Veteran MP Inderjit Singh, who announced last week that he will retire from politics at the next general election, said yesterday he remains a People's Action Party (PAP) member and will help Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to campaign during the elections.
His latest remarks on his Facebook page came amid social media chatter and online reports that Mr Singh, 55 - one of six MPs for Ang Mo Kio GRC, which is helmed by Mr Lee - had quit the ruling party.
He dismissed the talk, saying he had asked Mr Lee way back in January 2013 if he could step down.
"I have contributed almost 20 years as an MP and wanted to spend time on my work and family," he said, adding: "I remain a PAP member and will be assisting the Prime Minister in his election campaign in Ang Mo Kio."
The online comments about Mr Singh leaving the party arose after his Facebook post last Friday night declared that he was retiring from politics. It came hours after the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee's report was released.
GREAT RESPECT FOR 'PEOPLE'S MP'
When I read that Inderjit was retiring, two thoughts came into my mind. First, that at 55, he had many more years to contribute and was big-hearted to retire now, so that younger candidates could stand in his place.
I have great respect for Inderjit and learnt from his many good speeches in Parliament. He has a heart for the daily struggles of Singaporeans and could put it across in heartfelt and effective ways. When he spoke, ministers took note and followed up. He was a people's MP.
Second, I thought we should do better than just Facebook postings for retiring MPs. After many years of service, the party should try to find a more dignified and deliberate way to announce their retirement. So when we announce new candidates, whenever possible, we will do it together with their retiring MPs that they are taking over. I hope this approach will do justice to the many years of contribution that MPs like Inderjit have given to serve their residents.
DR NG ENG HEN, PAP organising secretary and Defence Minister, when asked about earlier comments he made about Mr Singh's decision to announce his retirement online
Some netizens and online news sites then dug up and put online past speeches he had made in Parliament and suggested he had been "forced" to quit for speaking out against some government policies.
They cited as further proof the boundaries committee's recommendation that Mr Singh's Kebun Baru ward be carved out of Ang Mo Kio GRC. It will be part of Nee Soon GRC at the next elections.
Reacting to the chatter online, Mr Singh said in his Facebook post yesterday: "I read with amusement that some people have taken my old speeches and reposted them with a headline that I have left the PAP. The White Paper speech was made in early 2013 and the one on the response to the President's Address was posted in May 2014."
Before his latest post, PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen, who is Defence Minister, had said on Sunday that the party wanted to handle the retirement of its MPs in a "more deliberate and dignified manner".
He added: "You can post your retirement on Facebook but I think... an MP who has served 15, 20 even 30 years... that's not the best way to do it. For many of them, they'll have to prepare their ground, ensure... continuity and say goodbye."
Some websites read the comment as directed at Mr Singh - the only MP to have announced his retirement on Facebook - and said it was a sign of "infighting" in the PAP.
When asked about it yesterday, Mr Singh said: "If there was infighting, would I be helping PM Lee with his campaign?"
Separately, Dr Ng, when asked about the online chatter, told The Straits Times: "I thought we should do better than just Facebook postings for retiring MPs. After many years of service, the party should try to find a more dignified and deliberate way to announce their retirement."
That is why the PAP will announce the retirement of its MPs together with the introduction of new candidates where possible, to honour the veterans for their contributions, he added.
Dr Ng also paid tribute to Mr Singh, describing him as an MP who "has a heart" for Singaporeans and who knew how to put across their daily struggles in heartfelt and effective ways.
"I have great respect for Inderjit and learnt from his many good speeches in Parliament," he said.