Three veteran ministers to retire from Cabinet

From left: Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will remain as MPs after leaving the Cabinet.
Mr Lim Hng Kiang (above), Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will remain as MPs after leaving the Cabinet.
From left: Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will remain as MPs after leaving the Cabinet.
Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lim Swee Say (above) and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will remain as MPs after leaving the Cabinet.
From left: Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will remain as MPs after leaving the Cabinet.
Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (above) will remain as MPs after leaving the Cabinet.

After 27 years in government - 14 of them helming the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang would be taking a break from trade data.

"My sons are planning a safari trip," the famously reticent minister shared in a recent interview, when asked about his post-retirement plans.

But he may not be able to stay away from Singapore for too long: Mr Lim, 64, will continue in the ministry as special adviser, assisting his successor Chan Chun Sing, announced the Prime Minister's Office yesterday.

Mr Lim, along with Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, 63, and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, 62, are the three veteran ministers who will leave the Cabinet on May 1, making way for younger leaders.

All three remain as MPs. Dr Yaacob is an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, Mr Lim Hng Kiang is an MP for West Coast GRC and Mr Lim Swee Say is an MP for East Coast GRC.

It is not yet clear if they will contest in the next general election - which must be held by April 2021.

In an interview, Dr Yaacob said he has to consider his options if he is asked to contest. "If (the Prime Minister) doesn't have enough people, there's a vacuum, I have to balance that against my other needs. I'm not getting younger, you know."

He added that as a member of the Muslim community, he intends to find a way to contribute to Muslim affairs without being "in the way" of the new minister.

Mr Lim Hng Kiang said: "My approach is always, I believe in renewal. The earlier generation made way for the third generation and, similarly, it's my firm belief the third generation of leaders should make way for the fourth generation."

Asked what his plans are, Mr Lim Swee Say said his immediate priority after May 1 is to spend more time with his family and residents in East Coast GRC.

"It has been a privilege for me to serve in the Cabinet for the past 18 years since being appointed acting minister for the environment in 2000," he said. "I will leave the Ministry of Manpower in the good hands of Josephine. She is a bright, capable and passionate 4G leader whom I have tremendous confidence in."

When they retire, Mr Lim Hng Kiang would have held his post at the Ministry of Trade and Industry for 14 years, while Dr Yaacob would have been the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs for 15 years.

Mr Lim Swee Say, who was the labour chief for eight years, has been Manpower Minister since 2015.

Of the three, Mr Lim Hng Kiang has been in politics the longest. He entered politics 27 years ago in 1991 when he contested in Tanjong Pagar GRC. The political careers of Dr Yaacob and Mr Lim Swee Say span 22 years, from the time they contested in the 1997 General Election. Dr Yaacob won in Jalan Besar GRC and Mr Lim in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked the three men "for their services and contributions, in multiple portfolios over many years", said a statement from his office.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'Three veteran ministers to retire from Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe