Singapore – Mr Ong Ye Kung was “wordless” when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told him on the phone he was being moved from the Transport to the Health Ministry.
“When he told me, I was wordless,” said Mr Ong in a 30-minute interview with ONE FM 91.3 on Wednesday (Apr 28), reported The Straits Times.
He admitted in the interview that he did not expect to be transferred to another ministry after only nine months as Minister for Transport.
Recalling his “wordless” moment, he said: “At most, you can hear, ‘Huh?’ in my brain, because nobody expects to be moved after like eight months, nine months, (in) Transport. I was all ready to stay five years, the whole term.”
Though he might have been taken aback by the sudden change, he has got over it.
“At least I didn’t learn about it from the press release,” he quipped.
Beginning May 15, 2021, he will be the new Minister for Health.
In the Cabinet reshuffle announced on Apr 23, several changes have been made.
- Current Health Gan Kim Yong will become the new Minister for Trade and Industry
- Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing will become Minister for Education
- Education Minister Lawrence Wong will be Finance Minister
- Minister for Communications and Information will become Transport Minister
- Manpower Minister Josephine Teo will be Minister for Communications and Information
- Dr Tan See Leng will be Manpower Minister.
The reshuffle follows Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s decision to step aside as leader of the People’s Action Party’s fourth-generation team and relinquish the finance ministry.
Mr Ong revealed that Mr Lee had called every affected party member to inform them of the reshuffle.
“He (Mr Lee) explained what he expects of us. We spent 45 minutes or so chatting,” added Mr Ong.
In the interview with ONE FM 91.3, Mr Ong also spoke about his favourite bands and songs and what he does to relax after a day’s work.
He also shared insights into his experiences as Minister for Transport and, before that, as Minister for Education.
Mr Ong said that “one of the toughest decisions in his life” while in the Ministry of Education was keeping schools open amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Singapore. He was Minister for Education from May 2018 till July 2020 when he became Minister for Transport.
He recalled that no one knew how the pandemic would play out and that the early days were “panic stations.”
“In most countries, the education minister said better just close school because if there’s an outbreak in school, his job is on the line, they probably have to resign,” he said.
“But I just felt that if we closed schools, we’re going to have a whole generation of kids missing out.”
Mr Ong also explained why, as Transport Minister, he allowed for the North-East Line (NEL) to close early on Friday and Saturday nights to speed up insulator replacement works along the line.
He also shared on Facebook on Apr 27 that the early closures “made a huge difference because it gave workers more time every night”.
“So instead of finishing the work in September, SBS Transit Ltd completed that work earlier this week.”
In an Instagram post thanking ONE FM 91.3 for the interview, Mr Ong provided the playlist which aired during the show./TISG
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