George Yeo (of not being the next Singapore President): "Don't cry for me, Singapore!"

"So long, and thanks for all the fish"


Yeah, the song of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" comes to mind when I read how Mr. George Yeo announced that he's leaving politics and how he decided "not to be the next Singapore president" (to use the words "run for presidency" is kind of misleading as he is surely going to be the president if he wants to!).

Singapore has lost a truly great Politician.

(Credits--and lotsa respect--for Mr. George Yeo of not emotionally blackmailing his GRC voters by announcing during the rally that he'll resign from politics if he didn't win.)

Foreign Minister George Yeo has announced he is leaving politics and will not be contesting in Aljunied GRC in the next General Election (GE) .

The incumbent Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC and his People's Action Party (PAP) team lost their seats to the Workers' Party in this year's historic General Election. They garnered some 45 per cent of the votes.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday morning, Minister Yeo said, while many supporters have called on him to "win back Aljunied in five years' time", he will leave the important task to someone younger.

"I wanted to level with them and told them last night that it is better for a younger person to take on this important task," the minister said in a media statement.

"I'm already 57 years old and would be 62 by then. Naturally I would help to ensure a smooth handover," he said.

Minister Yeo, who gave a heartfelt speech on the need to transform the PAP at his last rally before polling day, said he would still "help in whatever way I can to bring about this transformation of the PAP".

He clarified that he has believed in the need for change within the PAP for some time.

"It was not something I felt I could say when the campaign started. But, as the campaign went on, as we heard the growing cry from the heart, I decided to make it plain," he said, stressing that the Republic is entering a "new phase of political development".

"How we respond to it will decide Singapore's destiny in the 21st century," he added.

"As for remaining in public life, I will contribute in whatever modest way possible," he said. He also looks forward to continue working with young people.

Professionally, Minister Yeo has not decided on his next move. He is set to relinquish his post as Foreign Minister when the new Cabinet is sworn in and will be taking a break to spend more time with his family.

What he has made clear, however, is that he will not run for presidency. He said he is a free spirit and not temperamentally suited for that role, reported Channel NewsAsia.

He also added, he is touched by the reaction from Asean ministers and leaders who expressed sadness and disappointment that he's no longer the Foreign Affairs Minister.

But Foreign Ministers come and go, said Minister Yeo. The new Foreign Minister will need to develop new relations but he does not foresee a major change in bilateral relations between Singapore and other countries.

On this year's results, Minister Yeo reiterated that he respects the decision of the Aljunied voters and thanked Singaporeans for the opportunity to serve them in the last 23 years.

"Having committed 23 years of service to the residents, it is only natural for me to feel disappointed but this is politics," he said.

He agreed with WP chief Low Thia Khiang's analysis that the WP won because voters wanted WP to be their voice in Parliament and not because the current Aljunied team did not do a good job.

"This desire for a strong WP voice in Parliament was a political tide which came in through Aljunied, which we were unable to withstand despite our very best efforts. Right from the start, the WP made Aljunied a national battleground."

He elaborated, "The fight became one between a WP voice in Parliament and an Aljunied team with two ministers, a potential Speaker of Parliament, a potential minister and a most effective Town Council chairman."

Aljunied residents told Yahoo! Singapore they were sad to hear of Minister Yeo's decision but felt it was a necessary trade-off to have more alternative voices in Parliament.

Some also said they would not have changed their votes, even if they knew Minister Yeo would retire from politics if not elected.

"Those were very honest words from an honest man who just happened to be in a bad spot," said wedding photographer Sebastian Wong. The 24-year-old said he would still vote opposition in Aljunied because "one man doesn't make the whole PAP".

Another Aljunied voter, corporate communications manager Stephanie Chua, 28, said, "It's sad to hear that he is giving up. He has served the Aljunied residents well and I feel that we have lost a great politician.

"Maybe it is really time to rethink if we should keep the GRC system. I wish him all the best," she added.

Other Singaporeans have also lamented the loss of Minister Yeo in politics.

72-year-old retiree and former civil servant Lye Kim said, "It's a pity that he's leaving politics because with his rich experience, he could have improved the shortcomings of the party."

Bishan resident Boon Lian Fa, 69, said "It is sad for Singapore but I feel he will help community and society through other means. (I'll) just wait to see his next move."

From Yahoo! News, "Foreign Minister George Yeo leaves politics".

Thank you for waiting a couple of days for me to rest before meeting you.

I would like to make some remarks before taking questions.

Aljunied voters have decided and I respect their decision. Having committed 23 years of service to the residents, it is only natural for me to feel disappointed but this is politics.

It has been my privilege to have served them all these years and they have enriched my life. They have also enabled me to serve in various capacities as a Cabinet Minister in MITA, Health, MTI and MFA for which I am grateful.

Why did we lose Aljunied?

Mr Low Thia Kiang himself said that they won Aljunied not because the Aljunied team did not do a good job, but because the voters wanted WP to be their voice in Parliament.

Mr Low's analysis is fair and I agree with him. This desire for a strong WP voice in Parliament was a political tide which came in through Aljunied which we were unable to withstand despite our very best efforts. Right from the start, the Workers Party made Aljunied a national battleground.

The fight became one between a Workers Party voice in Parliament and an Aljunied team with two ministers, a potential Speaker of Parliament, a potential minister and a most effective Town Council chairman.

Though I wish the outcome had been different, Aljunied voters have made their choice.

Many of my supporters asked me to stay on to win back Aljunied in five years time. I wanted to level with them and told them last night that it is better for a younger person to take on this important task. I'm already 57 years old and would be 62 by then. Naturally I would help to ensure a smooth handover.

As we ended our campaign on 5 May, I talked about the importance of transforming the PAP. This is a belief I've held for some time. It was not something I felt I could say when the campaign started. But, as the campaign went on, as we heard the growing cry from the heart, I decided to make it plain. Like it or not, we are entering a new phase in Singapore's political development. How we respond to it will decide Singapore's destiny in the 21st century.

I would help in whatever way I can to bring about this transformation of the PAP. I wish I had a mandate from the people of Aljunied to be a strong advocate of such transformation. But I don't.

As for remaining in public life, I will contribute in whatever modest way possible.

Many young people have stepped forward to help me in this campaign. Even more have cheered me on. It is not good that so many of them feel alienated from the Singapore they love. I look forward to continue working with them so that the Singapore we struggle for is the Singapore they feel is their own. As to the actual role I can play, I'll be happy to respond to them. In the last few years, I have learnt much from my young friends. Often they led me rather than I led them.

A younger generation has been politicized in this GE. Since the GE results came out, there has been a flood of support for me expressed personally, through friends and relatives, on email and, in an astonishing way, on Internet and FB. The words expressed are heartfelt. Many wrote me long passages, some in tears. I'm grateful for the kind and comforting words and the many good wishes. It will be an honour for me to be an advocate of their cause.

As for what I'll do professionally after stepping down as Minister when the new Cabinet is sworn in, I'm not rushing to make a decision. My wife and I thought we should take our time to think this over. We also need a break to spend more time with the family.

From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank the people of Singapore for the honour of serving them in the last 23 years.

From Asiaone, "Full statement issued by George Yeo at media conference".

Outgoing Foreign Minister George Yeo says he will not be contesting in the next General Election.

Speaking at a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, the 57-year-old said although he had been asked by supporters to stay on in Aljunied constituency, he will leave the task to someone younger.

The news conference was the first time Mr Yeo was meeting the media after his defeat at the polls.

Putting on a brave front, although looking tired and disappointed with his loss, Mr Yeo took the defeat in his stride and said this was the people's choice which he respects and this is what politics is about.

He agreed that voters wanted an alternative voice in Parliament. But he did not think young voters were the cause of his defeat.

Mr Yeo said: "I think nationally there was a swing among younger voters against the PAP. My own guess is that the swing was less in Aljunied GRC. So, while I hear anecdotally that in some constituencies you could feel the antagonism viscerally, in Aljunied GRC, if there was an opposition against us, it was expressed almost in apologetic terms.

"I didn't feel a visceral opposition from the young, but I'm sure many of them did vote against us. But the election outcome could not be be explained by the votes of the young alone, it was across the board."

While Mr Yeo does not see himself standing at the next election, he may contribute in other ways.

He said: "Last night, I met my key members of my branch and I told them that I don't see myself standing for the elections the next time round and I thought it's better for a younger person to take charge.

"Am I retiring from politics? My own view is it is the responsibility of every citizen to be involved in politics because politics is about the way our lives are run collectively. So I don't think I'll ever retire from politics because I am a citizen of Singapore. And I've got beliefs, I've got views and if I can make contributions, I should."

He said he will help bring about the transformation of the ruling PAP to be more receptive to ground sentiments. It was an issue he raised during the campaign.

Mr Yeo said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is open to change. He recounted how a conversation during the campaign led to Mr Lee's decision to make his apology at a lunch-time rally.

Mr Yeo said: "I told him there was deep resentment that had to be acknowledged, not just cursorily, but in detail. And it was not just a question about policies. It was not just the minds we were addressing, we were addressing the hearts too. He listened very hard, he paused, and later he told me that it was because of that conversation that he took that position at Boat Quay."

Mr Yeo said Singapore is entering a new phase of political development, and how PAP responds will decide the country's future.

"The party would be taking a hard look at itself, soul-searching as to how our society has changed and why there is this resentment against the government," he said.

"From time to time, it's important to shake the box. Because whatever system you set up, after a while it becomes so predictable that it doesn't capture all the feedback that it needs to have. So a certain shaking of the box is required from time to time. And this is such a time," he added.

"The PAP is a broad church, so it's always a lot of debate within. I'm part of that debate. I'm often a minority voice, but there are others who share my view too. This internal debate has to continue."

Mr Yeo noted that mobile technologies have changed the way people interact and are organised, and this is a challenge that confronts all governments.

"Something new is happening," he observed. "A fragmentation of interest groups, a greater diversity."

Old forms of democracy, he said, will not work anymore. "We're finding more and more special interest groups who advocate their causes more stridently, and very often, quite prepared to vote around the cause they believe in passionately. I don't think present forms of democracy in the world quite capture these new passions in a satisfactory way."

On his next career move, Mr Yeo said he's not rushing to decide and added that he and his wife agreed he should take time to think things over.

But one immediate concern is to ensure a smooth handover of Aljunied Town Council to the Workers' Party. He said the PAP will retain the grassroots structures under the People's Association, such as the Citizen Consultative Committees, as a way for the ruling party to be active on the ground.

But whether the PAP will win back Aljunied in the next election will depend on the national mood.

As for suggestions from his Facebook fans that he could run for Singapore's elected presidency, he said: "I'm a free spirit. And I don't think I'm temperamentally suited for such a job."

Mr Yeo has helmed the Foreign Affairs Ministry for the past seven years, during which he became known as an advocate for closer ties within ASEAN.

He said these processes will continue under his replacement, adding that he does not expect any major changes to Singapore's foreign policies.

Mr Yeo's political career spans 23 years, where he headed several key ministries such as health, and trade and industry. Looking back, he said he couldn't have asked for a better run.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Foreign Minister George Yeo leaves politics".

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