PM Lee Hsien Loong's letter to Mdm Halimah Yacob

PM Lee Hsien Loong | 7 August 2017

PM Lee Hsien Loong has accepted Mdm Halimah Yacob's resignation from the People's Action Party, as well as her stepping down as Speaker of Parliament and MP. She has done so in order to stand as a candidate for President.

 

7 August 2017
Madam Halimah Yacob
Speaker of Parliament

Dear Speaker Halimah,

Thank you for your letter resigning as a member of the People's Action Party (PAP), and informing me of your decision to step down as Speaker and Member of Parliament (MP) in order to stand as a candidate for the Elected Presidency.

I am writing to put on record my thanks to you for your many contributions as a labour leader, as an MP and as the Speaker, and as a Minister of State. In all these roles, your focus was on the rank and file and the underprivileged. Whether it was the rights of ordinary workers to fair employment and decent wages, opportunities for single mothers and children of poor families, or healthcare for the disabled and elderly, you were a consistent and fearless voice in the unions, the Parliament and the Government, pushing us all to build a more equitable society.

We first met twenty years ago, when you were the Director of Legal Services of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). You were already a well-respected unionist. You championed the employment and well-being of union members and workers, and also their family members especially the back-to-work women. Later you led the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries-the largest union, and guided them through the Global Financial Crisis. Unionists regularly elected you into the NTUC Central Committee with high vote counts. You became Deputy Secretary General, and served the labour movement for almost 40 years.

Your commitment to workers' welfare is internationally recognised. In 1999, you were elected to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the first Singaporean to be elected. You represented Singapore for 11 years, and served on several ILO committees, notably as the Workers' Spokesperson for the Committee on Decent Work on Domestic Workers. Ambassador Tommy Koh told me that many ILO members had urged you to run for ILO Director-General, but you decided that your calling was in Singapore. Your good work and personal diplomacy at the ILO earned Singapore respect for our model of tripartism, and our stable and constructive labour relations.

In 2001, you were elected MP for Jurong GRC, looking after Bukit Batok East. You were the first female Malay MP since independence. You worked hard on the ground, bringing people together and improving the amenities in a new ward. You won over residents of all races and ages with your sincerity, warmth and effectiveness.

In Parliament, you were an active backbencher who spoke from your conscience, championing cost of living issues, affordable healthcare and fair employment. Your fellow MPs elected you Chairperson of the Government Parliamentary Committees on Health and on Manpower.

You also co-chaired the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment, giving workers reassurance that any workplace discrimination relating to gender, age, race or nationality would be properly investigated and dealt with.

Before the 2015 General Election, I sent you to Marsiling to replace Mr Hawazi Daipi who was retiring. You were generous in helping Mdm Rahayu Mahzam take over from you in Bukit Batok East and settle in with the grassroots leaders and residents. In Marsiling, you set to work immediately. Marsiling residents speak warmly of you as a humble, hardworking and approachable MP who goes the extra mile to listen to them and get things done.

In 2011, I appointed you Minister of State in the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS). You added a human touch to policies, building on the good work of your colleagues. You introduced activity centres and home-based care for seniors, and enhanced services for the disabled through the Centre for Enabled Living, which later became SG Enable. You also improved childcare services to support working mothers, a cause that has always been dear to you. With five children of your own, you know from personal experience the challenges working mothers face.

In Cabinet, your contributions ranged beyond your work in MCYS. You had an independent view and were not afraid to argue your case, often causing us to rethink our positions. You also had a good sense of people. You were warm in engaging them, and shrewd in judging characters and motives. That is why I put you on the Secretary General's Committee to interview potential PAP candidates.

In the Malay/Muslim community, you are a leader and role model. In Mendaki, you mentored the Community Leaders Forum to launch programmes promoting employment and employability. You helped set up a training and job placement framework for women who want to get back to work, which is still in use today. You are an advisor to the Peoples' Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (MESRA) that promotes Malay cultural activities and mutual understanding between the Malay/Muslim and other communities. You are also an advisor to the Ain Society, which takes care of disadvantaged children including young cancer patients. As the patron of Casa Raudha for many years, you helped them raise funds and guided them to become a respected organisation that looks after abused women.

Your support for social causes extends beyond the Malay/Muslim community. For example, you are the patron of Club Heal, which supports individuals with mental health issues and their families. In 2013, you agreed to head the new PAP Seniors' Group (PAP.SG), to champion the cause of the elderly. You made PAP.SG a platform for our seniors to speak out on national issues. You developed proposals that helped improve government policies aimed at the welfare of seniors, such as the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life.

2013 was also when you became our ninth Speaker of Parliament. You have presided over Parliament sittings with dignity and a sure touch. You have been fair to all MPs, encouraging vigorous debates on national issues while ensuring decorum and order in the House. You thus earned the respect and regard of both government and non-government MPs.

You discussed with me your plans to stand for election as President. I told you this was a major decision that was yours to make, but I encouraged you to consider it seriously. Having worked with you for many years, I knew your passion to serve and your commitment to Singapore. Now that you have decided, I wish you all the best.

I accept your resignation from the People's Action Party. Rest assured that I will soon appoint replacements to the various responsibilities that you have relinquished, and in particular a Grassroots Advisor to succeed you in Marsiling, so that the residents will continue to be well taken care of.

The President's role requires her to be non-partisan and above politics, working with the government but making independent judgments when she exercises her custodial powers, such as when deciding on reserves and key appointments. I have no doubt that you will be able to play this different Constitutional role well. I am confident that if elected you will do your best, as you have always done, and will bring dignity and personal warmth, experience of government and concern for the people, to the highest office in the land.

Yours sincerely
LEE HSIEN LOONG

Governance