Foreign Minister George Yeo leaves politics

Alicia Wong
SingaporeScene

Foreign Minister George Yeo and his team after their loss of Aljunied GRC was announced. (Yahoo! photo/Alicia Wong)

Foreign Minister George Yeo has announced he is leaving politics and will not be contesting in Aljunied GRC in the next General Election (GE) .

The incumbent Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC and his People's Action Party (PAP) team lost their seats to the Workers' Party in this year's historic General Election. They garnered some 45 per cent of the votes.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday morning, Minister Yeo, said while many supporters have called on him to "win back Aljunied in five years' time", he said he will leave the important task to someone younger.

"I wanted to level with them and told them last night that it is better for a younger person to take on this important task," the minister said in a media statement.

"I'm already 57 years old and would be 62 by then. Naturally I would help to ensure a smooth handover," he said.

Minister Yeo, who gave a heartfelt speech on the need to transform the PAP at his last rally before polling day, said he would still "help in whatever way I can to bring about this transformation of the PAP".

He clarified that he has believed in the need for change within the PAP for some time.

"It was not something I felt I could say when the campaign started. But, as the campaign went on, as we heard the growing cry from the heart, I decided to make it plain," he said, stressing that the Republic is entering a "new phase of political development".

"How we respond to it will decide Singapore's destiny in the 21st century," he added.

"As for remaining in public life, I will contribute in whatever modest way possible," he said. He also looks forward to continue working with young people.

Professionally, however, Minister Yeo has not decided on his next move. He is set to relinquish his post as Foreign Minister when the new Cabinet is sworn in.

He will be taking a break to spend more time with his family.

On this year's results, Minister Yeo reiterated that he respects the decision of the Aljunied voters and thanked Singaporeans for the opportunity to serve them in the last 23 years.

"Having committed 23 years of service to the residents, it is only natural for me to feel disappointed but this is politics," he said.

He agreed with WP chief Low Thia Khiang's analysis that the WP won because voters wanted WP to be their voice in Parliament and not because the current Aljunied team did not do a good job.

"This desire for a strong WP voice in Parliament was a political tide which came in through Aljunied, which we were unable to withstand despite our very best efforts. Right from the start, the WP made Aljunied a national battleground."

He elaborated, "The fight became one between a WP voice in Parliament and an Aljunied team with two ministers, a potential Speaker of Parliament, a potential minister and a most effective Town Council chairman."

Aljunied residents told Yahoo! Singapore they were sad to hear of Minister Yeo's decision but felt it was a necessary trade-off to have more alternative voices in Parliament.

Some also said they would not have changed their votes, even if they knew Minister Yeo would retire from politics if not elected.

"Those were very honest words from an honest man who just happened to be in a bad spot," said wedding photographer Sebastian Wong. The 24-year-old said he would still vote opposition in Aljunied because "one man doesn't make the whole PAP".

Another Aljunied voter, corporate communications manager Stephanie Chua, 28, said, "It's sad to hear that he is giving up. He has served the Aljunied residents well and I feel that we have lost a great politician.

"Maybe it is really time to rethink if we should keep the GRC system. I wish him all the best," she added.

Other Singaporeans have also lamented the loss of Minister Yeo in politics.

72-year-old retiree and former civil servant Lye Kim said, "It's a pity that he's leaving politics because with his rich experience, he could have improved the shortcomings of the party."

Bishan resident Boon Lian Fa, 69, said "It is sad for Singapore but I feel he will help community and society through other means. (I'll) just wait to see his next move."

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