Wong Kan Seng retiring from politics

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) yesterday introduced its slate of new candidates for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC for the coming general election.

They are Chong Kee Hiong, 49, chief executive of OUE Hospitality Reit Management, former senior civil servant Chee Hong Tat, 41, and Maybank executive vice-president Saktiandi Supaat, 41.

Former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng, 68, an MP for the GRC, announced that he will be stepping down after seven terms. Also stepping down are MPs Hri Kumar Nair and Zainudin Nordin.

The announcements were made at a coffee shop in Block 177, Toa Payoh Central, near the PAP branch office, and chaired by PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen, who is an MP there.

PAP has traditionally introduced its candidates at the party's headquarters in New Upper Changi Road. Dr Ng said it was doing the introductions at a coffee shop to put across the message that "elections are about the heartlands" and electing MPs who can take care of the ground.

Also present was MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Josephine Teo.


Dr Ng noted that Mr Wong is one of the longest-serving MPs, having entered Parliament in 1984. "He has mentored a string of MPs including myself," said Dr Ng.

Before leaving Cabinet after the last general election, Mr Wong had held positions including home affairs minister from 1994 to 2010 and deputy prime minister from 2005 to 2011.

With Mr Wong's retirement, the only person left in his 1984 batch of MPs is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

As a sign of respect, the team stood up and bowed to Mr Wong.

He said: "I want to thank Bishan-Toa Payoh residents for letting me serve them... They will always have a place in my heart. (I'm) grateful to thousands of grassroots leaders and friends who have walked with me in this political journey."

Mr Wong said Mr Chong will take over from him to look after Bishan East residents.

"He has strong values, strong commitment to serve residents, a heart to serve the less well-off because he came from a humble family and moved up because of meritocracy," Mr Wong said.

"I hope residents will give him the strong support they have given me over these 30 years."

Mr Chong, who is married with four children aged nine to 17, was formerly the head of The Ascott Limited.


Mr Zainudin, 52, who has been an MP since 2001, said the past 15 years have been a wonderful and enriching journey. Explaining his decision not to run, he said it was to spend more time with his family.

He introduced Mr Saktiandi as a very capable young man who would be able to do more for the Malay Muslim community and residents of the GRC.

Mr Saktiandi - who quipped that "my name is a bit of a mouthful, so I recommend you call me Andi" - began his career at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

He was a lead economist in the Economic Policy Department of MAS prior to joining the private sector in 2010. He is now executive vice-president and head of the FX research team in global markets, global banking of Maybank.

He is also chairman of the Malay/Muslim Community Leaders' Forum (CLF) Labs Steering Committee, which focuses on providing seed funding for youth-driven community related social enterprise activities. He is married with three children aged five to 12.

He said that a belief in the Singapore dream prompted him to enter politics.

"I was raised by my mum, a radio DJ, and my dad, a policeman. They worked hard to raise us... I've seen Singapore progress from kampung to where I am today... I believe in the Singapore dream. You may have setbacks and face difficulties, but at the end of the day we Singaporeans will still do very well."


Explaining his decision to step down, Mr Nair, 49, said he had to refocus his priorities because his wife was ill.

He later told reporters that his wife was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2012.

"She's okay now," he added, but said that the condition "is not the sort of thing that really goes away".

Of his time in politics, he said: "I'm glad for the opportunities to speak in Parliament. I've never held back. The ministers may not always agree with me, but they've respected my right to speak freely."

Replacing him as a candidate is Mr Chee, who recently resigned from the civil service where he was second permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry. His prior postings include principal private secretary to the late Lee Kuan Yew and chief executive of the Energy Market Authority.

Mr Chee, who is married with four children aged four to 15, is also a resident of the GRC.

Speaking in Hokkien and Mandarin, he said he came from a traditional family and grew up speaking Mandarin.

"We were taught to be grateful and hard-working... From that I learnt to not be afraid of suffering but give my all to my country."

He said his focus now was to see how he could better serve residents, and the coming election.


This article was first published on Aug 13, 2015.
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