involved in choosing the next 4G leader. The stakeholders, excluding Lee as well as Senior Ministers Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Teo Chee Hean, comprised cabinet ministers, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, and labour chief Ng Chee Meng – the latter two were former 4G ministers.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung were seen by many as frontrunners to become PM previously.

When asked what type of PM he would be, Wong noted, "Let's not talk about when I will take over as PM. Whatever it is, I will continue to strive hard, to become a leader who can represent every Singaporean to the best of my ability. I will humbly accept everyone's feedback and embody the hopes and dreams of every race."

Blessed with 'good bosses'

Wong also spoke at length about his decades-long career in public service, adding that he initially had no clue about what he wanted to do when he started out. At some point, he revealed that he even contemplated going into the private sector.

But as his portfolio expanded, including drawing up policies, he felt that his work was meaningful and gave him satisfaction. Consequently, he decided to stay in the public sector.

Wong spent 14 years in civil service before he entered politics in 2011 at Lee's invitation.

"I consider myself lucky. Ever since I have joined public service, I have had good bosses who rendered me guidance and help," he added.

His first boss, former minister Khaw Boon Wan, who was then permanent secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was already adept at fixing issues at the time, according to Wong.

"He has a solid grasp of the problems he's trying to solve. He's also an adept communicator who explains complex policies in a simple way," Wong said.

His second boss, Lim Siong Guan, a former permanent secretary at the finance ministry, placed great emphasis on having effective workflow and gave younger employees opportunities to further their careers.

Wong also talked about his current stint as one of the co-chairs of the multi-ministry taskforce. The role has given him opportunities to better communicate with the public on measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I have held more press conferences throughout these two years than I ever did throughout my career," he quipped.

Viewers can catch the episode on meWATCH and Mediacorp Entertainment's YouTube channel.

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