Workers’ Party Member of Parliament, Sylvia Lim on Monday (10 May) raised issues regarding former Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s proposed appointment as the chairman of Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) upcoming non-profit media entity.
“Am I to assume that it was the government’s suggestion that Mr Khaw take on this role and the management shareholders agreed to their suggestion?” Ms Lim questioned Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran after the latter delivered his ministerial statement on the matter.
She further asked the Minister if he does not see the company-by-limited-guarantee (CLG) chairman appointment as “a missed opportunity” where “someone else who does is not so closely linked to the government could have been chosen” instead.
Ms Lim also queried if other candidates were considered before the decision to choose Mr Khaw was made.
Mr Iswaran replied that while he does not think that the definition of a good news media or a credible news media is that it must always see eye-to-eye with the Government, there are occasions when it is “necessary to be able to do so”.
Citing SPH current chairman, Dr Lee Boon Yang’s past experience as a Cabinet minister, Mr Iswaran said that there have been other chairpersons who were formerly senior civil servants.
Contrary to the assertion that it is a politically motivated appointment, Mr Khaw was selected for his “high standing” in Singapore and his “proven track record of taking on difficult issues”.
“And this is one such issue, and what you need is someone at the leadership level who has the gravitas, has the strategic vision and the experience in undertaking these sorts of major tasks,” said Mr Iswaran.
“And make no mistake about it, this is a major undertaking and it is one that is of national importance. So, I think the choice of Mr Khaw Boon Wan one is something that not just the Government, but in fact, their management shareholders were very keen on,” he added.
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”.
“And I think that’s what we have sought to do,” he concluded.
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.