Chan Chun Sing: I'm a very simple person

Mr Chan Chun Sing at NTUC Centre yesterday, where he met union leaders. In his new role as NTUC deputy secretary-general, he will strive to strengthen links between workers, businesses and the Government, armed with the courage of conviction that he
Mr Chan Chun Sing at NTUC Centre yesterday, where he met union leaders. In his new role as NTUC deputy secretary-general, he will strive to strengthen links between workers, businesses and the Government, armed with the courage of conviction that he gained at his earlier posts.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Cabinet minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday displayed the informal demeanour that has endeared him to many in the social sector when he met union leaders.

The 45-year-old, expected to be the next labour chief, raised his hand cheekily in response to current chief Lim Swee Say's humorous suggestion to "kee chiu" - Hokkien for "hands up". When Mr Chan used the phrase at a PAP rally during the 2011 general election, it drew derisive comments from some netizens.

It has stuck as a nickname for him online.

In a brief speech to the unionists, Mr Chan described himself as "a very simple person", and recounted growing up in a single-parent home.

He wanted to be a librarian and hoped to receive bursaries to get through school.

"I hope to do whatever I can to contribute back to this country that has given me these opportunities," he said.

"I hope all our Singaporeans, all our workers, will be able to enjoy good opportunities and a better quality of life."

Mr Chan joined politics in 2011, after 24 years in the Singapore Armed Forces, where he rose to become Chief of Army.

He was elected MP of Tanjong Pagar GRC in the May 2011 election, and was immediately appointed Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and concurrently, Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts.

Then aged 41, he was the youngest minister in the Cabinet.

In August 2012, he was appointed Senior Minister of State for Defence.

In November, he became Acting Minister for Social and Family Development.

Then, in September 2013, he was promoted to full minister, making his rise among the swiftest in the group who entered politics in the 2011 election.

Now, about 15 months later, he will become a deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress - which is seen as a prelude to stepping up to the top post.

His new role will stretch him further as he works on strengthening links between workers, businesses and the Government.

Mr Chan was awarded a President's Scholarship and a Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship in 1988 to study economics at Cambridge University.

Last night, reflecting on his time in the ministry, the father of three wrote in a Facebook post that he was grateful to have worked with "passionate and professional people".

"They have taught me much. They have given me the confidence and conviction to do many of the things that we believe in."

JOANNA SEOW