Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has chosen not to stand in the coming general election, a decision Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday he accepted reluctantly.
In an exchange of letters between the two men dated yesterday, Mr Lui said when he broached the subject of quitting politics early this year, PM Lee and senior Cabinet colleagues tried hard to persuade him to change his mind.
"You reminded me that the responsibility of Government was a collective one, and no minister carried difficult problems like public transport alone," wrote Mr Lui.
"I deeply appreciate the reassurance and support. But having thought the matter over carefully, I have decided that I should stand by my original decision," he added.
Mr Lui, 53, who took on a second portfolio as Second Defence Minister in April, is an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, which will be dissolved at the next polls. He will hold his portfolios till the new Cabinet is formed after the general election.
In his letter, Mr Lui thanked PM Lee for the "unstinting support" given to him and his ministry.
But he also noted the setbacks he endured during his tenure, including two major disruptions on the North-South and East-West MRT lines: "Large-scale or prolonged disruptions still happen more frequently than is acceptable."
In the first quarter this year, there were five major train service disruptions, each lasting over 30 minutes. Last month, more than 250,000 people were affected when trains on the North-South and East-West lines were halted for over two hours during the evening peak of July 7.
The ministry has embarked on major upgrades and identified areas that need systematic renewal, but these improvements will take time, given the nature and scale of the rail network, he wrote.
He thanked PM Lee for informing him of his intention to reappoint him as a Cabinet minister if he were to be re-elected.
"But the General Election also provides an opportunity for me to step back from politics without causing any major disruption to Government at the end of its term," he said.
Replying, PM Lee praised Mr Lui for his "very good work" as Transport Minister. Mr Lui did not hesitate to take up the challenging portfolio when asked in 2011, PM Lee said, adding: "You put your heart and soul into the task. As a result, we made significant progress over the last four years."
But his contributions to this progress will be seen only in the coming years and they "will make a lasting difference to the public transport system", PM Lee said.
Despite recent train disruptions, PM Lee expressed confidence that the public transport system is "heading in the right direction".
In an interview with Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao yesterday, Mr Lui said his decision had nothing to do with family or health reasons.
Asked about talk that he was being forced to leave politics, he said his leaving was a personal choice and one he had mulled over.
"I did pray for a certain conviction and clarity too," he added.
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