Straits Times: WP grooming new faces ahead of next election

Underlining its push for self-renewal, it has in place a team with newcomers such as a lecturer and a financial controller


A wish to help the opposition prompted Ms Lim to join the WP. It’s a matter of conscience, she says.

Newcomers Mr Tan (left) and Mr Yaw hope to boost the WP’s chances at the next GE.

GOING into its 45th year next month, the Workers’ Party (WP) is pushing ahead with self-renewal and injecting new blood way before the next General Election (GE), which is due only in 2007.

A law lecturer, Ms Sylvia Lim, 37, and a financial controller, Mr Tan Wui-Hua, 36, are newcomers among the 14 members in the policy-making central executive committee led by Mr Low Thia Khiang.

The WP secretary-general and MP for Hougang is also beefing up his support with not one, but two assistant secretary-generals.

Besides training consultant Poh Lee-Guan, 40, who contested the Nee Soon East seat in the last GE, Mr Low also has researcher James Gomez, 36, as his other right-hand man.

Mr Gomez was instrumental in drafting the party’s last election platform, emphasising the strains on the “new poor” in Singapore.

Another newcomer, Mr Yaw Shin Leong, 26, the deputy organising secretary, is also Mr Low’s legislative assistant.

Both Mr Gomez and Mr Yaw were part of a WP team who tried to contest in the Aljunied GRC in the last election, but were disqualified because their nomination papers were not in order.

The new team will be introduced to members at an anniversary dinner on Nov 16, during which highlights of the WP’s history since 1957 will be shown.

Said Mr Low, 46, who took over the reins of the WP in May last year: “We must bring in new blood. You must build an organisation, a team, rather than an individual.”

The new members have updated the look of the party organ, The Hammer. And they are using it and the party’s website to disseminate views and information on party activities.

His priority, Mr Low said, was to ensure that the party was not associated with just one man, as it was with its first leader, Mr David Marshall and, later, lawyer J.B. Jeyaretnam, who quit the party just before the last GE.

Ten other members quit along with him, but the membership base is still dominated by older people.

Mr Low declined to talk about an ongoing legal suit against the party by Mr Jeyaretnam, who is now a bankrupt raising money to pay off debts incurred from fighting court cases.

Contacted by The Straits Times, Ms Lim, a former police inspector and lawyer, said the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) victory in the last GE in November with 75 per cent of the total votes prompted her to join the WP after the polls.

After seeing how strapped the opposition was in its fight against the PAP in that election, she decided it was time for her to do something “as a matter of conscience”.

Ms Lim, who is single and lectures at Temasek Polytechnic, helps Mr Low prepare for parliamentary debates by reviewing Bills presented by the Government to Parliament.

“Sometimes, I feel some of the laws are very widely drafted. Past experience has shown that, sometimes, the net may be cast too wide, which may have effects nobody intended,” she said.

Mr Tan, who works in a real estate investment company, has three postgraduate and graduate degrees in accounting, business administration and mathematics.

He is the WP’s deputy treasurer and wants to contribute ideas addressing issues like the factors stunting Singapore’s economic growth.

Before the last election, expressing his wish to join the party, he wrote in an e-mail message to Mr Low: “Let’s put our heads together.

“If we can come up with something good, let’s try it out. If we can win the trust of the people and do something, at least in our lifetime, we can say that is an achievement.”

‘No point wishing for a strong and credible opposition if one is not prepared to so anything.’
Law lecturer Sylvia Lim, in an article in The Hammer entitled Stand Up For Singapore

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