Lee Hsien Loong

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The Honourable
Lee Hsien Loong
MP
李显龙
Lee Hsien-Loong - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 cropped.jpg
Lee Hsien Loong speaking to interviewers during his visit to Davos, Switzerland for a World Economic Forum meeting in January 2012.
3rd Prime Minister of Singapore
Incumbent
Assumed office
12 August 2004
President Sellapan Ramanathan
Tony Tan
Deputy Tony Tan
Shunmugam Jayakumar
Wong Kan Seng
Teo Chee Hean
Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Preceded by Goh Chok Tong
Secretary-General of the People's Action Party
Incumbent
Assumed office
3 December 2004
Deputy Wong Kan Seng
Teo Chee Hean
Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Chairman Lim Boon Heng
Khaw Boon Wan
Preceded by Goh Chok Tong
Minister for Finance
In office
10 November 2001 – 1 December 2007
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
Deputy Raymond Lim
Preceded by Richard Hu
Succeeded by Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
In office
28 November 1990 – 12 August 2004
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
Preceded by Goh Chok Tong
Succeeded by Shunmugam Jayakumar
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Ang Mo Kio GRC
Incumbent
Assumed office
31 August 1991
Preceded by Constituency established
Majority 62,826 (38.7%)
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Teck Ghee SMC
In office
22 December 1984 – 31 August 1991
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1952-02-10) February 10, 1952 (age 62)
Singapore
Political party People's Action Party (PAP)
Spouse(s) Wong Ming Yang (m. 1978; died 1982)
Ho Ching (m. 1985)
Children Lee Xiuqi
Lee Yipeng
Lee Hongyi
Lee Haoyi
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Harvard University
United States Army Command and General Staff College
Military service
Service/branch  Singapore Army
Years of service 1971–1984
Rank Brigadier General
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Lee (Chinese: ; pinyin: ).

Lee Hsien Loong (Chinese: 李显龙, born 10 February 1952) is a Singaporean politician. He is the third and current Prime Minister of Singapore, and has been in office since 2004. He is the elder son of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

As the Secretary-General of the People's Action Party (PAP), Lee became Prime Minister in August 2004, succeeding Goh Chok Tong. He has been a Member of Parliament (MP) for Teck Ghee since 1984 and a member of the Cabinet since 1987, and was one of the key leaders in Singapore's political transition in the 1980s and 1990s. Before becoming Prime Minister in 2004 he served as the Minister for Trade and Industry, Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minister. Prior to his election to Parliament, he served as an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces, quickly rising to the rank of Brigadier-General.

Lee Hsien Loong
Traditional Chinese 李顯龍
Simplified Chinese 李显龙

Background and education[edit]

The eldest child of Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his wife Kwa Geok Choo, Lee Hsien Loong was born in Singapore on 10 February 1952. His paternal grandmother, Chua Jim Neo, was a Hokkien Nyonya, and his mother has ancestry from Tong'an District, Xiamen, Fujian, China.[1][2] According to Lee Kuan Yew's biography, the younger Lee had learnt the Jawi script from the age of five, and has always been interested in the affairs of Singapore, often following his father to the rally grounds since 1963.

Lee studied at Nanyang Primary School and received his secondary education at Catholic High School, before going on to National Junior College (where he learned the clarinet under the tutelage of Adjunct Associate Professor Ho Hwee Long). In 1971, he was awarded a President's Scholarship and Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship by the Public Service Commission to study Mathematics at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He was Senior Wrangler in 1973,[3][4] and graduated in 1974 with first class honours in mathematics and a Diploma in Computer Science (with distinction). In 1980, he completed a Master of Public Administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Military career[edit]

Lee joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1971. In 1978, he attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Lee rose quickly through the ranks in the Singapore Army, becoming the youngest brigadier-general in Singaporean history after his promotion in July 1983. Notably, he was put in command of the rescue operations following the Sentosa Cable Car Disaster. Lee left the SAF in 1984 to pursue civilian politics.[5]

Early political career[edit]

In the 1980s, Lee was regarded as the core member of the next batch of new leaders in the People's Action Party (PAP) leadership transition that was taking place in the mid-1980s, as Lee Kuan Yew had declared that he would step down as Prime Minister in 1984. Following the 1984 general election, all of the old Central Executive Committee members resigned on 1 January 1985, except for Lee Kuan Yew himself.[6]

Lee was elected a Member of Parliament (MP) in 1984 at the age of 32. Following his election, he was appointed as Minister of State at the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence by his father, who was the Prime Minister at the time.

In 1985, Lee chaired the government's Economic Committee, which recommended changes to established government policies to reduce business costs, foster longer-term growth and revive the Singapore economy, which was experiencing a recession at the time. The committee's recommendations included reductions in corporate and personal taxes and the introduction of a consumption tax.

In 1986, Lee was appointed the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. In 1987, he became a full member of the Cabinet as the Minister for Trade and Industry and Second Minister for Defence.

Lee was the chairman of the PAP Youth Committee, the predecessor to the Young PAP, when it was established in 1986, while he was still a brigadier-general. The PAP had been undergoing leadership transition, and many of its key leaders were aging, with younger replacements scarce. PAP branches were urged to recruit 40-50 members each. Lee envisioned there would be a lot of young people who were "idealistic, patriotic, nationalistic, keen to work for the nation." Lee's goal was to maintain the preeminence of the PAP such that "when the people think about the government of Singapore, if they think about the future of Singapore, then they will think about the PAP". Lee also said that the youth wing would be a channel in which the youth could communicate dissent, in which otherwise they might be "tempted" to vote for the opposition political parties and bring the PAP government down.[7]

Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

On 28 November 1990, Goh Chok Tong took over from Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore's Prime Minister, and Lee Hsien Loong was made one of two Deputy Prime Ministers (along with Ong Teng Cheong). He also continued to serve as the Minister for Trade and Industry until 1992.

In 1992, Lee was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent a three-month period of chemotherapy. When his treatment began, he relinquished his position as the Minister for Trade and Industry, though he continued to be a Deputy Prime Minister. His chemotherapy was successful, and his cancer has since gone into remission.

Lee was appointed Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 1998, and in 2001 he was made the Minister for Finance.

To ease the growing budget deficit due to falling tax revenues from cuts in corporate and personal income taxes and other factors such as the Iraq War and SARS outbreak, Lee proposed on 29 August 2003 to raise the GST from three percent to five percent, a change which took place in January 2004.

Lee also initiated several relaxations of the requirements for Singapore citizenship, notably for foreign-born children of Singaporean women.[8] The changes were made after repeated pleas from MPs and the Remaking Singapore Committee.

In the sphere of domestic politics, Lee played a key role as Deputy Prime Minister. In an interview with the media in 1996, ahead of the 1997 general election, he outlined what the ruling party looked for in its candidates for Members of Parliament.[9]

On the international front, Lee helped build relations with other countries like New Zealand.[10]

Prime Minister[edit]

2004[edit]

In the months leading up to Lee taking over as Singapore's third Prime Minister in 2004, he was already signalling reforms in some key areas, including ceding more space to the private and people sectors. Of the government's role, he said in a speech: "Nanny should not look after everything all the time".[11]

On 12 August 2004, Lee succeeded Goh Chok Tong as Prime Minister and relinquished his chairmanship of the Monetary Authority of Singapore to Goh Chok Tong. Lee was sworn in by Chief Justice Yong Pung How at the Istana.

Lee made his maiden National Day Rally on 12 August 2004. In his speech, Lee initiated the policy of the "Five-day work week", a plan that would remove a half-working day on Saturday. The plan took effect on 1 January 2005.

Lee also proposed two-month paid maternity leave for mothers of newborn children and financial incentives to mothers who give birth to a fourth child. These policies were initiated in response to the declining birth rate that Singapore has experienced in recent years.

In November 2004, Lee sparked a national debate when he revealed a proposal to build two Integrated Resorts (IRs) which are holiday resorts with casinos. In April 2005, despite some opposition expressed by the public, Lee announced the decision to approve the proposal. The two IRs are to be built in Marina Bay and Sentosa. To limit the negative social impact of casino gambling, Lee suggested that safeguards be implemented, such as prohibiting minors from entering the casinos and charging a S$100 entrance fee for Singaporeans and permanent residents or S$2000 for a year-long entrance fee.

2006 general election[edit]

In February 2006, three months before the general election, Lee announced in parliament a S$2.6 billion bonus called the Progress Package.[12][13] The plan was to distribute budget surpluses accumulated from the past few years in the form of cash to all adult Singaporeans, top-ups to the state pension savings for elders, rental and utilities rebates for those living in public housing, educational funds for school children from low-income families, and cash bonuses for low-wage workers above 40 and for those men who have completed National Service. The cash bonuses was distributed in early May 2006.

Critics, especially members of the opposition, have slammed the Progress Package as a "vote-buying exercise" for the Singapore parliamentary election held on 6 May 2006. In that election, Lee led the People's Action Party to win 82 of the 84 seats, including 37 walkovers. Lee and his six-member team won the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) with 96,591 (60.42%) votes out of the total 159,872 votes cast. Most of the opposition Workers' Party (WP)'s team of six were in their 20s and the constituency was contested for the first time in 15 years.

Its decision to contest Ang Mo Kio came as a surprise, as the opposition was expected to stay away from GRCs helmed by heavyweight ministers; but the party said that giving Ang Mo Kio residents a chance to vote was a prime reason for contesting the GRC. Given the inexperience of the WP team and Lee Hsien Loong's position as the Prime Minister, they won a surprisingly strong 49,468 votes (30.94%). There were also an extremely high percentage of void votes: 13,813 (8.64%).

2010[edit]

In May 2010, Lee instituted electoral reforms to the current electoral system by reducing the number of group representation constituencies (GRC), increased the number of Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) to a maximum of nine (inclusive of the number of elected opposition members of Parliament), and the number of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) permanent also to nine. Also part of the reforms was the legalization of internet campaigning and mandating a "cooling-off" day where campaigning is prohibited except for party political broadcasts.

2011[edit]

Effective 1 June 2011, Lee was named chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) which manages more than S$100 billion of assets. He succeeds his father, Lee Kuan Yew, who will remain as senior advisor to the fund.[14]

2011 general election[edit]

In April 2011, a general election was called for 7 May 2011. For the second time, the PAP was not return to government on Nomination Day with only one uncontested walkover. In the final results, the PAP saw a 6.46% swing against the it from the 2006 elections to 60.14%, its lowest since independence.[15] While the PAP met most expectations to sweep into power and claim over two-thirds of parliamentary seats, it won 81 out of 87 seats, and lost Aljunied Group Representation Constituency to the Workers' Party (WP), the first time a GRC was won by an opposition party. Two cabinet ministers, namely Foreign Minister George Yeo and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua, were defeated.[16]

Later on, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong tendered their resignations from the Cabinet, stating that they wished to give the Prime Minister a "fresh clean slate" in forming the government and enable him to "have a completely younger team of ministers to connect to and engage with this young generation".[17] Lee and Goh were appointed as senior advisers to the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) respectively.[18][19]

Lee was sworn-in into a second term on 21 May 2011. His new cabinet included three newly appointed ministers. S. Iswaran, formerly Senior Minister of State for Education and for Trade and Industry, was elevated to the Cabinet as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Second Minister for Home Affairs and for Trade and Industry. Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing, both elected to Parliament for the first time, were respectively assigned the posts of Minister for Education, and Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and Minister of State for the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.[20][21] Heng was the first new MP directly appointed a full minister since 1984.[22][23]

2012[edit]

On 20 April 2012, Lee set up his Facebook page to connect with Singaporean netizens.[24]

Foreign relations[edit]

With Chilean President Sebastián Piñera

China[edit]

Relations with China have improved under Lee's administration. Smooth progress has been made in areas of trade, tourism and investment, which is not merely in accordance with the interest of the two countries, but promises to be beneficial to the common development of the region. The China-Singapore Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) is responsible for promoting Sino-Singaporean co-operation.

During his meeting with vice-premier Wu Yi in September 2005, Lee proposed the establishment of a China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone, which would achieve the goal of realizing US$50 billion in trade volume before 2010. In doing so, both agreed that relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should be elevated.

During his seven-day visit to China in late October 2005, the Prime Minister stressed the need of improving bilateral diplomatic relationships between ASEAN and China. Lee also urged leaders to focus on the next wave of growth in north-eastern China, saying: "It is a long-term commitment. There is no place in the world that you can go in and your money just grows on trees. Not in China."

United States[edit]

Lee visits the United States in July 2005.

Singapore has generally had a favourable relationship with the United States. The growth of bilateral trade improved commercial and diplomatic ties between the two countries after the implementation of the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and the growth in bilateral trade has been evident since the Free Trade Agreement became effective on 1 January 2004.

Lee made his inaugural visit to the United States, as Prime Minister of Singapore, between 6 July and 16 July 2005. Several other ministers, notably Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean and Foreign Minister George Yeo, accompanied Lee.

On 12 July 2005, President of the United States George W. Bush and Lee signed the "Strategic Framework Agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of Singapore for a Closer Cooperation Partnership in Defence and Security". The agreement was a natural step in the expansion of bilateral ties. President Bush and the then Singaporean prime minister Goh Chok Tong had first announced their intention to conclude this agreement in October 2003.

The intention of the agreement is to address common threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which called for even closer cooperation between the United States and Singapore.

The agreement recognizes Singapore's role as a Major Security Cooperation Partner and will expand the scope of current cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, joint military exercises and training, policy dialogues and defence technology. The Agreement will further enhance regional stability by supporting the continued security presence of the United States in Southeast Asia.

Both Prime Minister Lee and United States President George W. Bush agreed that the American presence in Southeast Asia has promoted peace and stability, which are crucial for regional cooperation and economic development.

During their meeting, both Bush and Lee acknowledged the progress in the war on terror. Lee commended Bush's 'resolute and steadfast stance in the war on terror' and expressed Singapore’s continued support in this endeavour. In exchange, Bush commended the professionalism of the Singapore Armed Forces personnel, who have been deployed in support of Iraq operations over the past two years and of the Singapore Police Force, which has provided critically important training. Both Bush and Lee also pledged to sustain the close cooperation between the United States and Singapore in key regional and global multilateral institutions.

Controversies[edit]

As the eldest son of Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Lee's career has been shadowed by allegations of nepotism.[25][26][27][28] At the age of 32, he became the youngest brigadier-general in Singaporean history, and from a young age was widely tipped to be Lee Kuan Yew's successor as Prime Minister. When Lee Kuan Yew stepped down as Prime Minister to make way for his successor, Goh Chok Tong, several critics had seen Goh as a seat-warmer, but Lee Kuan Yew said he had disproved that. In his memoirs, Lee Kuan Yew stressed that he could not have his son directly succeed him: "It was better that someone else succeed me as Prime Minister. Then were Loong to make the grade later, it would be clear that he made it on his own merit."

The Lees are very sensitive to the issue of nepotism, with Lee explaining: "And if anybody doubts that I as Prime Minister am here not because I'm the best man for the job but because my father fixed it, or that my wife runs Temasek because I put her there and not because she's the best woman for the job, then my entire credibility and moral authority is destroyed because I'm not fit to be where I am."[25][26]

The Lees have reacted strongly against published allegations of nepotism by taking legal action in Singapore courts, winning out-of-court settlements for defamation from the Financial Times (2007)[28] and the New York Times Company.[29] However, in a 2008 report, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute ("IBAHRI") claimed that the "slim likelihood" of a successful defence to defamation, combined with high damages awarded in cases involving PAP officials, "sheds doubt on the independence of the judiciary" in cases involving PAP litigants or interests.[30]

Taiwan[edit]

On 10 July 2004, Lee visited Taiwan, causing displeasure in China. On 28 August 2004 in his very first National Day Rally speech, he criticized the Taiwanese leadership and populace of overestimating the support they would receive if they were to declare Taiwan independence. At the same time, he also clarified during the rally that his visit to Taiwan in July was to ensure he gathered enough intelligence to make the right decisions when he took over the baton as Prime Minister. He reiterated his support for the One-China policy. Later that year in September, Foreign Minister George Yeo cautioned the United Nations General Assembly about the dangers of letting the cross-strait relationship deteriorate. In response, an enraged Taiwanese Foreign Minister, Mark Chen, called Singapore a "nose-shit country".[31] Chen later made a formal apology.[32]

Defamation judgment[edit]

On 24 September 2008, High Court, in a summary judgment by Justice Woo Bih Li, ruled that the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER)'s editor Hugo Restall defamed Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong. The court found the 2006 article "Singapore's 'Martyr': Chee Soon Juan" meant that Lee Kuan Yew "has been running and continues to run Singapore in the same corrupt manner as T. T. Durai operated the National Kidney Foundation Singapore (see the National Kidney Foundation Singapore scandal) and he has been using libel actions to suppress those who would question to avoid exposure of his corruption." FEER has 30 days to appeal.[33] The court sentenced FEER publisher and editor, owned by Dow Jones & Company (in turn owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp), to pay damages to complainants.[34]

Defamation lawsuit: The New York Times Company[edit]

In 2010, Lee, together with the two former prime minister preceded him, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, threatened legal action against The New York Times Company which owns the International Herald Tribune regarding an Op-Ed piece titled ‘All in the Family’ of 15 February 2010 by Philip Bowring, a freelance columnist and former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review. The International Herald Tribute apologized in March that readers of the article may ‘infer that the younger Lee did not achieve his position through merit’. The New York Times Company and Bowring also agreed to pay SG$60,000 to Lee, SG$50,000 to Lee Kuan Yew and SG$50,000 to Goh (total amounted to about US$114,000 at the time), in addition to legal costs. The case stemmed from a 1994 settlement between the three Singaporean leaders and the paper about an article also by Bowring that referred to ‘dynastic politics’ in East Asian countries, including Singapore. In that settlement, Bowring agreed not to say or imply that the younger Lee had attained his position through nepotism by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In response, media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders wrote an open letter to urge Lee and other top officials of the Singapore government to stop taking ‘libel actions’ against journalists.[29][35][36][37]

Salary[edit]

From 2008 to 2012, Lee earned an annual salary of S$3,870,000 (US$2,856,930),[38] an increase of 25% from the previous S$3,091,200 (US$2,037,168).[39] On January 2012, in response to public unhappiness at the high salary,[40] Lee took a 28% paycut reducing his salary to S$2.2 million (US$1.7 million).[41][42][43] He remains the highest-paid prime minister in the world.[44]

Integrated Resorts and Online Gambling[edit]

During a parliament session on 18 April 2005, Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, announced the cabinet's decision to develop two casinos[45] and associated hotels and malls in Marina South[46] and Sentosa.[47] The original debate was whether to have IRs at all, with that agreed upon the issue bothered upon whether having one or two. In an official release, Lee announced in April 2005:

"After weighing the matter carefully, the Cabinet has collectively concluded that we had no choice but to proceed with the IRs. As Prime Minister, I carry the ultimate responsibility for the decision."[48][49]

The National Council on Problem Gambling was set up in Singapore on 31 August 2005 to address problem gambling. Within the first three days of the casino opening at Resorts World Sentosa eight people were arrested.[50] Amidst a variety of social issues that made the news thereafter,[51] gamblers seeking help in Singapore increased[52] after the casinos opened,[53] with more than 3000 Malaysians reportedly gambling in Singapore daily.[54] Between 2010 and 2013 both Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands have become one of the world's most profitable.[55][56]

In 2014, remote gambling or online gambling became a topic of debate in the Singapore Parliament[57] with the Remote Gambling Bill proposed as a counter-measure against online gambling in S’pore.[58]

Defamation lawsuit: Roy Ngerng[edit]

Main article: Roy Ngerng

On May 15, 2014, Singaporean activist and blogger Roy Ngerng wrote an article on his blog, alleging that Lee was involved in corruption.[59] Ngerng then received a letter from one of Lee's lawyers Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Chief Executive Officer of Drew & Napier, who stated in the letter his accusation was "false and baseless". He then demanded Ngerng to take down the article, issue an apology and pay compensation for Lee's legal fees. The Singaporean human rights group Maruah urged the prime minister to withdraw the suit.[60] Ngerng took down the video and issued an apology on the 23rd. On May 26, the apology was dismissed by Singh as not genuine. An offer was made to not to claim aggravated damages against Ngerng provided the posts and videos are not republished, and the injury not aggravated.[61] On May 27, Ngerng offered to pay S$5,000 compensation but the offer was rejected by Singh as "derisory". Singh also pointed out that Ngerng had republished the video (he had undertaken to remove) as well as informed local and international media outlets about the new video link.[62]

Personal life[edit]

Lee's first wife, a Malaysian-born doctor named Wong Ming Yang, died at the age of 31 on 28 October 1982 of a heart attack,[63] three weeks after giving birth to Lee's first son, Li Yipeng, an albino. In 1985, when he was 33, Lee married Ho Ching, a fast-rising civil servant who subsequently became the executive director and chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings.

Lee has one daughter – Xiuqi – and three sons – Yipeng, Hongyi and Haoyi (including the daughter and son from Lee's first marriage). Ho Ching's eldest son, Li Hongyi, was the winner of the Lee Kuan Yew Award for Math & Science in 2006, the same year he was commissioned as an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Honours[edit]

References[edit]

Citations
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  2. ^ 李光耀劝扁勿藉奥运搞台独 Zaobao.com
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Bibliography

External links[edit]

Speeches
Political offices
Preceded by
Tony Tan Keng Yam
Minister for Trade and Industry
1986–1992
Succeeded by
Suppiah Dhanabalan
Preceded by
Goh Chok Tong
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
1990–2004
Served alongside: Ong Teng Cheong, Tony Tan Keng Yam
Succeeded by
Tony Tan Keng Yam
Preceded by
Hu Tsu Tau Richard
Minister for Finance
2001–2007
Succeeded by
Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Preceded by
Goh Chok Tong
Prime Minister of Singapore
2004–present
Incumbent
Parliament of Singapore
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Teck Ghee SMC

1984–1991
Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Ang Mo Kio GRC

1991–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Goh Chok Tong
Secretary General of People's Action Party
2004–present
Incumbent