PM Lee Hsien Loong to start forming new Cabinet over next two weeks

PM Lee and his Ang Mo Kio GRC teammates thanking their supporters yesterday.
PM Lee and his Ang Mo Kio GRC teammates thanking their supporters yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Four newcomers to be part of leadership renewal; no name yet for transport portfolio

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be putting together a new Cabinet over the next two weeks - one that is likely to include fresh faces elected on Friday.

A day after Polling Day, he said his immediate priority is to "form the Cabinet and to get the new Government started".

"We need to form a new Cabinet because we have new faces now, we have one or two retirees, and that's what I'll be doing over the next two weeks," said the secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party.

He had separately cited newcomers Ng Chee Meng, Ong Ye Kung, Chee Hong Tat and Amrin Amin as part of the leadership renewal.

In particular, eyes are on who will take on the challenging transport portfolio, one that has seen the exit of three ministers in the last nine years as unhappy commuters grappled with overcrowded buses and trains, and service breakdowns.

Yesterday, Mr Lee parried the question of who might be the next transport minister, saying: "I haven't decided yet. It will not be very long." But whoever does take on the role will have a "very difficult job", he added.

He also said outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who did not stand for re-election, had done well but some of his efforts will not show for up to 15 years.

The Prime Minister was speaking on his home ground in Ang Mo Kio GRC, where his team had won 78.6 per cent of the vote. He and his teammates were thanking voters for their support.

Across the country, the PAP scored 69.9 per cent of all valid votes - its highest tally since 2001.

In an e-mail sent to subscribers of his party's mailing list yesterday, Mr Lee said it could not have won so strongly if not for the support from a wide base of Singaporeans across age, race and income groups.

Both the ruling party and the opposition yesterday mulled over possible factors behind the PAP's landslide victory.

Mr Lee, who has been Prime Minister since 2004, was asked if one reason could be his personal popularity. This election, solo posters of him were put up islandwide, placing him front and centre of the PAP's campaign.

He replied that such conjecture is "flattering" but added that voters' behaviour must be rooted in "substance" - whether people's lives are getting better, and whether they trust not just one person but the entire governing team.

"And I'd like to think that on all these other counts, we made good progress," he said.

 
 
 
 

Defence Minister and PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen cited factors such as Singaporeans' appreciation of the country's success, and their desire for leaders with high standards of integrity.

His colleague, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, in a clear reference to the debate on the Workers' Party's governance of its town council, said that municipal issues such as the way town council funds are handled also played a significant role in the reversal of fortunes for the opposition.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong observed that the PAP had crested on a national wave that came in response to Mr Lee's call for a fresh mandate.

"The party would do well to heed that clarion call, and support the PM in building the next generation of leaders to bring Singapore forward," he said in a Facebook post.

There was also soul-searching in opposition ranks, caught off guard by their poorer showing.

Ms Sylvia Lim, chairman of the WP, which lost Punggol East but retained its six seats in Aljunied GRC and Hougang, said Singaporeans were less dissatisfied with the Government compared with 2011.

Contests in all 89 seats and the view that the opposition is gaining ground may have influenced voters to back the PAP, she added.

"Perhaps some people did feel there was some risk... the PAP might be dislodged as a government," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline 'PM to start forming new Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe