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Five new faces to become office-holders

SINGAPORE — Less than a month after they were elected into Parliament for the first time, five new faces will be taking on additional responsibilities as political office-holders in the new Cabinet unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Sept 28).

Mr Ong Ye Kung and Mr Ng Chee Meng.  Photos: PAP

Mr Ong Ye Kung and Mr Ng Chee Meng. Photos: PAP

SINGAPORE — Less than a month after they were elected into Parliament for the first time, five new faces will be taking on additional responsibilities as political office-holders in the new Cabinet unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Sept 28).

Newly-elected Members of Parliament (MPs) Ng Chee Meng, 47, and Ong Ye Kung, 45, will be helming the Ministry of Education (MOE) as co-Acting Ministers for Education, departing from the usual practice of having First and Second Ministers in a ministry. They will be taking over the portfolio from Mr Heng Swee Keat, who will become Finance Minister. 

Mr Ng, the former Chief of Defence Force, will be Acting Minister for Education (Schools), where he will oversee pre-school education, special education and general education from primary level all the way up to junior college. The MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency (GRC) will also be the Senior Minister of State (Transport).

Meanwhile, Mr Ong will be Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills). He will oversee the Institutes of Technical Education, poly­technics, universities, private education institutions, continuing education and training, as well as the MOE’s work in SkillsFuture. Apart from his education portfolio, the MP for Sembawang GRC will also become Senior Minister of State (Defence).

Currently the director of Group Strategy at Keppel Corporation, Mr Ong was formerly the deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress.

When asked why Mr Ng and Mr Ong were appointed to the Education Ministry, PM Lee said the move would give them the experience and exposure to test their potential, under the guidance of four former education ministers, Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugatranam, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Mr Heng.

Mr Ong, who was present at the press conference where Mr Lee unveiled his new Cabinet, said his immediate priority would be to understand “how the ministry works, get to know the people and the partners and understand ... the entire system and its complexities”.

Mr Ng, saying he will consult with educators, parents and other stakeholders to understand the issues, added: “I think Singapore and Singaporeans recognise that education is one of the best gifts we can give to our children and we’ve consistently invested in this area.” 

Other first-term MPs appointed office holders include Mr Chee Hong Tat, 41, former second permanent secretary for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, who will become Minister of State (Health, and Communications and Information). Sembawang GRC MP and lawyer Amrin Amin, 36, will become Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs. Ang Mo Kio GRC MP and colorectal surgeon Koh Poh Koon, 43, will become Minister of State (National Development, and Trade and Industry) from Jan 1. 

Mr Amrin said his knowledge of the legal framework will provide him with a holistic understanding of the work done by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is more than just about the “hard force of law”, and also involves constant engagement with people to tackle issues such as prison incarceration rates or drug abuse.

While most of the Cabinet changes will take effect this Thursday, Dr Koh, who runs his own private practice, said he will need more time to settle affairs at his clinic.

Dr Koh said he will be handing over the clinic to another doctor, as his new appointment will leave him with little time to practise medicine full-time.

On tackling a portfolio that is vastly different from his background in medicine, Dr Koh said he believes that the perspective and thinking skills that he is bringing from the private sector will come in handy in his new role.

“Most of the office holders do get rotated around, so going into a different portfolio where you see things from a fresh perspective is not necessarily a bad thing. It does prevent groupthink and silo-mindedness,” he added.

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