Straits Times: Workers’ Party out in strength to woo tomorrow’s voters

Party chief leads 50 members on Bedok walkabouts; more such visits very week


ACTIVE: Mr Low (centre) leads a team, including WP assistant secretary-general Chia Ti Lik (left), selling the party newsletter in Bedok.

THE Workers’ Party (WP), with an eye on the 2011 General Election, has taken the initial steps to win over voters, especially the young.

Yesterday, about 50 of its members, led by party chief Low Thia Khiang, went on a three-hour walkabout in Bedok.

The constituency visit is the second in as many Sundays, and was dominated by young members who had joined the party after this year’s general election.

There were about 30 newcomers in the group, all clad in the party’s trademark sky-blue shirts.

Such constituency visits would continue “every week for the foreseeable future”, said Mr Low, who is WP’s secretary-general. “This is part of the work that needs to be done to win more seats in the next election,” he said.

Likely to be held in 2011, the election will see Singapore’s post-65 generation, those born after 1965, making up more than half of the electorate.

The walkabouts are also to counter what Mr Low had said was the perception that opposition parties appear in public only during – not in between – elections.

Yesterday’s event began around 8.45am, at the market and food centre at Block 58, Bedok South Avenue 3.

Moving in groups of five and six, the WP leaders and members introduced themselves to residents while selling the party’s newsletter, The Hammer.

Three teams concentrated on the fringe of the market while a team led by Mr Low weaved its way through the breakfast crowd at the food centre.

At least 1,000 copies of The Hammer were sold. Its sale will take place every week, “barring exceptional situations such as when we run out of copies or new editions are not ready”, Mr Low said.

Last Sunday, he had led a similar constituency visit in Hougang, where he is the MP, and its neighbouring Aljunied GRC. It was the party’s first walkabout after the election of its new Central Executive Council on July 16. Like yesterday’s outing, young members were a dominant presence then.

They met residents in Mr Low’s Hougang ward before fanning out in Aljunied GRC, where the party got 43.9 per cent of the votes in this year’s General Election.

Among the new members is businessman Dexter Yeo, 32.

Yesterday, he was in charge of taking snapshots of the morning’s activities for publication on the party’s website.

“They seemed rather short-handed, so I decided to come and help out,” he told The Straits Times. Mr Yeo said he joined the WP recently because “it is a credible party” and he was impressed by their performance during the election.

In explaining the active participation of the young members, the party’s organising secretary Yaw Shin Leong said: “We need to strengthen our base and expose the younger members to different roles and responsibilities.”

Mr Yaw, an IT consultant, foresees their role expanding further when some among them are elected into the executive committee of WP’s Youth Wing next month, during its Youth Conference.

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.”

Straits Times: WP gives keyposts to newbies


THE Workers’ Party (WP) last night appointed its newly elected central executive council (CEC) members to specific positions in the party leadership but with one significant departure from past practice.

The posts of first and second assistant secretaries-general were left vacant. In the previous CEC, these positions were held by Dr Poh Lee Guan and Mr James Gomez respectively.

Business lecturer Dr Poh, 45, who stood in Nee Soon East in the last General Election, is still in the CEC but no longer holds any post.

Mr Gomez, who contested as part of the WP’s Aljunied GRC team, is working in a think-tank in Sweden and did not contest the CEC elections on Sunday.

After conducting a three-hour meeting with the new CEC last night, WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang told The Straits Times that there was “no need” for assistant secretaries-general now as the new CEC was “relatively young and dynamic and need time to grow”.

He added that unlike in previous years, the WP now had another “dominant” leader to steer the party along with the secretary-general. And this was party chairman Sylvia Lim who is taking up the post of Non-Constituency MP.

Mr Low also explained why he gave the next most senior post, that of vice-chairman, to Mr Mohammed Rahizan Yaacob, explaining that the businessman had “enough political experience”.

Mr Rahizan, 49, was on the WP’s Aljunied GRC team together with Miss Lim and will likely be tasked with helping to beef up the party’s efforts at recruiting more minorities into the party.

Mr Low had previously admitted that the WP had to work harder to engage minorities if it wanted a better shot at winning a GRC.

Yesterday, he said that one of the aims of the CEC meeting was “to look at the activities and strategies to move the party forward and increase our chances of winning more seats in the next election”.

The council last night also parcelled out several key appointments to rookies from the GE. The biggest winner was IT consultant Yaw Shin Leong, 30, who led the WP team in Ang Mo Kio GRC. He was made organising secretary. Lawyer Chia Ti Lik, 32, retained his post of assistant organising secretary while Mr Eric Tan, 50, a senior bank manager, is party treasurer.

Business consultant Perry Tong is the new WP Youth Wing president, taking over from Mr Tan Wui-Hua, 39, who is working overseas.

Mr Yaw said the party’s next major activity would be a National Day outreach programme, while Mr Tong said he looked forward to inducting more potential young candidates.

“I am at the age where I feel that I can connect with both the younger and older generations,” added the 35-year-old.

TODAY: New faces in WP CEC

James Gomez among those making way for fresh blood


THE FUTURE: New CEC members (from top to bottom) Yaw Shin Leong, Glenda Han and Perry Tong.

NEW blood has been infused into the Workers’ Party (WP), with seven new faces – most of them in their 30s – elected into its Central Executive Committee (CEC).

Stepping down are seven of the old guard, the highest profile among them being James Gomez – who was embroiled in controversy over his non-submission of a minority candidate certificate application form during the recent General Election.

Coming into the CEC are East Coast GRC candidates Perry Tong, 35, Eric Tan, 51 and Brandon Siow, 31; Ang Mo Kio GRC team leader Yaw Shin Leong, 30 and his teammates Glenda Han, 30 and Abdul Salim, 24. The seventh new face is Ng Swee Bee, 26, who was the election agent for WP secretary general Low Thia Khiang in the Hougang constituency.

Speaking to reporters after a three-hour closed-door meeting at the party’s headquarters in Syed Alwi Road, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said she was encouraged by the fact that members were supportive of a renewal within the party leadership.

“All of us are looking forward to the next phase of the Workers’ Party, and to also be a better representative of the electorate at the next election,” said Ms Lim, 41.

Both Ms Lim, who is the new Non-Constituency MP, and Hougang MP Mr Low, 49, retained their respective posts in the CEC through a direct election.

The 13 remaining CEC members will also be office-bearers, though the exact posts that they will occupy will only be decided later tonight.

Ms Lim said that second assistant secretary-general Mr Gomez, currently working in Sweden as a policy analyst with think-tank International IDEA, was consulted before yesterday’s election.

Treasurer Tan Wui-Hua, 39, is also working overseas in the Middle East and was not considered for reelection.

The other five leaders making way are first vice-chairman Tan Bin Seng, 54, organising secretary Ng Ah Chwee, 56, deputy treasurer Goh Seng Soon, 56, second vice-chairman Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman, 66, and council member Melvin Tan, 31.

Ms Lim said that the party’s main target was to win more seats in the next GE.

“We had wanted to do so this year. But I think the Singapore electorate has given us hope for the next election, so we intend to work hard towards that goal,” she said.

The WP said more than 100 new members had signed up over the past few months. Some of them could be groomed as future candidates, said Mr Low.

The CEC could expand in the coming months too, he added, as the constitution allows it to co-opt up to six more members.

Newly-elected Mr Yaw said he felt “honoured” by the move. He told TODAY: “By the next election, a good proportion of voters will be from the post-65 generation. We can speak the same language as them and be in a good position to handle their concerns.”

Straits Times: Young members dominate new WP leadership


THE Workers’ Party (WP) yesterday ushered in a new generation of leaders, replacing half of its central executive council (CEC) with fresh members mostly below the age of 40.

Of the seven new members elected, only senior bank manager Eric Tan, 50, is born before independence.

The remaining six are consultant Perry Tong, 34; sales coordinator Abdul Salim Harun, 24; businesswoman Glenda Han, 30; IT consultant Yaw Shin Leong, 30; account manager Brandon Siow, 31 and Miss Ng Swee Bee, 26, a cost coordinator in a private school.

Miss Ng, WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang’s election agent, is the only new council member who did not contest in the May general election.

The new faces’ inclusion means that nine out of 15 members in the new CEC are below the age of 40.

Mr Yaw said he was “honoured” that the party had shown such “faith and confidence” in its younger members.

The CEC election, attended by more than 60 cadre members, was a closed-door event held at the WP’s Syed Alwi Road headquarters yesterday afternoon.

After the meeting, Mr Low told the press that he was “very pleased” that a younger leadership had been elected, as it ensured rejuvenation within the 49-year-old party.

“The process of renewal is on track,” said the Hougang MP, adding with a laugh: “I’m one of the oldest now!”

WP chairman Sylvia Lim was similarly upbeat about the result.

“We are looking forward to the next phase of the Workers’ Party, and also to be better representatives of the electorate, particularly the younger generation,” she said.

While celebrating a new team of more youthful leaders, both Mr Low and Ms Lim were quick to pay tribute to the older council members who had made way for their younger colleagues.

The seven former council members who stepped down include ex-party chairman Tan Bin Seng, 54; Mr Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman, 66; Mr James Gomez, 41 and Mr Tan Wui-Hua, 39.

Both Mr Tan and Mr Gomez stepped down due to work commitments in the Middle East and Sweden respectively.

Said Mr Abdul Rahim, who had been the party’s vice-chairman since 1994: “It’s time the younger members fly the party’s flag.”

The new council members will be given specific appointments in a meeting today.

Mr Low and Ms Lim will remain as the WP’s secretary-general and chairman respectively.