Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew to leave politics; PM Lee 'reluctantly accepts' decision

Mr Lui Tuck Yew riding one of the new trains on the Circle Line on Aug 3, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has chosen not to stand for re-election in the next General Election, a decision which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Aug 11) that he reluctantly accepted.

In an exchange of letters between Mr Lui and PM Lee released on Tuesday, Mr Lui said he had broached the subject early this year, but PM Lee and senior Cabinet members tried hard to persuade him to change his mind.

"You reminded me that the responsibility of Government was a collective one, and no minister carried difficult problems like public transport alone," wrote Mr Lui. "I deeply appreciate the reassurance and support. But having thought the matter over carefully, I have decided that I should stand by my original decision."

Mr Lui is Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, which will be dissolved at the next election.

In the letter, Mr Lui also thanked PM Lee for the "unstinting support" given to him and his ministry, and cited how spending on new buses and trains has started to ease congestion on public transport. The Downtown Line - to open within the next 24 to 30 months - will add capacity to the rail network, he added.

But he also noted of the setbacks during his tenure as Transport Minister, including two major disruptions on the foundational North-South and East-West lines: "Large-scale or prolonged disruptions still happen more frequently than is acceptable".

And while major upgrades have been made, and areas needing systematic renewal identified, the improvements will take time, given the nature and scale of the rail network, he wrote.

"I have put my utmost into fulfilling my responsibilities," Mr Lui concluded. "I thank you for letting me know your intention to re-appoint me as a Cabinet Minister, if I was to be re-elected at the coming General Election."

"But the General Election also provides an opportunity for me to step back from politics without causing any major disruption to Government at the end of its term. You are also bringing in new potential office holders to strengthen Cabinet."

In his response to Mr Lui's letter, PM Lee praised him for his "very good work" as Transport Minister. He said: "When I asked you to helm the Ministry in 2011, we both knew that you had a very difficult job, but you did not hesitate to take up the challenge.

"You put your heart and soul into the task. As a result, we made significant progress over the last four years."

He said that Mr Lui has "put in place many improvements whose benefit will be seen only in the coming years, and which will make a lasting difference to the public transport system."

And in spite of recent train disruptions, PM Lee said he is confident that Singapore is heading in the right direction.

PM Lee concluded: "You served with distinction and dedication in all your postings. You will be missed."

Mr Lui, a former Navy chief and top public servant, entered politics in 2006. After being elected to Tanjong Pagar GRC, he served as an officeholder in ministries like Education, Information, Communications and the Arts, and Foreign Affairs.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean thanked Mr Lui, whom he has known for thirty years, for serving in Government and for being ready to take on challenging tasks.

"He has served with honour and distinction, and has brought commitment, an analytical mind, and compassion and concern for people to every responsibility he has undertaken," he said.

Mr Teo had encouraged Mr Lui to join politics, and had asked him to stay on.

"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," he said, adding that he understood and respected Mr Lui's reasons for stepping down and wished him and his family good health and happiness.

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