Retiring Kishore Mahbubani wants to rebuild his intellectual capital & up his writing level

The founding Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) will retire on Dec. 31, 2017.

By Chan Cheow Pong | November 6, 2017

Kishore Mahbubani, the founding Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) will retire on Dec. 31, 2017 after more than 13 years at the helm.

The National University of Singapore made the announcement in a press release on Nov. 6.

An acting dean will be appointed from Jan. 1 next year and a search process will be initiated for the next dean.

The 69-year-old will remain a faculty member of the National University of Singapore (NUS) after his retirement from his leadership position.

Foreign interference and controversy

Kishore was appointed as Dean of the LKY School in August 2004, after a 33-year career in the Singapore Foreign Service, and was the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1993 to 1998.

The former top diplomat’s appointment as Dean had raised the profile of the young institution, and his significant contributions were recognised by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Chairman of the LKY School Governing Board and NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, who thanked him for his leadership over the years.

But his mostly trouble-free tenure as Dean has been somewhat marred by two incidents that will not be forgotten any time soon:

  • Incident 1: Strait Times commentary “Qatar: Big lessons from a small country”

His ST commentary on Jul. 1 ignited a storm of controversy and earned him an avalanche of stinging rebukes directly and indirectly from members of the foreign policy establishment, which included  his former subordinate Ambassador Bilahari, and also the former Foreign Ministers K Shanmugam.

Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan rebuts LKY School of Public Policy dean Kishore Mahbubani

His advocacy of a fundamental change in foreign policy approach, where “small states must always behave like small states” saw him heavily criticised for being “muddled, mendacious and indeed dangerous” and also “intellectually questionable”.

For Singaporeans, it was a rare opportunity to learn about our foreign policy, against an entertaining backdrop of a robust political and intellectual disagreement playing out in the open. But it was also serious enough for Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan to hold a townhall meeting to educate our  MFA foreign service officers.

Want to be S’pore’s next top foreign service officer? You better read this speech

  • Incident 2: Agent of influence Huang Jing 

In early August, a member of faculty at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), Professor Huang Jing was stripped of his permanent residency in Singapore, after being identified as an agent of influence of a foreign country, that is most likely China.

Is Huang Jing a foreign agent of China or America? We speculate.

The startling revelation also contained details of Huang leveraging his senior academic position to provide supposedly “privileged information” to a “senior member of the LKYSPP”, intending for it to be conveyed to the Singapore government, and causing it to change its foreign policy, albeit without success.

The identity of the LKYSPP “senior member” was not disclosed but the NUS had committed to “cooperating fully with MHA”.

The incident will most probably be remembered as the lowest point of the LKYSPP since its inception and it happened under Kishore’s leadership.

Reading, reflection and writing

In a way, Kishore’s upcoming retirement will be a chance for LKYSPP to start afresh after the Huang Jing incident.

But we can expect him to continue sharing his views on current issues, as he embarks on a “new career”.

According to the NUS press release, Kishore wrote a personal note announcing his decision to the Governing Board of the LKYSPP, saying that he had decided to step down as Dean “to focus on a new career that involves more time spent on reading, reflection and writing.”

“I need to rebuild my store of intellectual capital, if I am to carry my writing up to a higher level.”

Top photo from NUS

Related Stories:

Kishore Mahbubani: I love visiting Hong Kong as they like to listen to alternative views

Kishore Mahbubani suggests Singapore needs a committee on future politics. We wonder why.

About Chan Cheow Pong

It took Cheow Pong two decades to recover from the trauma of memorising General Paper essays before he was ready to be an English writer. In between affliction and recovery, he thoroughly enjoyed his time writing in Chinese and doing Chinese translations.

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