Singapore: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong caused a scare when he fainted briefly while delivering a long televised speech on Sunday, but he resumed speaking after resting.
The 64-year-old cancer survivor, son of the city-state’s late founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, suddenly stopped speaking more than two hours into his speech and had to be helped off the stage.
When he returned about an hour and 20 minutes later, the crowd in the packed auditorium gave him a standing ovation and thousands of well-wishers expressed relief on social media.
Aides blamed fatigue and dehydration and ruled out a stroke.
“Thank you for waiting for me. I gave everybody a scare,” said Lee, who has been in power since 2004.
He said he fainted during the speech, part of celebrations linked to Singapore’s 51st anniversary as a republic on August 9.
“I think that’s what happened. I’ve never had so many doctors look at me all at once, they think I’m all right. But anyway I’m going to have a full check-up after this.”
Neighboring Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak posted on Twitter: “Heard that you’re not feeling well. I hope you’re all right. Get well soon.”
Lee had been on his feet for more than two hours when he stunned the audience as he slouched over the lectern before cameras cut away to his listeners during a live broadcast.
The audience sat in shock but broke into applause when Lee was being helped off the stage.
An official statement said Lee was affected by prolonged standing, heat and dehydration.
“His heart is fine and he did not have a stroke,” the statement added.
Lee underwent surgery for prostate cancer last year and has received the all-clear from doctors. He survived a bout of lymphoma, a form of cancer, in 1992.
Sunday’s incident was the second health scare to hit the government since Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat collapsed from a stroke during a cabinet meeting in May.
After resuming his speech, Lee underscored the importance of an orderly leadership succession.
He led the ruling People’s Action Party, which has governed Singapore since it became independent from Malaysia in 1965, to a new-five year term last year and has indicated he would hand over power by the time he reaches 70.
“Most of the core team are in place,” he said.
“Heng Swee Keat gave us a bad scare, worse than what I gave you just now. Much worse,” he said.
Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, a medical doctor who was among those who helped Lee off the stage, said on Facebook that the prime minister had a “fainting spell”.
“Not serious, similar to what soldiers get from standing on the parade square too long,” he said.