SINGAPORE - Former Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, who retired from Cabinet in May 2011, will not be contesting in the upcoming general election.
The 68-year-old is stepping down as a Member of Parliament after 31 years. Dr Ng Eng Hen, organising secretary of the People's Action Party (PAP), announced this on Wednesday at a press conference to introduce new candidates for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. Both men are currently MPs there.
Dr Ng noted that Mr Wong is one of the longest serving MPs, having entered Parliament in 1984. "He has mentored a string of MPs including myself," said Dr Ng.
Before leaving Cabinet after the last general election, Mr Wong held various positions including Home Affairs Minister from 1994 to 2010 and Deputy Prime Minister from 2005 to 2011.
"I myself was a new candidate in 1984 when I first contested in the old Kuo Chuan ward. I remained here for seven years until I moved to Bishan to head Thomson GRC... I've been here for 31 years now. It seems long ago but also like yesterday when I was a rookie candidate," he said at the press conference held at a coffee shop in in Block 177, Toa Payoh Central, near the PAP branch office.
"Over the subsequent elections I sat at party HQ, I introduced new candidates. Today I am introducing but also (announcing) I'm no longer standing after seven terms."
He said the changes are part of the PAP's self renewal process and that he is doing his part to find people to succeed him.
With his retirement, the only person left in his 1984 batch of MPs is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
As a sign of respect, the rest of the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC team, including new candidates Chong Kee Hiong, Chee Hong Tat and Saktiandi Supaat, stood up and bowed to Mr Wong.
"I want to thank Bishan Toa Payoh residents for letting me serve them... They will always have a place in my heart. (I'm) grateful to thousands of grassroots leaders and friends who have walked with me in this political journey," Mr Wong said.
Mr Chong, 49, who will take over from him in the election, said: "He has left me a huge pair of shoes to fill."
A former English Literature teacher, Mr Wong was a personnel manager at Hewlett-Packard before he entered politics in 1984. The father of two was appointed Minister of State the following year.
His ministerial posts included heading the then Ministry of Community Development as well as the Foreign Ministry. But he is most known for is his work on law and order during his 15 years helming the Ministry of Home Affairs.
It was also in this ministry that he suffered the lowest point in his political career - the escape of terror leader Mas Selamat Kastari in 2008. The fugitive was captured in Malaysia in 2009 and is now back at Whitley Road Detention Centre, where security has been beefed up.
At the National Day Rally speech in 2003, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong praised Mr Wong's work as a minister.
"Kan Seng is a very effective minister. Give him the most difficult operational task and he will sink his teeth into it, like a bulldog. As chairman of the ministerial Sars committee, he did an excellent job. And without him, this place would be full of illegal immigrants, crawling with criminals, and torn by terrorists. He catches them all."