News of Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew's decision to leave politics was greeted with a mixture of shock and dismay yesterday, as ministers and MPs made clear that they rue his unexpected departure.
Mr Lui's colleagues described him as a dedicated minister and MP, adding that he had contributed much to the Transport Ministry.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean, who encouraged Mr Lui to enter politics in 2006, said he was always ready to take on challenging tasks. The DPM said he had asked Mr Lui to continue but was unable to change the Transport Minister's mind about leaving.
Mr Teo said: "I spoke to Tuck Yew to ask him to continue as we need people who are committed to serving Singaporeans, and prepared to tackle difficult issues and resolve them."
Fellow Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua said Mr Lui accepted the transport portfolio despite having seen what previous ministers went through professionally and personally. "Tuck Yew took the brunt of public anger. He took criticisms and online flaming in his stride, and quietly focused on resolving problems on the ground."
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa said Mr Lui often travelled on public transport on his own to see the conditions for himself. He recalled how in 2011, Mr Lui rode on the Bukit Panjang LRT system during the June school holidays and the trains were not as crowded as expected. "He said never mind, he would come back again a month later to observe. Indeed, he came."
Others described Mr Lui as a humble person who genuinely cared for Singaporeans and was always willing to help his colleagues.
Labour chief Chan Chun Sing said Mr Lui took to heart the interests of transport workers.
Ms Phua added that in his constituency, Mr Lui was known as an MP with "no airs, no wayang", who treated residents and grassroots volunteers with respect and dignity.
Mr Chua Lai Teck, the People's Action Party branch secretary in Mr Lui's Moulmein ward, said: "He says whatever he says from his heart. He is a very humble person."
Moulmein-Kallang GRC anchor minister Yaacob Ibrahim said: "Tuck Yew's commitment to his residents is unwavering, and the residents and I are sad to see him go."
Meanwhile, Workers' Party MP Chen Show Mao recalled on Facebook Mr Lui's maiden parliamentary speech on how Singapore was like a small boat at sea. "He has had his hand close to the rudder all this time. We will miss his earnestness and decency in Parliament."
Democratic Progressive Party chief Benjamin Pwee felt Mr Lui was leaving too early, and voters should get a chance to "give him a scorecard at the ballot box".
But former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin noted that it would have been easy for Mr Lui to pin the blame on someone else for transport failings and have that person fired. Instead, he said, Mr Lui "is taking on a higher-order responsibility himself and being accountable".