Straits Times: Workers’ Party member resigns from union post

He quits voluntarily after the sacking of another branch chairman by a union for his SDA ties, a move with which he disagrees


THE branch chairman of a National Trades Union Congress-affiliated union has quit his post voluntarily because of his membership in the Workers’ Party.

Mr Melvin Tan, 29, said he left his position as he was shocked by the expulsion of opposition leader Muhamad Ali Aman, who was also branch chairman of another NTUC-affiliated union.

Mr Muhamad Ali, secretary-general of the four-party Singapore Democratic Alliance, was sacked by the executive council of the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries (UWEEI) in early December.

He was accused of acting against the interests of the union, which supports the long-standing ties between the NTUC and the ruling People’s Action Party.

Mr Tan, who disagreed with the sacking, disclosed yesterday that he resigned from his post as union branch chairman soon after Mr Muhamad Ali was forced out. “I don’t agree with the UWEEI’s stand. Before I joined the WP last year, I knew about the PAP-NTUC symbiotic relationship, but not the extent to which those ties would be enforced,” he said.

“After Muhamad Ali’s expulsion, I decided to resign because I did not feel comfortable staying on in my union post.”

Mr Tan did not name the union which he had joined in 1998, but sources said it was the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers’ Union and added that although he is no longer branch chairman, he remains a union member.

He did not declare his membership in the WP to the union because, he said, he was not required to do so under its constitution.

In Mr Muhamad Ali’s case, UWEEI general secretary Cyrille Tan had said that PAP-NTUC ties were endorsed in a resolution passed at the labour movement’s conference in 1980. The resolution was an undertaking by all NTUC affiliates to support its relationship with the PAP.

That support was reaffirmed at annual May Day rallies by the 65 affiliated trade unions, which represent some 400,000 workers here.

Mr Muhamad Ali has appealed against his expulsion and his case will be heard by the UWEEI’s council of advisers today.

He was not the first unionist to be expelled because of ties with the opposition. In 1988, the Metal Industries Workers’ Union threw out branch chairman M. Ramasamy, who was also leader of the Singapore Justice Party at that time, after he contested against the PAP in a general election.