Friday, 20 May 2011

Post GE 2011: The end of an era, PM Lee Hsien Loong announces new Cabinet lineup, 18 May 2011

A CABINET without Lee Kuan Yew.

Almost unthinkable a year or two ago, that possibility became real yesterday as the man himself took a cursory look around the meeting room before calling it a day.

Yesterday, 19 May 2011, marked the last Cabinet meeting that Minister Mentor Lee, 87, would attend, nearly 52 years after he chaired his first.

It seemed only apt then that he recalled that afternoon in June 1959 when he was just 35 and the Prime Minister of a country just embarking on self-government.

For the next five decades, he would be an indomitable presence around the table - the first 31 years as Prime Minister, and then as a trusted senior adviser, a 'databank', as he once described himself.

The mood during yesterday's meeting in the wood-panelled room in the Istana was reflective, according to those present.

It was also the last time for eight other ministers, including Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who turns 70 today.

'We were all conscious that this was the end of an era,' said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in remarks to the media.

In one move, the last of the first two generations of the Singapore leadership exited this select group of men and women who spend at least one day each week deliberating and deciding the finer points of policy.

Tomorrow, when the new Cabinet is sworn in, the seats of MM Lee and the others will be taken over. Fresh faces - like former central bank chief Heng Swee Keat, 50, and former army chief Chan Chun Sing, 41 - would soon be occupying the vacated chairs around the table.

But as MM Lee recounted to his younger colleagues his earliest Cabinet memory, he was characteristically unsentimental. In his view, the new team was a strong one, and it confirmed for him that he and Mr Goh had made the right decision to step down completely.

'For me, it was seeing history being made,' said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam. 'For my generation, MM symbolises Singapore - a leader not just of a party but of a whole movement.'

What that 'movement' accomplished may be visible all around Singapore today. In 1959, however, when MM Lee's government took office, it projected a budget deficit of $14 million for the year before some belt-tightening slashed it to $8 million.

The current government will have a budget surplus of about $80 million this year, and an estimated surplus of $5 billion over its whole term - not to mention the accumulated past reserves of a few hundreds of billions of dollars.

But yesterday was not about the numbers. It was rather a nod to history, a moment to acknowledge contributions. And so, after a short agenda of routine business, PM Lee thanked the retiring ministers.

The nine then took turns to speak. Mr Goh 'spoke for all of us in thanking MM again, saying that without him and his unwavering policy of self-renewal, none of us would have been given the opportunity to serve in Cabinet', recalled PM Lee.

The outgoing Cabinet then applauded MM Lee, who wished the new team well and 'success in tackling the difficult challenges ahead'.

After the meeting, Foreign Minister George Yeo, who lost his seat in Parliament in the May 7 General Election, updated his Facebook page.

'With MM Lee and SM Goh stepping down, a chapter closes and a new one opens in the Singapore story.'

The new Cabinet will have only 15 ministers, down from the current 21. The average age will be 53, down from 59.

* I would like to thank MM Lee, SM Goh and the retiring Ministers for their selfless contributions to Singapore.

Many have paid tributes to them while some choose to celebrate their retirement, I believe it is a thankless job that none would take but which they have undertaken to the best of their ability. We should also give thanks and appreciation to the sacrifices of their families over the years.

PM Lee announces new Cabinet lineup
The Straits Times, 19 May 2011

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced major changes to the Cabinet lineup on Wednesday.

Mr Wong Kan Seng, Mr Mah Bow Tan and Mr Raymond Lim will retire from Cabinet.

There are new heads for 11 out of the 14 ministries, with a new Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) in Tharman Shanmugaratnam. He remains Finance Minister and also takes over the Manpower Ministry.

Mr Teo Chee Hean remains DPM and will head the Home Affairs Ministry.

The rest of Cabinet looks like this:

- Mr S Iswaran will be the Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Trade and Industry.

-Dr Ng Eng Hen will be Defence Minister.

-Mr K Shanmugam will be the new Foreign Affairs Minister and will remain in charge of the Law Ministry.

-Mr Lui Tuck Yew will be Transport Minister .

-Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will be in charge of Information, Communications and the Arts.

-Mr Khaw Boon Wan will be the new minister for National Development.

-Dr Vivian Balakrishnan will be in charge of Environment and Water Resources.

-Mr Gan Kim Yong will be the Minister for Health.

Two newly elected Members of Parliament will also be helming ministries: Mr Heng Swee Keat will be Education Minister and MG Chan Chun Sing will be the Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports.

The full Cabinet line-up is attached below.

No comments:

Post a Comment