After retiring from politics last year, former Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has agreed to serve as the chairman of the non-profit media entity that will oversee Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) media business.
This was announced by Minister for Communications and Information, S Iswaran in Parliament on Monday (10 May).
Last week (6 May), SPH revealed that it will transfer its whole media-related business to a newly formed Company-Limited-by-Guarantee (CLG), amid the plummeting advertising revenue.
While delivering his ministerial statement in Parliament earlier today, Mr Iswaran noted that the move to appoint a chairman was an important and immediate decision that had to be made by the CLG.
The Minister added that the decision was discussed with SPH’s current management shareholders, who concurred to form the CLG and be its founding members.
This is so the local news media will stay “in the hands of trusted institutions with a long-term stake in Singapore”, he said.
SPH’s management shareholders are OCBC, Great Eastern, UOB, DBS, Singtel, NTUC Income, Temasek via Fullerton, the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
“They have all agreed that, given the national importance of this undertaking and the scale of the challenge, the chairman should be Mr Khaw Boon Wan,” said Mr Iswaran.
“With his high standing and more than 25 years of public service experience in various senior appointments, Mr Khaw will be able to provide strong strategic leadership for the CLG,” the Minister added.
He also went on to say that Mr Khaw has agreed to the appointment and will speak about it “in due course”.
Upon hearing Mr Iswaran’s ministerial statement, Workers’ Party’s (WP) Sylvia Lim asked if the upcoming major restructuring was a “missed opportunity” to appoint a chairman who is “not so closely linked to the Government”, given that there have been some concerns over the editorial independence of the SPH publications.
To this, Mr Iswaran said that the appointment is not based on political reasons, but rather on Mr Khaw’s character and credibility.
“I think in that regard, Mr Khaw is held in high standing in Singapore by many (and) he has a proven track record of taking on difficult issues.
“What you need is someone at the leadership level who has the gravitas, strategic vision, and the experience in undertaking these sorts of major tasks.”
“So I think the choice of Mr Khaw Boon Wan is something that’s not just the government, but in fact, the management shareholders, were very keen on,” said Mr Iswaran.
What would be a missed opportunity, said Mr Iswaran is “if we allow political considerations to prevent us from making the right decision in terms of the right person for the job to get it done”.
Known as “Mr Fix-it” for handling pressing national issues ranging from housing to transport, Mr Khaw retired from the political scene ahead of last year’s General Election.
During his time as a politician, Mr Khaw had dabbled in various ministries such as Transport, Health, and National Development. He was also most recently the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, as well as Transport Minister – a ministry that was given to him in 2015 to tackle the problem of train disruptions.
Prior to that, Mr Khaw was in the Ministry of National Development (MND), dealing with issues on Singapore’s public housing supply. He also was part of the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2003 when Singapore was dealing with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak.