NSP 'committed to contesting 12 seats'

Mr Sebastian Teo greeting a resident at a walkabout in Tampines on July 26.
Mr Sebastian Teo greeting a resident at a walkabout in Tampines on July 26.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Party aims to run in MacPherson, says chief even as one more council member quits

The opposition National Solidarity Party (NSP) is committed to contesting 12 seats at the upcoming polls, said president Sebastian Teo, after a week of internal upheaval involving a series of resignations and reversals about where it would contest.

Though the events rocked its preparations for the upcoming elections, Mr Teo said yesterday that the party still intended to field candidates in the MacPherson and Pioneer single-member constituencies (SMC), and in the five-member Tampines and Sembawang group representation constituencies (GRCs).

"We are committed to contesting the general election as planned. That is what we can say. The keyword is we are always committed," he told The Straits Times in his first interview since turmoil erupted in the party early last week.

The NSP's woes first surfaced last Wednesday after it announced a U-turn of its Aug 10 decision not to engage in a three-way contest with the Workers' Party (WP) and People's Action Party (PAP) in MacPherson.

The announcement that it intended to send someone into MacPherson prompted acting secretary-general Hazel Poa to quit the party the same day.

Central executive council (CEC) member Steve Chia, who indicated that he would be the likely candidate, abruptly announced in a 1am post on his Facebook page on Sunday that he would not be standing there - a decision which suggested that the NSP had again decided to leave the WP to take on the PAP.

The party, which remained silent over the turn of events, was then hit yesterday with another resignation: that of CEC member Mohamed Fazli Talip, who was identified as one of 12 potential candidates. He said on Facebook he was leaving because the party's position has been damaged by its decisions, and he wanted to "protect my own credibility".

Sources said Mr Teo too had tendered his resignation amid the turmoil and after a website carrying information about a conviction for corruption in the 1970s and his bankruptcy in the 1980s surfaced last Sunday. The people behind the website remain unknown.

Mr Teo, who worked in the Defence Ministry's purchasing department, was convicted in November 1979 of taking bribes in exchange for information on successful bid tenders. He was fined $15,000 and ordered to pay a penalty of $10,500.

Sources added that the CEC rejected Mr Teo's resignation and asked him to stay on for the election, widely expected to take place next month. He would not comment on whether he offered to quit, only saying that he "decided to stay on" after mulling it over for a few days. "At this moment, as the party head, I cannot abandon the party."

He acknowledged the irony over the turn of events, given that the NSP held two meetings among opposition parties to ensure unity and avoid three-cornered fights, which would split the opposition vote.

But he criticised the WP for triggering the turmoil in the NSP through its "groundless" claims about what transpired between the two parties over their interest in Marine Parade GRC and MacPherson.

Mr Teo added that the party's CEC would decide whether to go ahead to contest MacPherson.

He also lamented how NSP's preparations for the election are a far cry from the 2011 polls, when it fielded the biggest opposition slate with 24 candidates. "Before these things happened, we were in very good shape. Our fighting spirit and energy were on full charge. It really looked like we could win."

But he said he intends to fight on and hopes voters will judge him fairly despite the surfacing of information about his past. The businessman teared up at one point during the hour-long interview when he revealed that his two children, in their 20s, were unaware of his past.

•Additional reporting by Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'NSP 'committed to contesting 12 seats''. Print Edition | Subscribe