Singaporeans are quite well-versed at keeping an eye out for the political rituals that the PAP government embarks on in the lead up to elections. This time round, the PAP is hardly even making an attempt to conceal its intentions: Glowing press reports about a Minister returning to work after his MC, positive reports about PAP town councils (especially those helmed by PM, SM and MM), negative reports on the opposition, sharp rebuttals of opposition MPs’ remarks, training of civil servants to be election officials, etc.
But perhaps one of the clearest signs that an election is looming, apart from the release of the
Gerrymandering Report Electoral Boundaries Report, are the sudden resignations of senior civil servants. This week, we saw one such resignation. After a game of musical chairs at the Ministry of National Development (MND) and its agencies, URA and HDB, it has emerged that BG Tay Lim Heng, deputy secretary at MND, has “left to pursue other interests”. It was later reported that BG Tay has been appointed deputy CEO of Keppel Integrated Engineering (KIE), a subsidiary of government-linked Keppel Corporation.
Now I’ve never heard of KIE before, perhaps due to my ignorance of the local corporate scene. But it strikes me as rather odd that a guy with a likely CEP (currently estimated potential) of permanent secretary of a Ministry would quit to be a No. 2 guy in a lesser known company.
This pattern played out the same way in the lead up to the 6 May 2006 General Election. On 11 April that year, RAdm Lui Tuck Yew resigned from his post as CEO of HDB after just 10 months on the job. On 2 April 2006, Lee Yi Shyan resigned as CEO of IE Singapore. Both were fielded as PAP candidates and promptly appointed as junior ministers after the GE.
The PAP always accuses the opposition of showing up just before elections, but they overlook the fact that many of their new candidates have barely started climbing down from their ivory towers when they are fielded as candidates under the wings of powerful Cabinet ministers in a GRC (Group Representation Constituency). Although the Singapore Civil Service is supposed to be politically neutral, the PAP unabashedly uses the Civil Service as a harvest field for its political candidates, and doesn’t even bother portraying a semblance of separation of the two. For example, Lee Yi Shyan’s candidate write-up for GE 2006 started with the sentence, “Mr Lee Yi Shyan is currently the Chief Executive Officer of International Enterprise Singapore” (emphasis mine).
So keep a watch out for further movements in the Ministries and statutory boards. They could provide a peek into whom our next millionaire ministers may be.