The Workers’ Party secretary general, Low Thia Khiang, says Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew “has tried his best” in resolving the problems with the transport system.
Mr Lui had announced earlier this week that he would not be contesting the upcoming elections, which has led to speculations for his reasons for the decision.
Mr Lui had not provided a clear explanation for why he has chosen not to run in the elections again, having only entered politics in 2006 and is still relatively young at 53.
Mr Low described Mr Lui as a “hardworking minister” whose leaving politics raises questions about his reasons for doing so.
“I thought the standard ethos of the PAP is that resignation does not solve the problem?” Mr Low said to the media after his meet-the-people session on Wednesday evening.
“You have to stay on to solve the problem as a minister,” he added.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said, for example, in 2008 that it “is not the government’s way to force ministers to resign” whenever something goes wrong.
Mr Lee was defending then Home Affairs minister, Wong Kan Seng, following the escape of Southeast Asia’s top terrorist suspect, Mas Selamat Kastari, from the Whitley Road detention centre at the time.
Mr Low raised several questions on the possible reasons for Mr Lui’s impending departure from Cabinet and politics altogether.
“Was it because of the recent incident of the MRT big breakdown? Or is it that he feels that he has not been supported by his Cabinet colleagues, who is supposed to work as a team, to give enough confidence to stay on and to solve the issues?”
He also asked if the recent deletion of Mr Lui’s constituency of Moulmein-Kallang GRC – which was only introduced at the last elections – from the electoral map for the upcoming elections had anything to do with Mr Lui’s decision to step down.
“[Was] it because he was disappointed, his ward in Moulmein-Kallang was chopped off into pieces and redistributed?” Mr Low asked. “[Did] that also affect his morale?”
Mr Lui had expressed disappointment when the new electoral boundaries were released by the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee earlier in August.
The WP chief, who is also MP for Aljunied GRC, questioned if the government needed to rethink the fundamental issue of the transport model in Singapore, given that two Transport ministers have resigned following their tenures in the ministry.
Mr Lui’s predecessor, Mr Raymond Lim, had also stepped down from the Cabinet following the 2011 general election where transport problems was one of the main points of unhappiness among voters.
“Was it, philosophically, how they treat transport is not correct and not convincing to the Minister of transport?” Mr Low asked.
Mr Low, nonetheless, noted that Mr Lui has introduced some measures to lighten the transport problems, when asked if he thought Mr Lui had done a good job with his portfolio.
“I think so, i mean from my perspective, from what I have seen, you know he was on the ground , he tried his best , that is what my understanding and I think he had to convince the Cabinet to spend quite a lot of money for 500 additional buses to solve some of the problem,” Mr Low said. “I think it has take certain effect, you can see certain effect of it.”
Mr Low also said Mr Lui has moved the transport model from its traditional one to the present one of contracting out certain aspects of the system which, Mr Low says, “is in the right direction.”
When asked if he agreed with some analysts who have said that Mr Lui’s announcement of his resignation would draw away some heat from the PAP during the elections, Mr Low said he would be disappointed if that were the case.
He said this would mean the PAP has allowed a minister to resign in order to take the heat off public transport issues, which would go against the PAP’s own principle of collective leadership.
As for his own party’s election plans, Mr Low said the WP woul probably field a younger slate of candidates who are more savvy with social media.
One of these new candidates is Associate Professor Daniel Goh, who works at the Department of Sociology, NUS. He is also a WP CEC member and is currently the president of its Young Wing.
Other potential WP candidates include lawyers Dennis Tay, Terence Tan and He Ting Ru; along with Cheryl Denise Loh and Bernard Chen.
Mr Low himself said last week that he will be remaining in Aljunied to defend his seat, but declines to confirm if his colleagues in the GRC – Sylvia Lim, Pritam Singh, Faisal Manap and Chen Show Mao – would be doing the same.
Ms Lim posted a photo of herself on Wednesday of her at a hawker centre in Fengshan, one of the new constituencies which have been brought back by the electoral boundaries review committee.
She captioned her photo: “The taste of Fengshan — heavenly!”
Her posting has led to speculation that she may move out of Aljunied to contest in the single-member constituency in the upcoming elections.
Mr Low hinted to the media on Wednesday that some clues might be given at the party’s walkabout this Sunday, on who the members of the Aljunied team for the elections will be.
As for some of the issues which may come up during the heat of the hustings, Mr Low was asked what he thought about PAP ministers making references, in recent weeks, to issues of integrity and competency in the running of town councils – which are seen to allude to the WP town council’s management of its affairs – Mr Low said:
“If they really want to launch an attack, we will respond to them.”