Singapore GE2020: Ex-minister Yaacob Ibrahim bids a fond farewell to politics

Former Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim first hinted at his departure during the Budget debate in February. PHOTO: YAACOB IBRAHIM/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Former communications and information minister Yaacob Ibrahim bade farewell to politics on Tuesday (June 23), and reflected fondly on his 23 years as an MP.

In a highly personal Facebook post, Dr Yaacob, 64, thanked colleagues, grassroots leaders and fellow MPs, and said he was "blessed" to have known so many residents in his Kolam Ayer constituency.

He said: "Some whom I met as children have grown into proud parents, while others have left us leaving behind their legacies in the constituency. I have grown with them, becoming one of them as their friend.

"I thank them all for opening their doors and hearts to me, allowing me to enter a world full of warmth, camaraderie and spirit. During all those years, my race never mattered to them."

He also thanked his grassroots leaders, People's Association staff, colleagues in his GRC and the various ministries he has served, as well as his fellow parliamentarians.

He said: "As I turn to the next chapter of my life, I will always cherish these past 23 years for the friends I have made and the opportunities it gave me during many trials and tribulations to become a better person."

Dr Yaacob first hinted at his departure during the Budget debate in February, when he suggested that it would be his last.

With a PhD in engineering from Stanford University, he taught at the National University of Singapore for several years before entering politics in 1997.

He was an MP for Jalan-Besar GRC until 2011, when he led the PAP team to victory in Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

In April 2001, he became the first mayor of Central District.

In 2003, he became minister of community development and sports, as well as minister-in-charge of Muslim affairs - a post he held until 2018. From 2004 to 2011, he held the portfolio of environment minister, which was later expanded to include water resources.

Dr Yaacob is among several veteran MPs expected to step down in the coming election.

Emeritus Senior Minister and former prime minister Goh Chok Tong, former Cabinet ministers Lim Swee Say, Lim Hng Kiang and Lee Yi Shyan are also expected to leave politics in the run-up to the polls.

Dr Yaacob, Mr Lim Swee Say and Mr Lim Hng Kiang stepped down from Cabinet in 2018. At an appreciation dinner for them, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Dr Yaacob, in his role as Minister-in-charge of Muslim affairs in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "provided crucial leadership for the Malay/Muslim community at a moment of anxiety and uncertainty".

He added: "I have no doubt that Yaacob's firmness exposed him to criticism, and came at some cost to his personal popularity. But Yaacob held firm, and in doing so, made a vital contribution to maintaining our racial and religious harmony."

Mr Goh, earlier on Tuesday in a cryptic Facebook post, wrote: "Parliament dissolved. Quo vadis, Singapore? Quo vadis, me?"

"Quo vadis" is a Latin phrase that means "where are you going?"

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