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In full: Senior Minister Tharman's letter announcing his bid to be President, and PM Lee's reply

In full: Senior Minister Tharman's letter announcing his bid to be President, and PM Lee's reply

Singapore's Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. (File photos: S Shiva, Reuters/Feline Lim)

SINGAPORE: Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Thursday (Jun 8) informed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of his decision to retire from politics and all positions in government, in order to contest Singapore's presidential election

This is Mr Tharman's letter to Mr Lee, in full: 

Dear Prime Minister Lee, 

I wish to inform you that I have decided to put myself forward as a candidate in the forthcoming Presidential Election. I hence wish to retire from politics and all my positions in Government.

I intend to resign from the People's Action Party, and step down as Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies. I plan to do so a month from now (on 7 July 2023), so that I can first fulfil my immediate official commitments in Singapore and internationally, and ensure that arrangements are fully in place for constituents of Jurong GRC to be well­ served for the rest of the electoral term.

Likewise, I will step down as Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), Chairman of the Economic Development Board's International Advisory Council and other responsibilities that I have been undertaking in my Ministerial capacity.

I have been humbled by the requests I have received in recent months, from Singaporeans from different walks of life, to stand in the Presidential Election if President Halimah chose not to stand again.

It has been a difficult decision. I have consulted my family, and given careful thought to how I can best serve the country in the years ahead.

I have spent my whole working life committed to the public service and advancing Singapore's interests. I started off as a professional economist at the MAS. I went on to join the civil service, and asked specifically to serve at the Ministry of Education. I later returned to the MAS when you were Chairman to work with you to stabilise the financial system during the Asian Financial Crisis and reorient how we regulated and developed the system, serving first as Deputy Managing Director and then as Managing Director.

However, my greatest privilege has been to serve in politics over the last 22 years. As Member of Parliament (MP), helping residents overcome difficulties and fulfil their aspirations. In my ministerial responsibilities in Government as we made major shifts to build a more inclusive society and restructure the economy. In advancing Singapore's standing through my leadership of various international councils. And in the non-government sector, where I have chaired the board of the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute for two decades and that of SINDA over the last 12 years, and supported other civic organisations.

We are in a time of transition, both in Singapore and internationally. The '4G' team under DPM Lawrence Wong has been shaping up very well, consulting actively with the public, and rethinking our strategies for the future. The challenges they have to take on will keep evolving, however, well beyond the handover of leadership. They will have to tackle new global crises that will surely emerge, work closely with Singaporeans to retain trust in a changing domestic environment, and ensure Singapore's appeal and relevance in a more divided world.

I believe that I can now best serve Singapore not in politics, but in a different role that has to be above politics. If I am fortunate enough to be elected as President, I will represent the unity of Singaporeans, of all races and religions, social backgrounds, and political leanings, at a time when views in the population are becoming more diverse.  

I will be thorough and impartial in fulfilling the constitutional duties of the President with regard to the prudent use of the nation's reserves and the key appointments which preserve the integrity of the Singapore system. I will also work to the best of my abilities to project Singapore's interests and voice of reason in an increasingly turbulent world.

My greatest sadness is in retiring as an MP on the ground, having built deep-rooted relationships with residents and volunteers in Taman Jurong and the rest of Jurong GRC. I hope to maintain these friendships, many of which go back decades. I am assured that my dedicated fellow MPs in Jurong will work doubly hard to serve all our residents fully during the current electoral term.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I have been given to serve Singapore. I am particularly thankful for your leadership, advice and openness to collegial debate through the years, for the teamwork and contributions of all my colleagues in Government, and for the guidance provided by then-PM Mr Goh Chok Tong and his team when I came into Cabinet.

My role vis-a-vis the Government will change fundamentally if I am elected President. What will never change is my conviction in the continuing Singapore story: a society where everyone has the support to uplift themselves regardless of their starting point in life, and a multiracial nation whose citizens take pride in its unique identity and feel a deepening sense of togetherness.

This is Mr Lee's reply to Mr Tharman, in full:

Dear Senior Minister Tharman, 

Thank you for your letter informing me of your intention to step down as Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and to resign from the People's Action Party (PAP), in order to contest the upcoming Presidential Election.

You and I have worked closely in many roles for the last 27 years. Our first collaboration was in 1996 - when I oversaw the introduction of National Education in schools as Deputy Prime Minister, and you were serving in the Ministry of Education on the National Education Committee developing policies to strengthen national cohesion and foster shared attitudes, values and instincts amongst Singaporeans. For the formal launch of National Education in May 1997, you helped to draft my speech.

Later, at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), as Chairman and Deputy Managing Director, we worked to conceive and implement major reforms and liberalisations to our financial sector. Subsequently you became the Managing Director of MAS, a responsibility you fulfilled with distinction.

You entered politics in 2001. Over two decades, you have held key Cabinet appointments, including Minister for Education, Minister for Finance, Deputy Prime Minister, and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies. Most recently, as Senior Minister, you have helped me to mentor and groom the next generation of Ministers.

In all these roles, you worked hard to build a more inclusive society, and to improve wages and create better jobs for Singaporeans. You made significant contributions to strengthen our social mobility escalator, as well as what you called our social safety 'trampoline'.

As Minister for Education, you introduced major reforms to redefine and broaden our system of meritocracy, and open more varied paths for the young to develop their abilities to the fullest. You also saw to our investments in KidSTART and the expansion and upgrading of preschool education. You led the SkillsFuture initiative to promote life-long learning, and efforts to transform industry and jobs through the tripartite Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity. During COVID- 19, when livelihoods were at risk, you chaired the National Jobs Council which provided job opportunities and skills training for Singaporeans. You also oversaw raising incomes of lower-wage workers through the Progressive Wage Model, and enhancements to the standing of social workers and capabilities of our Social Service Offices.

You have done much to promote the growth and resilience of Singapore's economy, and to manage our nation's finances prudently. You presented eight Budgets as Minister for Finance, including through the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis, and chaired the Economic Strategies Committee that led to progressively tightened access to foreign labour and economic restructuring following the crisis. As Chairman of MAS since 2011, you promoted sustainable economic growth and strengthened Singapore's position as a financial centre. You also helped to manage Singapore's reserves at the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), first as a Board Director, then as Chairman of the Investment Strategies Committee, and later as Deputy Chairman of GIC. Chairing the Economic Development Board's International Advisory Council, you provided strategic advice on the direction of our country's economy.

Internationally, you flew the Singapore flag high and gained respect as a thought leader, especially in the social and economic domains. You led and served on several blue-ribbon panels, including at the International Monetary Fund, the Group of Twenty, the United Nations, the Group of Thirty, and the World Economic Forum. Your contributions have given Singapore a voice on the global stage to shape discussions and make significant recommendations to reform international economic and financial structures and policies.

As a Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, you served your residents with dedication. You have engaged closely with residents, listened patiently to their concerns, and actively sought to improve their lives and living environment. On your watch, Jurong GRC has developed into a beautiful and cohesive town, with improved amenities and a wide range of community programmes bringing together residents from all walks of life.

Your departure from the Cabinet and the Party will be a heavy loss to me and my team. We will miss your leadership, insightful views, and wise counsel. But I understand why you have decided to make this move and run for President. It is in keeping with the spirit of public service and sense of duty that you have shown all these years.

As the Head of State, the President is a unifying figure to all citizens, and represents Singapore internationally. The President also exercises important custodial powers, holding the second key when it comes to spending past reserves and making certain critical appointments. Through your various finance roles, you have gained deep knowledge of the system and how the reserves are safeguarded. Your international stature and your experience in government and politics will also stand you in good stead as you represent the nation domestically and abroad.

Should you be elected as our next President, I fully appreciate that you will now be in a different role with different responsibilities. You will no longer be a member of the executive; instead you will be exercising your custodial powers independently to protect our past reserves and the integrity of the public service as specified in the Constitution. This is a vital function in the Singapore system of government. I am confident that you will carry out these duties scrupulously and with the independence of mind you have always displayed.

Thank you once again for your distinguished service to Singapore for the past 40 years, and I wish you every success as you embark on your new journey.

Source: CNA/at(jo)


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