SAF chief to retire, entry into politics speculated

Chief of Defence Force Ng Chee Meng is leaving the Singapore Armed Forces.
Chief of Defence Force Ng Chee Meng is leaving the Singapore Armed Forces.PHOTO: MINDEF

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant- General Ng Chee Meng will leave the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), in a move widely seen as a precursor to him becoming a People's Action Party (PAP) candidate in the coming general election.

Lt-Gen Ng, 47, the former air force chief who became Chief of Defence Force in 2013, will retire from the SAF on Aug 18.

Taking over the top job in the SAF is current army chief Major-General Perry Lim, 43, who will hand over to Chief Guards Officer Brigadier- General Melvyn Ong, 40.

Announcing Lt-Gen Ng's retirement yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post that he was leaving the SAF "on a high, having brought the SAF through many challenges and changes successfully".

"Inevitably, there will be questions asked about LG Ng's future plans, particularly, if he is entering politics," said Dr Ng, who is also organising secretary in the PAP.

"Given his tested leadership and proven capabilities, I would not at all be surprised, if indeed he is. But I have advised LG Ng not to be distracted or entertain these queries but to instead focus on important national events ahead, particularly the National Day Parade.

"There will be a more appropriate time to address interests in his future plans."

In his 29-year career, Lt-Gen Ng commanded the 144th Squadron, which operates the F-5 Tigers, and was the SAF's joint operations director. As defence chief, he most recently led the preparations for the state funeral of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23.

He is touted by sources as a candidate for the PAP with the potential of becoming an office-holder.

If he does stand in the coming general election, which is expected to take place as early as next month, he will be the highest-ranking military officer to do so. It will also mark the first time in Singapore that a defence chief enters politics.

Over the years, several members of the military have joined the PAP. They include labour chief Chan Chun Sing and Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin. Both entered politics in the last election in 2011.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2015, with the headline 'SAF chief to retire, entry into politics speculated'. Print Edition | Subscribe