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Lui Tuck Yew: From Navy chief to Transport Minister

SINGAPORE — Mr Lui Tuck Yew entered politics in the 2006 General Election (GE) after a high-flying career in public service, having risen to the position of Chief of Navy before moving on to helm the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Lui Tuck Yew: From Navy chief to Transport Minister

Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew (centre) alighting from a train at one-north MRT station. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — Mr Lui Tuck Yew entered politics in the 2006 General Election (GE) after a high-flying career in public service, having risen to the position of Chief of Navy before moving on to helm the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Right off the bat, when he was announced as a People’s Action Party GE candidate, his credentials had him on track as a potential office-holder. Indeed, after he was elected a Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC in a walkover that year, he was appointed Minister of State for Education. He was later appointed Acting Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts in 2009, before being made a full minister in 2010. After the 2011 GE, in which he was fielded as one of the anchor ministers for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, Mr Lui took over the Transport Ministry hot seat from Mr Raymond Lim.

Born on Aug 16, 1961, Mr Lui, a Singapore Armed Forces (Overseas) scholar, began his career in the Republic of Singapore Navy after graduating from Trinity College, University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom in 1983. He rose to the rank of Rear-Admiral and was made Chief of Navy in 1999, before becoming the chief executive of the Maritime and Port Authority four years later. He joined the HDB as chief executive officer in 2005.

Married to Ms Teng Soo Fen with two daughters, other portfolios Mr Lui has held are Second Minister for Foreign Affairs from May 2011 to July 2012, and in April, he was appointed Second Minister for Defence.

Mr Lui’s tenure as Transport Minister was marked by MRT service breakdowns of unprecedented scale, two of which happened just over six months into his appointment. In December 2011, two outages happened within three days of each other on the North-South Line, which led to the setting up of a Committee of Inquiry as well as the resignation of Ms Saw Phaik Hwa as SMRT CEO.

Delivering a ministerial statement in Parliament in Jan 2012, Mr Lui said: “SMRT could have better handled the evacuation of the passengers in the stalled trains to reduce the sense of distress, and provided clearer and timelier information and instructions to the public, instead of leaving commuters confused and apprehensive in already disordered circumstances.” The maintenance and upgrading regime as well as the regulatory and penalty framework would also be reviewed, he said.

In July that year, after the COI concluded that disruptions could have been prevented if adequate maintenance measures and checks had been carried out, Mr Lui told Parliament: “The December incidents were a painful lesson, but we can and will learn from them. We will improve our ability to address new challenges that arise with an expanded public transport network. I give the House my assurance that we will spare no effort to improve.”

He added: “The Government is responsible for delivering a quality public transport system to Singaporeans. We take this responsibility seriously, and will deliver.”

However, despite efforts to upgrade the ageing MRT system, breakdowns continued to happen.

Last month, power trips crippled the North-South and East-West lines during the evening rush hour, leaving 250,000 commuters stranded island-wide. It is believed to the worst MRT breakdown yet.

It was a blow for Mr Lui, who, when commenting on a spate of disruptions earlier in the year, told Parliament that the rail network had improved in terms of reliability and capacity since 2011, even as he acknowledged that more needed to be done.

During a preview of the Downtown Line 2 last week, Mr Lui acknowledged that it was natural for commuters to question if MRT reliability had improved since 2011, in light of the July 7 breakdown. “My short answer is yes, it has improved, but not enough,” he told reporters.

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