SINGAPORE: Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will not run in the upcoming General Election, after having served as a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade for more than 40 years.
In a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong dated Jun 24, Mr Goh said his decision was made "after much thought and with a heavy heart".
"Smooth and systematic leadership succession is key to Singapore's political stability," he wrote. "I prefer to retire as Member of Parliament now whilst I am healthy and able to ease my successor's transition into Marine Parade."
Mr Goh said he recommends that Dr Tan See Leng take over from him in Marine Parade. Dr Tan has been understudying Mr Goh for about two years and has helped with meet-the-people sessions in Marine Parade as well as several social projects in the constituency, Mr Goh added.
Following the announcement, Dr Tan told CNA that he hopes the Marine Parade branch will find "a different way" of engaging with Mr Goh to tap on his experience and expertise.
"I must tell you that he has an entire treasure trove of experience and wisdom. And it would be very sad to see him retire," said Dr Tan.
"But I can understand that, as he himself has alluded to, he will turn 80 next year. I guess the key thing is that we should respect his wishes."
Dr Tan said he is "very honoured" that Mr Goh thinks he should take over as Marine Parade branch chairman, adding that he will do his "utmost best".
"He has really, really huge shoes to fill. I don't think I can fill them, but I'll try my level best to work in many other ways to try and fulfil the role that’s such a big role that he has left behind," said Dr Tan.
"Marine Parade is my second home. I love the people. The (People's Action Party) Branch activists and the grassroots leaders are my steadfast comrades and firm friends. Many have urged me to stand for another term. But I should not. I would not have the same energy when I cross into my 80s," said Mr Goh.
Mr Goh added that "competent and trusted leaders with the heart for public service" are critical to protect and advance Singaporeans' interests.
He emphasised his support for Mr Lee's planned leadership succession at the national level, and said the 4G team led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has been "tested and strengthened in the crucible of COVID-19".
PM Lee said he accepts Mr Goh's decision to retire from politics "with sadness".
He noted Mr Goh's contributions to Singapore and thanked him for a "lifetime of distinguished service".
"It is in Marine Parade that you have left the most personal imprint on the lives of individual Singaporeans ... Marine Parade has become a vibrant waterfront town filled with warmth, which people of all ages are proud to call home. The story of Marine Parade is the story of Singapore - out of nothing, we created something special. You made that happen," Mr Lee wrote in his valedictory letter to Mr Goh.
Mr Lee also credited Mr Goh with bringing him into politics as well as guiding and mentoring him for many years. Mr Lee paid tribute to their "fruitful comradeship" as well as the close relationship between "two prime ministers that would be the envy of many countries".
"You have given your all and more in the service of your country and people. I wish you and Mrs Goh a long, healthy and happy retirement," he said.
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee said he is glad that Mr Goh will maintain his links to Marine Parade, "as Chairman Emeritus of Marine Parade Branch and Adviser Emeritus to Marine Parade GROs".
Mr Goh has also agreed to become senior adviser to The People's Association on a pro bono basis and will continue to chair the governing board of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
Mr Goh also wrote in a Facebook post, thanking Mr Lee for his "understanding and acceptance". "It is always sad to end one phase of your life and start another," he said.
He thanked Marine Parade GRC residents and asked for their "fullest support" for Dr Tan, whom he described as having the "right character, temperament, motivations, values and competence to be your next MP".
In a Facebook post on Thursday night, President Halimah Yacob thanked Mr Goh for his many years of service, saying he has made "tremendous contributions" to Singapore.
"It was Mr Goh who brought me into politics 20 years ago, and he was PM during the early years of my own political career," she said. "I still remember that meeting at the Istana when he persuaded me to enter politics, which was a life changing decision."
Mdm Halimah added: "Mr Goh has made tremendous contributions to Singapore and I am sure that he will continue to play an important role in our society."
Former Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin also took to Facebook to thank Mr Goh for serving with him in Marine Parade GRC and called him "a great mentor".
"ESM is just a really down-to-earth person with a mischievous sense of humour. And he really looks out for those around him and his residents," Mr Tan wrote.