Just a renewal process

Just a renewal process
Former WP chairman John Gan.

SINGAPORE - They rarely speak to the media about the party.

Indeed, The Workers' Party official channels ignored several attempts by The New Paper to speak about their internal election on July 27.

Why is a private election within a party even an issue now?

It is because WP is in transition and observers are keen to know what the changes within mean for the dominant opposition party that has seven seats in Parliament.

Political observer Eugene Tan, who is a Singapore Management University associate law professor, said: "People will be keen to see the balance of experience and youth within the party. Not just political observers, but everyone will want to see how WP gets their yin and yang correct."

Something changed on July 27.

Cadre members, with voting rights, spoke openly about their unhappiness and several followed up with interviews with TNP over the next few days.

They spoke of renewal within the party - even that of the secretary-general position held by Mr Low Thia Khiang.

They also talked candidly about their wish to see the party engage more with the People's Action Party (PAP) rather than just give advice, as one veteran member put it.

And they spoke of the rise of Mr Chen Show Mao, Mr Low's running mate in Aljunied GRC, and how he went from a Central Executive Council member two years ago to being appointed Treasurer after garnering the most votes during the internal election.

But only one of the seven WP cadre members who spoke to TNP agreed to go on record.

The others said they did not want to harm their chances of being selected by the party leadership as candidates in choice seats in the next GE.

Former chairman John Gan spoke candidly on five occasions including twice at his home. He was the bridge between the Workers' Party of old, under Mr J. B. Jeyaretnam, and the present.

Mr Low took over from the late Mr Jeyaretnam as secretary-general in 2001.

Was the party's internal election last Sunday a watershed event?

Yes, he said, but it's a party going through a renewal process.

After all, following the success of GE2011, the party attracted a number of highly qualified candidates, including lawyers and university professors.

"The party members are the ones who decide who will lead. If you are not performing and not doing your duty well, then it is up to the members to judge," said Mr Gan.

"Being in WP means you have to work hard. We did not create our name today from nothing.

"We worked hard every weekend to meet and know the people and have them know what we stand for."

Some younger and less experienced members were booted out of the CEC - some handpicked by Mr Low himself.

Organising secretaries Ng Swee Bee and Toh Hong Boon did not get re-elected, while Ms Jane Leong, vice-chair of the WP's media team, and Mr Koh Choong Yong also did not receive enough votes to be returned to the CEC.

"It keeps performances in check. The members will appreciate and can see for themselves if the leaders are performing," he said.

Only Ms Lim's chairmanship and secretary-general Low were not challenged. Did talk of the renewal process include these positions?

Said Mr Gan: "Yes, there was such talk by other members (about challenging Mr Low's position). But it is really up to the members to decide."

Nobody should be spared the renewal process, he added.

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