Cabinet Minister K. Shanmugam remains Singapore’s longest serving People’s Action Party (PAP) politician, aside from the nation’s three Prime Ministers, and shows no sign of slowing down even though those who joined Parliament after he did have retired.
A Raffles Institution alumni, Mr Shanmugam went on to read law at the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Law, where he graduated at the top of his class with an LL.B. (first class honours) in 1984. He was admitted to the Singapore Bar in 1985 and went on to enjoy a highly successful legal practice.
Just three years after he passed the Bar, in 1988, Mr Shanmugam became a Member of Parliament (MP) after contesting the 1988 general election under the PAP ticket at the age of 28. A decade later, he became one of the youngest lawyers to be appointed a Senior Counsel of the supreme court at the age of 38.
Mr Shanmugam served as an MP and continued to practice law until 2008, when he was brought into the Cabinet to replace S. Jayakumar as Minister for Law. He was concurrently made the Second Minister for Home Affairs in 2008, and succeeded Wong Kan Seng as Minister for Home Affairs in 2010.
After the 2011 election, he relinquished his role as Home Affairs Minister and became Foreign Affairs Minister, while concurrently serving as Law Minister. After the 2015 election, he left the Foreign Affairs Ministry to rejoin the Home Affairs Ministry, while staying on at the Ministry of Law.
Mr Shanmugam’s portfolio was unchanged after the 2020 election and he remains possibly the most powerful cabinet minister, aside from the PM, by helming two important ministries.
Aside from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Shanmugam is the only MP who was elected in the 1988 election who remains in Parliament today. Charles Chong, who also joined Parliament in 1988, retired from politics earlier this year and is the PAP’s second longest-serving politician after Mr Shanmugam, if the PMs are not counted.
As Mr Shanmugam remains active in government since he was first elected 32 years ago, his colleagues who joined Parliament after he did have retired. Ex-Cabinet members Lim Hng Kiang, Lim Swee Say, Khaw Boon Wan, and Yaacob Ibrahim all joined Parliament in elections after 1988 but retired ahead of the latest election.
Senior Ministers Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Teo Chee Hean, who also joined Parliament after Mr Shanmugam did, are also gearing up to step down before the next election but the Law and Home Affairs Minister is showing no signs of slowing down.