Press Statement by George Yeo on 10 May 2011 at MFA
I would like to make some remarks before taking questions.
Aljunied voters have decided and I respect their decision. Having committed 23 years of service to the residents, it is only natural for me to feel disappointed but this is politics.
It has been my privilege to have served them all these years and they have enriched my life. They have also enabled me to serve in various capacities as a Cabinet Minister in MITA, Health, MTI and MFA for which I am grateful.
Why did we lose Aljunied?
Mr Low Thia Kiang himself said that they won Aljunied not because the Aljunied team did not do a good job, but because the voters wanted WP to be their voice in Parliament.
Mr Low’s analysis is fair and I agree with him. 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 Workers Party made Aljunied a national battleground.
The fight became one between a Workers Party 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.
Though I wish the outcome had been different, Aljunied voters have made their choice.
Many of my supporters asked me to stay on to win back Aljunied in five years time. 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. I’m already 57 years old and would be 62 by then. Naturally I would help to ensure a smooth handover.
As we ended our campaign on 5 May, I talked about the importance of transforming the PAP. This is a belief I’ve held 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. Like it or not, we are entering a new phase in Singapore’s political development. How we respond to it will decide Singapore’s destiny in the 21st century.
I would help in whatever way I can to bring about this transformation of the PAP. I wish I had a mandate from the people of Aljunied to be a strong advocate of such transformation. But I don’t.
As for remaining in public life, I will contribute in whatever modest way possible.
Many young people have stepped forward to help me in this campaign. Even more have cheered me on. It is not good that so many of them feel alienated from the Singapore they love. I look forward to continue working with them so that the Singapore we struggle for is the Singapore they feel is their own. As to the actual role I can play, I’ll be happy to respond to them. In the last few years, I have learnt much from my young friends. Often they led me rather than I led them.
A younger generation has been politicized in this GE.
Since the GE results came out, there has been a flood of support for me expressed personally, through friends and relatives, on email and, in an astonishing way, on Internet and FB. The words expressed are heartfelt. Many wrote me long passages, some in tears. I’m grateful for the kind and comforting words and the many good wishes. It will be an honour for me to be an advocate of their cause.
As for what I’ll do professionally after stepping down as Minister when the new Cabinet is sworn in, I’m not rushing to make a decision. My wife and I thought we should take our time to think this over. We also need a break to spend more time with the family.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank the people of Singapore for the honour of serving them in the last 23 years.