Low Thia Khiang: WP's new headquarters symbolise party's durable progress

Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang speaking during the opening of WP's headquarters, which coincides with its 60th anniversary.
Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang speaking during the opening of WP's headquarters, which coincides with its 60th anniversary.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Opening his party's new headquarters on Friday (Sept 29) night, Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang said it symbolised the durable progress made by WP in a 60-year political journey that has at times been "difficult" and "winding".

"Despite the hardships, WP has served Singapore, and has gone through thick and thin with Singaporeans," he said.

The new premises, he added, were an affirmation by Singaporeans of WP's efforts - a reference to the fact that much of the funds raised to buy the office came from the public and from well-wishers.

The opening of WP's headquarters coincides with its 60th anniversary. From humble beginnings in 1957, the party has grown into the biggest opposition party, with six elected MPs and three NCMPs.

By the end of this year, Mr Low will reach a milestone too - he will become the longest-serving opposition MP in Singapore's history, surpassing Mr Chiam See Tong's record of 26 years and 4 months.

WP's new headquarters - its first owned premises - is in Teambuild Centre at 701 Geylang Road. The party bought the new 110 sq m space this year for around $900,000, moving in last month after renovations were done.

Its former Syed Alwi Road headquarters was rented, and was half the size of the new office. The party was there from 2004 to December last year, when its lease ended.

Party leaders said then that the old office was too cramped, and that the party was looking to buy.

Party sources told The Straits Times that WP has in the past faced problems renting. Some landlords are wary of renting to opposition parties. Others set conditions - such as not allowing the WP name and logo to be displayed.

In 2013, WP held a concert called "Bricks in Blue" to raise funds to buy its own premises, and received $500,000 in donations then. The rest came from its elected MPs donating $1,000 per month from allowances, and from supporters. The newly purchased property has 82 years left on its 99-year lease.

Also unveiled on Friday (Sept 29): an exhibition on the party's 60-year history, at the headquarters. It includes photos from the 14 general elections it has fought.

Party chairman Sylvia Lim said the party has seen ups and downs over 60 years - "exhilarating" victories in Anson, Hougang and Aljunied, as well as "trying times" and lawsuits, including one that nearly wound the party up in 1999.

"It's a new chapter for WP... It's our first home," said Assistant Secretary-General Pritam Singh.

Added veteran WP member Lim Ee Ping, 80: "I am very satisfied, because WP finally has its own nest."