Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday said outgoing Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin has the qualities to be the new Speaker of Parliament.
"The Speaker's role is a critical one. Going forward, we have many complex challenges to overcome as a nation. We expect more vigorous debate in a House with more diverse views. We need someone with the stature, temperament and the right instincts to conduct parliamentary proceedings," Mr Chan said in a Facebook post.
He also wrote: "I have known Chuan-Jin for over 30 years. We were schoolmates, army mates and then Cabinet colleagues. I know his temperament well and I am confident he will do his best as Speaker."
Mr Chan is the Government Whip in Parliament and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.
Both he and Mr Tan are among the next generation of core leaders.
As the Speaker would not have a direct role in policymaking, Mr Chan was asked whether Mr Tan's appointment was a step down.
A GOOD CHOICE
He is a very good choice. I have known him for six years and I know he is very committed, very passionate about the issues that are of concern to him: Social issues, disadvantaged families, issues affecting the environment, sports. He has done very well in those areas and... will bring great professionalism and confidence to the job.
FORMER SPEAKER HALIMAH YACOB, on Mr Tan Chuan-Jin.
MANAGING DEBATE AND DIALOGUE
Singaporeans are speaking out more and it is always good to have more debate, more dialogue, and we have to manage this as best as we can. As Speaker, you can also think out of government, perhaps champion some issues which matter a great deal to society, in terms of building social capital or social reserves.
MR TAN CHUAN-JIN, on his new role.
His reply: "We have never considered it in that perspective. We have always considered ourselves as a team, and each of us has different strengths and weaknesses, and each of us will be required to play different roles at different stages of our development."
Mr Chan was also asked if the move meant Mr Tan was no longer part of the next generation of core leaders. He said: "All of us in Government do different things, perform different roles, each according to our strengths.
"Regardless of our position, our common aim is to serve Singapore to the best of our abilities. From what I know of Chuan-Jin... he will continue to serve to the best of his abilities."
Mr Tan stressed similar points when asked the same questions at a community event last night. He said: "There are many different roles and many different pathways that we all have to take. (But) I would say we are all running in the same race. And the end outcome we are all working towards is... you have to make things better for Singaporeans."
Later, he added in an e-mail to The Straits Times: "I have always taken the approach that any job or responsibility is meaningful. It is how we approach it and how we make the most of it.
"Throughout my life, I have never bargained or negotiated on where I get posted to. I embrace the opportunities and put in my very best."
Mr Tan is the second Cabinet minister to be nominated Speaker.
In March 2002, Mr Abdullah Tarmugi resigned as Minister for Community Development and Sports to be nominated to the post. He was then 57 years old and had been a minister for nine years.
He was Speaker for nine years until he retired from politics in 2011.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday lauded Mr Tan's contributions at the ministries he helmed.
He pinpointed Mr Tan's deep interest in social issues, like helping the needy and disadvantaged families, when he led the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and championing the cause of low-income workers while at the Manpower Ministry.
At the Ministry of National Development (MND), "Chuan-Jin built good rapport with the heritage, nature, environmental and animal welfare groups", said PM Lee.
"I am glad he has agreed to continue advising MND on these issues, and to oversee SG Cares, after he becomes Speaker," he added.
Mr Tan is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council.
This is an elected post, not a government appointment, PM Lee added, and expressed the hope that "he will keep on leading and inspiring our sporting fraternity, as he did recently at the SEA Games".