Straits Times: James Gomez quits Workers’ Party

• BY KOR KIAN BENG


Dr James Gomez, who caused a controversy during the 2006 elections, plans to form a civil society group. ST FILE PHOTO

DR JAMES Gomez, the Workers’ Party (WP) candidate for Aljunied GRC who caused a controversy during the 2006 general election, has quit the party.

He has also submitted an application to set up a civil society group called Singaporeans for Democracy, but the application has yet to be approved by the Registry of Societies (ROS).

Dr Gomez told The Straits Times yesterday that the group he plans to form will aim to promote civil and political reforms among Singaporeans here and abroad using new media tools.

The group submitted its application in April last year but has yet to hear from the ROS, he said.

Under ROS rules, 10 names need to be submitted in any application to start a new society. Dr Gomez declined to say who the other nine are.

When contacted by The Straits Times, the ROS said it received the application on April 28 last year. It is currently processing the application and will inform the society once its registration has been approved, it said.

Dr Gomez, who turns 45 this Sunday, sparked what became known as the “James Gomez affair” in 2006 when he got into an altercation with Elections Department officials over whether or not he had submitted a requisite form for the election.

He said he had, but video footage later showed that he had instead put the form back into his briefcase.

Leaders of the People’s Action Party accused him of trying to discredit the Elections Department by claiming its staff had misplaced his form.

He was also given a stern warning by the police for using threatening words towards a public servant.

The WP team that he was a part of garnered 43.9 per cent of the votes in Aljunied GRC.

On Tuesday, at a Speakers’ Corner event, Dr Gomez announced his departure from the WP.

The event was a birthday memorial for the late J.B. Jeyaretnam, a former WP leader, who died in 2008. The event was organised by Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam and other political activists.

Dr Gomez joined the WP in 2001 and became its second assistant secretary-general a year later.

However, he became inactive after the May 2006 polls. He left Singapore shortly after to work as a researcher in a Swedish think-tank till 2008, and then as a visiting scholar at Japan’s Keio University till last year.

He is currently based in Melbourne, where he teaches public relations at Monash University, the university he received his doctorate from in 2008.

Back in Singapore for two months, Dr Gomez said he did not renew his WP membership when it expired on Dec 31 last year because it was in the “natural flow of things as personal situations do shift”.

He did not rule out contesting the next general election, which must be held by early 2012, although he said his immediate goal was to move into “non-party grounds”.

Asked if he would contest the next general election, he said this would “depend on other factors, like my employer”.

WP organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong said Dr Gomez’s departure would not have an impact on the WP. “People come and people go,” he said.

Other opposition leaders contacted yesterday said they were open to exploring the possibility of Dr Gomez joining them.

Said Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam: “All I can say is that he hasn’t applied to join the Reform Party. We would welcome him as a member, pending the vetting of a selection committee.”

National Solidarity Party president Sebastian Teo said his party did not view what happened in 2006 as a negative for Dr Gomez. Its doors would “always be open to people who share the same platform as us”, he said.

Singapore Democratic Alliance secretary-general Desmond Lim Bak Chuan said its doors were similarly open to anyone, including Dr Gomez.

kianbeng@sph.com.sg

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