Backbenchers given political appointments in Cabinet reshuffle

Backbenchers given political appointments in Cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced the promotion of four backbenchers to the front bench in the latest cabinet reshuffle. 

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced the promotion of four backbenchers to the front bench in the latest Cabinet reshuffle

They are MP for Marine Parade GRC Edwin Tong, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Zaqy Mohamad, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Sun Xueling and MP ​​​​​​​for Jurong GRC Tan Wu Meng.

It was announced on Tuesday (Apr 24) that Mr Tong will become Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and the Ministry of Health (MOH). He will take office on Jul 1.

Mr Zaqy will be appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of National Development (MND) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), while Ms Sun will serve as Senior Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and MND.

Dr Tan will be appointed Senior Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The three appointments will take effect from May 1.


Mr Tong first became MP in May 2011, when he was part of the People’s Action Party (PAP) team that was elected in Moulmein-Kallang GRC during the elections that year.

Edwin Tong
Marine Parade GRC MP Edwin Tong also represented City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee during his trial (File photo: Lam Shushan)

In the 2015 General Elections (GE), Mr Tong was fielded in Joo Chiat as part of the Marine Parade GRC team which included then Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

The 48-year-old is currently a partner with law firm Allen & Gledhill, where his core practice areas are in corporate and commercial disputes as well as restructuring and insolvency matters.

Mr Tong has also acted on several large arbitrations, under International Chamber of Commerce, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, London Court of International Arbitration and Singapore International Arbitration Centre Rules, seated in Singapore and elsewhere in the world.

He is currently a member of the Select Committee set up to study deliberate online falsehoods in Singapore, led by chairman and fellow PAP MP Charles Chong.

In October 2014, Mr Tong, alongside fellow MPs Yeo Guat Kwang, Alex Yam, Gan Thiam Poh, Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair, tabled a Private Member's Bill to strengthen animal welfare.

The Bill includes heftier fines and longer jail terms for animal abusers, and requires all pet-related businesses to undergo training on animal handling. 

Then Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan praised the Bill, saying it "made history" and will "give teeth" to measures to protect animals.

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S Thavaneson, Lim Kia Tong and Edwin Tong in the FAS Provisional Council. (Photo: Philip Goh) 

In April 2017, Mr Tong was appointed vice-president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). He was part of Team LKT, led by criminal litigation lawyer Mr Lim Kia Tong, who heads the leadership of FAS after defeating a challenge led by Hougang United chairman Mr Bill Ng.

He was also senior counsel for City Harvest Church’s pastor Kong Hee, who is currently serving a three-and-a-half year jail sentence for misappropriating S$50 million of church funds.


Mr Zaqy Mohamad was 32 years old when he was first elected as part of PAP’s Hong Kah GRC team in 2006. Now 43, he has served as MP for over a decade and will come to the fore as Minister of State for National Development and Manpower.

CCK PAP team
Chua Chu Kang PAP team: Yee Chia Hsing, Gan Kim Yong, Low Yen Ling and Zaqy Mohamad. (Photo: Lam Shushan)

In response to his appointment, Mr Zaqy told Channel NewsAsia that he was "very thankful" for the opportunity to serve and "play a part in nation-building".

"I am looking forward to value-add by bringing perspective from the private sector," he said. "I've been in the private sector all my life and it's good to serve in a different environment."

Mr Zaqy will leave his current role as director for ASEAN accounts and business development at global accounting firm Ernst & Young. He was previously a consultant for Arthur Andersen and IBM.

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PAP's Zaqy Mohamad. (Photo: Lam Shushan)

In the 2011 election, Mr Zaqy was elected in Chua Chu Kang GRC, where he continues to serve as MP till today.

Mr Zaqy is currently the chairman of the People Action’s Party Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Communications and Information, and a member of the GPC for Transport.  

He had also served in the GPCs of Manpower, Trade and Industry, and Finance in his previous terms.

In August 2017, the father of three was appointed the adviser to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Grassroots Organisation, taking over from Madam Halimah Yacob, who stepped down after declaring her intention to contest in the presidential election.

Commenting on her replacement then, President Halimah said she was glad that Mr Zaqy would take her place.

"I have known Mr Zaqy for more than 10 years," she had written. "He is a warm and sincere person. He is someone who will take the first step to engage residents. In Parliament, he has championed issues that relate to the welfare of the people."

"The residents of Marsiling are in good hands."


In a Facebook post following the announcement, Ms Sun addressed residents of her Punggol West ward. 

"I treasure the interactions we have. You keep me grounded and remind me of the issues that are important to you. I hope that we can continue to engage each other meaningfully and together, make our Punggol Town a better home for all," she said.   

She joined politics in 2015 when she was elected as part of PAP’s Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC team, led by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Ms Sun, who has two daughters, started to volunteer for grassroots work at Buona Vista in 2001 when she was an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.

She is currently the deputy chairman of the PAP's GPC for Communications and Information, and a member of the GPC for Culture, Community and Youth as well as Finance and Trade and Industry. 

Sun Xueling PAP
PAP candidate Sun Xueling. (Photo: Xabryna Kek) 

The 38-year-old started her career in 2003 with the Economic Development Board. From 2004 to 2014, she worked in the private sector for DBS Bank Singapore as assistant vice president, and worked in Hong Kong as senior vice president for Macquarie Capital Securities and Director for Deutsche Bank AG.

In 2014, she was appointed investment director with Temasek Holdings. After about a decade in finance, Ms Sun became CEO of non-profit organisation Business China in November 2015.

All the previous CEOs of Business China, which comprise Ms Low Yen Ling, Ms Josephine Teo and Mr Sam Tan had earlier left the post to take on political office.

Like Mr Tong, Ms Sun also served as a panel member for the Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods. 


In response to his appointment, Dr Tan told Channel NewsAsia that he was"very much humbled at being brought to political office" and pledged to do his best "to serve Singapore and Singaporeans". He also said he would leave the medical profession.

"It is with regret that I am leaving my professional medical practice. I will miss caring for patients. But if one can help improve Singapore's future more directly, even if in a small way, there is a duty to take up this new journey," he added. 

Dr Tan joined politics in 2015 when he was elected as part of PAP’s Jurong GRC team, which was led by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. 

tan wu meng
Dr Tan Wu Meng. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

In 2008, the medical doctor was elected organising secretary for PAP’s youth wing, Young PAP, at the age of 33.

From 2007 to 2011, Dr Tan served as a member of the Senja-Cashew Youth Executive Committee (YEC), and sat on the Senja-Cashew Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC) from 2010 to 2013.

Dr Tan is currently an oncologist and consultant at Parkway Cancer Centre. He was previously a specialist in medical oncology at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), and lead medical oncologist for lung cancer at the NCCS Clinic in Changi General Hospital.

On Apr 16, Dr Tan was attacked by a 32-year-old man during a Meet-the-People (MPS) session in Clementi.

Dr Tan said he suffered bruises on an arm and "some abrasions" on his neck, but after being assessed medically at the Accident and Emergency department, he returned to finish up the MPS session.  

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Other office holders changes cabinet reshuffle 2018_2

(Download our printable infographic: Singapore's new Cabinet and other political appointments at a glance.)

Source: CNA/am