Former ruling party Member of Parliament (MP) Ng Chee Meng has drawn criticism for saying that he stepped down from his position in parliament and the cabinet, in a recent social media post.
In a Facebook post published on Tuesday (14 July), Mr Ng said, “With GE 2020, I have stepped down as a Member of Parliament and will soon be stepping down from the Cabinet.”
The way Mr Ng phrased his departure from political office drew criticism online since he ceased serving as MP and Cabinet minister when Parliament was dissolved ahead of the 2020 General Election. He was voted out of political office in the election and lost his position in the Cabinet as a consequence of not being returned to Parliament – he did not voluntarily step down from these positions like his post seems to suggest.
Two years ago, I was humbled and honoured to join the Labour Movement. It was a chance for me to serve our workers and…
Mr Ng, who had served as Chief of Air Force and then Chief of Defence Force in his decades-long military career, retired from the Singapore Armed Forces on 18 August 2015. Days later, he was named one of the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) candidates for the 2015 General Election, which took place less than a month after Mr Ng’s retirement.
The PAP saw a sizeable swing towards it in the 2015 General Election, which was held in the year Singapore turned 50 years old and months after founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed. The results of that election were considered an anomaly by some analysts, since the PAP suffered its worst result in the election before and lost the first Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to the opposition.
Mr Ng was fielded as part of the PAP’s team for Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC. The team, which was anchored by then-Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, clinched 72.89 per cent of the vote with an 8.1 per cent increase in vote share compared to its result in the 2011 election. Mr Ng coasted to victory and was elected into Parliament.
As part of the PAP’s fourth-generation (4G) cohort of leaders, Mr Ng was appointed Minister of Education (Schools) and Second Minister for Transport. In the Government’s cabinet reshuffle in 2018, Mr Ng was appointed a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and became the Government’s labour MP after he was elected Secretary-General of Government-linked labour movement, NTUC.
A day before nominations, on 29 June, Mr Ng was identified as the leader of the PAP team contesting the newly-carved out Sengkang GRC. In a stunning upset, Mr Ng – along with former Senior Minister of State Lam Pin Min, beloved grassroots MP Amrin Amin and fresh face Raymond Lye – lost to the Workers’ Party (WP) team.
The result was significant for a number of reasons: first, Sengkang GRC is only the second GRC that has ever been won by the opposition in Singapore’s history.
Secondly, only one out of the four WP candidates had ever contested an election before. He Ting Ru, who had run in the 2015 election, and newbies Jamus Lim, Raeesah Khan and Louis Chua unseated three political office-holders, including Mr Ng.
The unseating of Mr Ng is said to have contributed to the disarray among the PAP’s 4G, which saw a dip in support in most wards. The 4G’s leader, DPM and PM-in-waiting Heng Swee Keat, was barely returned to Parliament with 53.41 per cent of the vote.
Although he was voted out of political office and lost his ministerial position, Mr Ng will remain as labour chief. NTUC said that Mr Ng will continue to be its secretary-general, even though all secretary-generals for the past four decades, since 1980, have been PAP Cabinet ministers. It added that it could be better that Mr Ng is no longer a political office-holder since he can now devote all of his attention to the labour movement.