3 key ministers to retire from Cabinet

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced the retirement of three ministers from Cabinet.

They are Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security Wong Kan Seng, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan and Transport Minister and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Raymond Lim.

Speaking at the Cabinet appointments on Wednesday, PM Lee said that they have "served in challenging appointments and made many valuable contributions."

He added that the three men had previously expressed a desire to step down, but he had asked them to stay on and help him fight the recently concluded General Election.

"Now that elections are over, they have reiterated that they do not wish to be reappointed," he said.

Mr Wong became a Member of Parliament in 1984 for Kuo Chuan Constituency in Toa Payoh and was re-elected for the Group Representation Constituencies of Toa Payoh (1988), Thomson (1991) and Bishan-Toa Payoh (1997, 2001, 2006 and 2011).

He was appointed the Acting Minister for Community Development in 1986 and was made a full member of the Cabinet as Minister for Community Development in 1987. He was concurrently appointed the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1988 before he became the Minister for Home Affairs in 1994.

On 1 September 2005, he was appointed one of two Deputy Prime Ministers following the retirement of Dr Tony Tan. On 1 November 2010, Mr Wong was appointed the Co-ordinating Minister for National Security and relinquished his post as Minister for Home Affairs.

Mr Wong's retirement will see Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean taking on the role of Co-ordinating Minister for National Security.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan joined politics in the 1984 GE when he lost to Singapore Democratic Party's Chiam See Tong in Potong Pasir.

However in 1988, Mr Mah was elected as MP for Tampines GRC and appointed Minister of State (Trade and Industry) and Minister of State (Communications and Information) concurrently.

In June 1999, Mr Mah was appointed Minister for National Development and re-appointed in the same role in 2004 and 2006.

Mr Khaw Boon Wan will replace Mr Mah as the new minister for National Development.

Mr Raymond Lim was first elected to Parliament in 2001 and appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Trade & Industry.

In 2003, he was given the additional responsibility of being Minister of State in charge of entrepreneurship before he was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister's Office; Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2005.

In 2006, he became Minister for Transport, continuing to serve concurrently as Second Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Mr Lim will be replaced by Mr Lui Tuck Yew as Transport Minister.

Political commentator and veteran journalist P N Balji said the retirement of the three ministers show that PM Lee has listened to the voters.

"If he doesn't do something dramatic and deep, the party will face trouble at the next elections. He means business," said Balji, who is the director for the Asia Journalism Fellowship.

He believes that the heavy criticism against the three ministers over housing and transport issues, as well as the escape of terrorist Mas Selamat, were factors that led to their stepping down.

However Mr Lim's exit was "a bit of a surprise," said Balji. "The transport problems were not his doing. They were the result of the government decision to lift the floodgates to foreigners."

The problem could have been with Mr Lim's lack of grassroots support, said Balji, pointing out that the People's Action Party had to send labour chief Lim Swee Say to anchor Mr Raymond Lim's East Coast GRC.

Some people Yahoo! Singapore spoke to were not surprised by the announcement of their retirement.

Said National Solidarity Party's secretary-general Goh Meng Seng, "The three key ministers who were not part of the new line-up -- Mah Bow Tan, Raymond Lim and Wong Kan Seng -- 'deserved to retire' because they were "accountable" to issues over housing and transport and the Mas Selamat case."

Accountant Ursula Ng agreed. She said, "I think based on the recent GE results and issues raised, the three of them received quite a bit of backlash from Singaporeans regarding the issues concerning their respective ministry but I also hope that their replacements will step up and address our concerns."

Singaporeans also reacted to the news of their retirement on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.

@ashethen wrote on micro-blogging platform, Twitter, "im so so so happy that wong kan seng n mah bow tan IS OUT!!!: PAP did this right this time!

@emeliaology added, "Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim out! Is that something good?"

Facebook user Kengboon Lim wrote on Yahoo! Singapore's wall, "Mbt n Raymond lim both garner the lowest votes in this election. It seems our PM is trying to gain back some votes in the east."

The new Cabinet will be sworn in by President SR Nathan this Saturday evening.

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