NGOs happy Tan Chuan-Jin remains their govt point man

SINGAPORE - SOME environmental and animal rights groups welcomed the announcement that Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin will continue to be their Government point man even after he leaves the Ministry of National Development (MND).

Leaders of non-governmental organisations told The Straits Times on Tuesday that Mr Tan had built up familiarity and goodwill with the sector.

Said Nature Society president Shawn Lum: "He has made a sincere effort to engage with us, and he has built up a lot of experience in the past two years. It would have been a shame to lose that."

Mr Louis Ng, president of animal rights group Acres, described Mr Tan as "open to dialogue and feedback", noting that he recently helped push through policy changes on animal welfare based on groups' recommendations.

Though he is no longer in MND, "he remains in the Cabinet, so he can still relay our concerns to the other ministers", said Mr Ng.

Singapore Heritage Society's vice-president, Dr Chua Ai Lin, said Mr Tan's presence "may offer some continuity in the state-NGO engagement process" and added that the group is also looking forward to sharing its views with Minister of State Desmond Lee.

Mr Tan oversaw NGO issues when he was Senior Minister of State for National Development, a role which he officially relinquished on Monday as part of a Cabinet reshuffle.

Commenting on Mr Tan's departure on Monday in a blog post, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said while the new Minister of State Desmond Lee will take over some of the portfolio, Mr Tan will remain as their "unofficial point person" for the NGOs as "he feels passionately for these causes, and we too".

"He walked, jogged, cycled, dived, and of course Facebooked, to build up a strong and productive relationship between MND and the interested NGOs," said Mr Khaw.

Mr Khaw said projects such as the Rail Corridor and Bukit Brown, animal welfare and biodiversity conservation issues were among many which benefited from Mr Tan's suggestions.

Mr Tan has said little on his change in duties since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the Cabinet reshuffle last week.

PM Lee said he wanted Mr Tan to drop his MND role so he could concentrate on helming the Manpower Ministry.

But last Friday, Mr Tan posted the following message on his Facebook page: "For your many kind thoughts and messages, thank you very much. I'm deeply humbled. There is a reason why we serve, and it doesn't depend on our appointment. I'm already blessed to have this opportunity and will continue to make a difference where I can."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.