Decision to step down a 'personal choice'

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew takes a ride on the Circle Line from Labrador Park to One-North MRT station.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew takes a ride on the Circle Line from Labrador Park to One-North MRT station. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday explained that his decision not to contest the coming general election (GE) was very much a personal choice, and not because he was forced to do so.

He also said that in most ministries but more so in transport, the work is "all consuming - in time, energy, and focus". "And so, to me (the GE) is an opportunity to step down, and step away from politics."

Mr Lui made the point in an interview with Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, a transcript of which was released to the media.

Asked whether he was leaving because of his wife's health, Mr Lui, who turns 54 on Sunday, said his wife Soo Fen was in very good health, and his decision to step down had nothing to do with family or health reasons.

But it was something he had thought about for some months.

"These are things that you mull over and then, you know, I am a Christian, so I did pray for a certain conviction and clarity too. And I felt that by early this year, it was time to share with PM (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong)."

Mr Lui was also asked about perceptions that he quit because he did not want to drag down the vote share of the People's Action Party, given that his transport portfolio was not a popular one.

His reply: "I'm not so sure there are any ministries that are especially popular, nor do we come into this for the sake of popularity."

He added that there have been improvements in public transport capacity - including new lines and buses - and reliability, but acknowledged that there have also been setbacks. "That is part and parcel of the job," he said.

Asked about his future plans, he said he had told PM Lee he will not start making any plans "until I've handed over properly to the next transport minister", and the most important thing for him now was "to continue to devote all the time and energy" he had to the job.

As for whether he would be doing anything related to transport, he said it was far too early to say.

"I don't want my mind to be cluttered with transitions, what's to come... The last thing you want is for decisions to be second-guessed, for people to say, 'Oh, you were planning to go to this company, that firm, that whatever, so did you make your last decisions supporting them, favouring them, or anything like that?' That's the worst way to do things," he said.

Mr Lui also said he would be involved in the GE as he would be introducing the new candidate at his Moulmein branch and make sure he or she is prepared. "If I can help out in whatever way, then certainly I'll be happy to do so," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2015, with the headline 'Decision to step down a 'personal choice''. Print Edition | Subscribe