Profile: Speaker-to-be Tan Chuan-Jin once seen as key member of 4G leadership

Profile: Speaker-to-be Tan Chuan-Jin once seen as key member of 4G leadership
TODAY file photo.
Published: 5:45 PM, September 5, 2017
Updated: 6:41 AM, September 6, 2017

SINGAPORE — When he entered politics in 2011, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin was tipped as a key member of Singapore’s next generation of leaders, and he rose quickly through the ranks within the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Cabinet.

Just two weeks after winning a seat in Marine Parade GRC, the former army general was made a Minister of State, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong entrusting him with not one, but two portfolios — manpower and national development.

The 48-year-old career soldier, whose last military post was commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, was also among three new faces appointed to the PAP’s highest decision-making body within six months after the 2011 General Election, alongside Mr Chan Chun Sing, who is now labour chief; and Mr Heng Swee Keat, who is currently Finance Minister. At that time, the party’s second organising secretary and Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said they were chosen through a poll of branch chairmen and cadres representing the PAP branches, district committees, the Women’s Wing and Young PAP.

Mr Tan was made a full Cabinet Minister in 2014, and helmed the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) until April 2015. During his tenure at MOM, he introduced the Silver Support scheme and Fair Consideration Framework, among other things. His next posting was to the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

As Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Tan has taken a deep interest in social issues, and helping the needy and disadvantaged. He launched several initiatives including KidStart which is targeted at children of disadvantaged families, and SG Cares which encourages Singaporeans to give back to society.

Born in 1969, Mr Tan studied in Anglo-Chinese School and Raffles Junior College, then the London School of Economics on a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Overseas Scholarship.

He spent nearly 24 years in the army, where he was charged with leading the SAF’s relief efforts in Meulaboh, Aceh, in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the SAF’s largest military operation to date. He is married with two children.

Writing on Facebook on Tuesday (Sept 5) Mr Tan said he was “glad to accept PM’s nomination (as Speaker) and hope for my Parliamentary colleagues' support”.

He added: “From E W Barker to Tan Soo Khoon to Halimah Yacob, each Speaker served to the best of his or her ability, and in their own unique ways. Good ideas can come from both sides of the House, as does good intent. In fact they abound throughout the length and breadth of our society. Our duty must be to harness these for the common good – so as to put them to the service of fellow Singaporeans, and to build a better society. I look forward to doing this as effectively as I can.”

Mr Lee said Mr Tan has “the temperament and personality” for the role of Speaker. He noted that since entering politics, Mr Tan has built up good links with a diverse range of non-governmental organisations, voluntary welfare organisations and interest groups.

He added that Mr Tan “remains an important member” of his team, though in a different role. “I have asked him to maintain his interest in environmental and social issues, and his concern for the needy and disadvantaged,” Mr Lee wrote on Facebook.

The Prime Minister said Mr Tan has agreed to continue advising the Ministry of National Development on these issues, and to oversee SG Cares, after he becomes Speaker. He will also be appointed adviser to the National Council of Social Service, and continue to lead Marine Parade GRC, Mr Lee said.

Mr Tan is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council. Noting that this is an elected post and not a Government appointment, Mr Lee said he hopes Mr Tan will “keep on leading and inspiring our sporting fraternity, as he did recently at the SEA Games”.