TODAY: Going for the grassroots

WP creates new central area committee for Ang Mo Kio, three other wards

By Loh Chee Kong

FRESH from its creditable showing in the recent General Election, the Workers’ Party (WP) is already laying its cards for the next election on the table.

Following the election of its new and significantly younger Central Executive Committee on Sunday, the WP is looking to increase its ground presence with the setting up of a new central area committee to reach out to residents in Ang Mo Kio, Yio Chu Kang, Bishan and Toa Payoh.

Of these places, the WP only contested Ang Mo Kio GRC the last time around. Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC saw a walkover, while National Solidarity Party president Yip Yew Weng lost to People’s Action Party’s Seng Han Thong in Yio Chu Kang.

WP’s newly appointed organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong, who is heading the new committee, said that the move seeks to build on WP’s work in Ang Mo Kio, where he led a relatively inexperienced team against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and collected more than one-third of the votes.

The changes in its grassroots setup also include an expansion on its existing North Eastern and Eastern area committees, which now include Tampines and Marine Parade, respectively, constituencies that the WP did not contest the last time round.

When asked if the WP would be contesting the areas that were added, Mr Yaw would only say that the areas were selected for “efficient allocation of resources” and were logical extensions from the support bases they already have.

For example, Marine Parade GRC, helmed by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, is located next to Aljunied GRC, where WP garnered 43.9 per cent of the valid votes. The two wards also traded some polling districts in the latest boundary review.

The area committees, each consisting of 10 to 20 party members, can be called “alternative grassroots as opposed to PAP’s branches”, said Mr Yaw.

“Compared to activities conducted at the party level, the job scope of the area committees is more intense, including door-to-door visits which are more personal … We spend more time interacting with the residents.”

Strikingly, the western part of the island has been left out again in WP’s re-organisation of its grassroots setup due to limited resources.

Mr Yaw, however, would not rule out the possibility of WP contesting in the western constituencies come the next elections, depending on the growth of the party.

“By the end of next year or 2008, we would have a pretty good picture of where we should be going.

“While most of the activities would be “ground-centric and away from the glare of the media”, Mr Yaw said that the WP is looking to show its hand early.

“You can call it conventional warfare. It’s semi-transparent as we’ve somewhat laid our cards on the table. I think this is the way the political process in Singapore should go, instead of the way it has been conducted. But of course, the element of surprise is still very important, especially in a small place like this.”

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