Valedictory Letter from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Mr Abdullah Tarmugi

20 April 2011

Mr Abdullah Tarmugi
Speaker of Parliament

1.        As you retire from politics and government, I write to thank you for your outstanding contributions over the last 27 years.

2.        Since 1984, you have served as the Member of Parliament for Siglap constituency, which later became part of East Coast GRC. You also served for almost a decade in Government, as Minister for Community Development from 1994 to 2002, and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs from 1993 to 2002.

3.        In the Ministry of Community Development, you laid the foundation for Singaporeans to build strong families and a strong community.  Under your lead, the Government increased its commitment to protect the weaker members in our society. In 1995, Singapore became a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  You also saw through amendments to the Women’s Charter (1996) and the Children and Young Persons Act (2001) to protect vulnerable women and children.

4.        When the Ministry was renamed the Ministry of Community Development and Sports on 1 April 2000, you became Singapore’s first Minister for Sports. To kick-start sports in Singapore, you helmed a Committee which consulted widely to develop a blueprint to achieve a Sporting Singapore.  These early initiatives encouraged more Singaporeans to become interested in sports, and over the course of the decade led to our vibrant sports scene today and our recent successes in international sports competitions.

5.        You were also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs for nine years.  You steered through key amendments to the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) in 1999. The amendments strengthened the operations of the Syariah Court (SYC), streamlined the court hearings and preparatory legal work, and clarified the jurisdiction between the Civil Courts and SYC.  The AMLA amendments also strengthened MUIS’ oversight on wakaf matters, and enabled MUIS to better regulate Haj pilgrimage services and ensure the safety and welfare of our Haj pilgrims. 

6.        Besides attending to religious matters, you paid special attention to the impact of the changing economic landscape on the Malay/Muslim community. With this in mind, together with the other Malay/Muslim MPs you organised a Knowledge-Based Economy (KBE) Convention in 1999. You wanted to make the community aware of the need to be flexible and adaptable, and be ready as Singa­pore transformed its economy. In preparing for the Convention you engaged a wide spectrum of voices, and steered the community towards adopting the final report of the Convention, which painted the vision of a Learning, Creative and Confident community. Today many Malay/Muslim Singa­poreans are better placed to thrive in the knowledge-based economy because of your effort.

7.        Your leadership in the madrasah sector was particularly important. You understood that as Singapore developed, it was important that madrasah graduates be equipped not just with religious knowledge but also the practical skills to do well in our modern economy. So when the Compulsory Education policy was introduced in 2000, you worked hard to guide the community to accept and adapt to the changes. You also helped the madrasahs to upgrade, to ensure that primary school children who received religious instruction in full-time madrasahs could also achieve an acceptable level of academic attainment. Gradually, the madrasahs consolidated and strengthened themselves, and improved their quality of education, benefiting many Malay Muslim children.

8.        In 2002, you retired as a Minister, and were elected as the seventh Speaker of Parliament. As Speaker, you maintained a high standard in the orderly process of parliamentary business and the decorum and dignity of the House. But you also progressively evolved the parliamentary procedures and practices, to keep them relevant and suited to our local context. One such change was to allow Members to use any combination of the four official languages in a single speech, so that MPs could speak more flexibly and parliamentary debates could reach out to a wider audience.

9.        As an MP yourself, you worked hard for residents, pushing through upgrading projects to rebuild old food centres and beautify the estates, and to improve the drainage system in flood-prone areas.  These efforts have significantly improved the lives of residents of Siglap and East Coast GRC.

10.     Throughout your 27 years in public office, as an MP and office holder, you worked with your fellow Malay/Muslim MPs to set the tone and provide leadership for the Malay-Muslim community. The KBE Convention was one important example of this. But well beyond that, you guided the community to focus on the important issues such as education and skills upgrading, and tackle thorny social problems honestly and resolutely. You established realistic but challenging targets, and encouraged the community to persevere and strive towards them. Thus the Malay/Muslim community has steadily made progress alongside other communities, in education, in the economy and professions, in the arts and public life. This achievement stands as one of your key contributions to the community and to our nation.

11.     You have performed invaluable work for the Malay/Muslim community, and for Singapore. I wish you every success in your future endeavours.

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