Singapore

Mahbubani to quit as LKY school dean

He will fully retire in 2019 after nine-month sabbatical

Veteran diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, who has led the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) since it was founded in 2004, will be stepping down as its dean on Dec 31.

His departure comes after 13 years at the helm. During this time, the school - set up to serve as a training ground for Asia's future policy-makers - cemented its reputation as a preeminent public policy school globally, said fellow public intellectuals.

But it was also marked by some recent controversies, most notably when one of its senior academics Huang Jing was identified as "an agent of influence of a foreign country" by the government and expelled.

Professor Mahbubani, 69, will take a nine-month sabbatical next year. He will remain an NUS faculty member before he retires fully in 2019.

His retirement was announced by the National University of Singapore (NUS) yesterday.

A search process will be initiated for the next dean. Meanwhile, an acting dean will be appointed.

In a statement to the school's governing board, Prof Mahbubani, who underwent a double heart bypass surgery last year, said "the time had come for me to take a fresh look at what I should achieve over the next decade as I enter my 70s".

He previously served 33 years in the Singapore foreign service and was the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1993 to 1998.

Calling Prof Mahbubani one of Singapore's "star diplomats", Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh told The Straits Times that he leaves behind two major legacies, both as a diplomat and as the public policy school dean.

As a writer, Prof Mahbubani - whose first book in 2001 was titled Can Asians Think? - has never shied from provocative topics.

In a piece he wrote in The Straits Times in July - Qatar: Big Lessons From A Small Country - he said an eternal rule of geopolitics is that "small states should behave like small states".

It drew sharp criticism from fellow diplomats Bilahari Kausikan and Ong Keng Yong, as well as Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who said Prof Mahbubani's assertion ran contrary to some of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's basic principles that made Singapore successful.

On whether the recent events could have been a factor in Prof Mahbubani's departure, Mr Ong said: "I must stress that this may not relate to why he decided to go on sabbatical. It is best not to connect so directly what happened recently to his decision to leave the Dean's post in LKYSPP."

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Lee Kuan YewMINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (MFA)national university of singapore