Weekend TODAY: Frustrations under the whip

Decision to quit Workers’ Party was not taken at the last minute, says Chia

ANSLEY NG
ansley@mediacorp.com.sg

THE resignation of Mr Chia Ti Lik from the Workers’ Party (WP) was the result of months of “frustration”, and not one that was made suddenly, according to the lawyer once dubbed the rising star of the Opposition party.

On Thursday, Mr Chia – a member of WP’s Central Executive Council (CEC) – quit in apparent protest of a party ban on members speaking freely on the Internet. His resignation was the second in three days; WP member Goh Meng Seng had quit after his harsh postings on online forums.

But according to a source close to the party, Mr Chia’s unhappiness had begun festering after the General Election (GE), apparently over how the party was not “active” in engaging the Government on issues.

“There were frustrations. There was a process and it wasn’t a last-minute thing,” Mr Chia told TODAY but declined to elaborate.

On Tuesday night, 13 CEC members – including party chief Low Thia Khiang and chairman Sylvia Lim – had, in a meeting, agreed to stop WP members posting messages online using their real names.

Two days later, Mr Chia, who was not at the meeting, quit. Ms Lim told TODAY, “While we are always sad to lose people, we respect their decision. They have made important contributions to the party.

“However, I believe that it is healthy for organisations to go through norming processes. The WP will remain focused and continue to work to earn the people’s support.”

The resignations surprised many, including political watcher Dr Ho Khai Leong, who said: “You don’t join a political party without deep thought, nor do you quit so easily. The WP is imposing a party whip, in a sense, on members.”

Calling the CEC’s decision “disappointing”, Mr Chia said: “I do not try to force them to go my way, but if I cannot accept a certain restriction, it’s time for me to leave rather than stay and break (the rules).”

During the GE, Mr Chia had led his East Coast GRC team to win 36.15 per cent of the votes against a People’s Action Party team helmed by Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar.

Over the months, Mr Chia and Mr Goh had engaged in online forum discussions on social and political issues. But two weeks ago, Netizens complained to the WP about Mr Goh. WP member Perry Tong also made a police report when someone posted a message in his name.

Mr Chia said his aim had been to get talk going and “not to attack people”.

“It’s not: ‘I have my way, you cannot have yours’. It’s more like: ‘I have this view, what’s yours?’ Once you have more minds speaking on a problem, who knows, you might have a very creative solution,” he added.

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