Charles Yeo is Reform Party chairman, party to conduct GE2020 post-mortem

Outgoing chairman Andy Zhu said he was unfairly dismissed before allegations made against him by the party's secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam have been resolved. Criminal defence lawyer Charles Yeo has been appointed as the Reform Party's new cha
Criminal defence lawyer Charles Yeo has been appointed as the Reform Party's new chairman, while oil and gas company director Mahaboob Batcha is the new treasurer.
Outgoing chairman Andy Zhu said he was unfairly dismissed before allegations made against him by the party's secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam have been resolved. Criminal defence lawyer Charles Yeo has been appointed as the Reform Party's new cha
Outgoing chairman Andy Zhu said he was unfairly dismissed before allegations made against him by the party's secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam have been resolved.

RP says move is part of renewal; outgoing chairman criticises 'unfair dismissal'

Criminal defence lawyer Charles Yeo has been appointed chairman of the Reform Party (RP), while oil and gas company director Mahaboob Batcha is the new treasurer.

The party announced the appointments in a Facebook post yesterday, which it said were part of party renewal following the recent general election.

But the move has been criticised by outgoing RP chairman Andy Zhu, who told The Straits Times he was unfairly dismissed by the party before allegations made against him by secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam have been resolved.

RP had said in its post that Mr Zhu, 37, and outgoing treasurer Noraini Yunus, 52, will both be stepping down from its central executive committee (CEC).

The internal conflict spilled into the open when Mr Zhu made a subsequent post yesterday using the party's Facebook account that said: "This is an undemocratic stance by the SG Kenneth Jeyaretnam to make this announcement of new appointments while the matters and allegations against the party chair and treasurer are not finalised."

The post, which was taken down, said the party should not make any new appointments till the CEC finishes deliberating on the issues and makes a decision.

Mr Zhu told ST: "This is something like an unfair dismissal... I have refuted all the allegations against me."

He said Mr Jeyaretnam, 61, had levelled various allegations against him after the GE, chief of which was that he made changes to RP's payment methods without official party approval. The party's rules require all cheques for payments to be signed by the treasurer and one other CEC member.

Mr Zhu said he had applied for PayNow and reactivated the party's online banking account because of the need to make full payment quickly to contractors for services such as printing posters and distributing fliers.

"I conveyed this to the group chat and everyone agreed that we should get PayNow and online banking... But (Mr Jeyaretnam) is now claiming ignorance," he added.

Mr Zhu said Mr Jeyaretnam then accused him of making payments to contractors using the wrong channels, instead of by cheque.

"Kenneth said that large amounts of funds can be transferred out as there are no dual signatories. I told him I did not misuse the funds and we couldn't wait for the cheques to clear before paying the contractors. The treasurer was aware of any money going in and out," he said.

He added that Mr Jeyaretnam suspended him and Ms Noraini after the general election, and claimed the entire CEC had agreed to it - a point that he disputed.

Mr Zhu said he was not challenging Mr Yeo's appointment as chairman, but the manner in which Mr Jeyaretnam was forcing him out.

Mr Jeyaretnam told ST that RP had held an inquiry, where Mr Zhu and Ms Noraini presented their case. The CEC then decided at a meeting on Monday to remove them from their posts, after considering the evidence.

"We made it clear that we are having a review of the 2020 GE and as part of that, we are identifying opportunities and looking at weaknesses. Their removals have come in light of the review, as we've decided to replace the leadership based on initial findings on where we have had shortcomings," he said.

"They still have the chance to appeal and until the process is completed, I don't think I can make any further comments."

Mr Jeyaretnam also said the party selected Mr Yeo, 30, as its new chairman because "we are renewing our ranks and identifying new leaders and Charles clearly is an outstanding candidate".

Mr Yeo had drawn attention during the election campaign after clips of him struggling to deliver the Mandarin constituency political broadcast speech for his party went viral online.

Mr Mahaboob was formerly RP's deputy treasurer. He was unveiled as a candidate ahead of the GE, but did not contest.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2020, with the headline 'Charles Yeo is Reform Party chairman, party to conduct GE2020 post-mortem'. Print Edition | Subscribe