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TRANSPORT Minister Lui Tuck Yew has decided not to contest in the coming general election, a decision Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong accepted with reluctance.
In an exchange of letters between the two, released on Tuesday, it was disclosed that Mr Lui first wanted to quit politics early this year, but was persuaded by Mr Lee and several senior Cabinet members to reconsider his decision.
Having thought the matter over carefully, Mr Lui said he has decided to stand by his original decision.
Even though Mr Lee has intended to re-appoint him as a Cabinet Minister, if he is re-elected, Mr Lui said it's best he leaves now because the general election would give him a chance "to step back from politics without causing any major disruption to Government at the end of its term".
"You are also bringing in new potential office holders to strengthen Cabinet," he wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister.
Mr Lui, formerly chief of the Singapore Navy, was first elected in the 2006 general election when he stood as the ruling People's Action Party candidate in the Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC). He was re-elected in 2011, this time in Moulmein-Kallang GRC.
Regarded as a rising star, Mr Lui was Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts from 2010 to 2011. He became Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2011. He relinquished his portfolio in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2012, but continued as Transport Minister. In May 2015, he was additionally appointed Second Minister for Defence.
"I reluctantly accept your decision, though I am disappointed that I did not succeed in changing your mind," Mr Lee said in his letter. "You have done very good work as Minister for Transport."
Mr Lee said the transport system under Mr Lui's watch has made significant progress in the last four years.
"The job is not yet complete, as we are reminded from time to time when train services break down," he said. "But despite these incidents, I am confident that we are heading in the right direction, to get the public transport system that Singaporeans deserve."
Mr Lee said he and his senior colleagues felt that Mr Lui has more to contribute, both in transport and other areas in government.
Said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean: "As the Minister for Transport since 2011, he has put all his energy into improving our transport system. The programmes he implemented have begun to show results and will in time improve our transport system significantly."
In his letter, Mr Lui noted that the injection of new capacity has started to ease jams on buses and trains. Train delays and withdrawals across all lines have been reduced.
But he also acknowledged there were setbacks, including two major disruptions on the North-South and East-West lines.
"Large-scale or prolonged disruptions still happen more frequently than is acceptable," Mr Lui said.
Measures have been put in place to deal with the problems but, given the nature and scale of the rail network, this would take time, he said.
Mr Lui is expected to remain as Transport Minister until after the general election when a new minister is appointed.