Core of next WP leaders in place, says Low

WP chief Low Thia Khiang taking questions from the media at the sidelines of his Meet-the-People Session on June 2.
WP chief Low Thia Khiang taking questions from the media at the sidelines of his Meet-the-People Session on June 2. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The core of the next generation of leaders who can take the Workers' Party (WP) forward is reflected in the line-up of its new central executive council (CEC), party chief Low Thia Khiang said last night.

But whether these office-holders, including new assistant secretary-general Pritam Singh, will actually take over the reins of the party will boil down to two factors: whether they can garner the support and confidence of party members, and of the voting public.

"Whoever succeeds me as secretary-general will have to have the support of the party and, of course, public opinion counts," Mr Low said.

"Whoever succeeds me as party leader, or for that matter anyone who becomes part of the leadership core, will need to have a favourable public opinion so the public will continue to support the WP. We are a political party so that's a reality."

Mr Low, who spoke to reporters before his Meet-the-People Session in Bedok Reservoir Road, did not want to be drawn into saying whether Mr Singh - appointed to a post which has been vacant since 2006 - will succeed him as party leader.

"Well, that I will leave to the public to interpret how they want to," he said.

Asked why Mr Singh, 40, was chosen, he cited qualities such as his active grassroots activities and parliamentary work, as well as his experience as chairman of Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.

"So in terms of the totality, I think Mr Singh is suitable to be the assistant secretary-general," he said.

Mr Singh, formerly the organising secretary, was appointed to his new post at the CEC meeting on Tuesday.

He has now occupied the two posts that Mr Low also held before he rose to become WP chief in 2001.

Mr Low, 59, said Mr Singh will assist him in decision-making and the planning of party matters, but did not want to elaborate further.

As for why the post had not been filled for a decade, Mr Low said he did not see the need to do so "because we were still developing, we were still cultivating, moulding the new leadership core".

But he felt the time was right to revive the post as party succession plans are on track and there is now a fresh group of CEC leaders.

He cited how younger members had been appointed as deputies to assist their older counterparts in key party positions.

Mr Singh aside, Aljunied GRC MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, 40, is vice-chairman; Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, 45, is deputy treasurer; and Mr Kenneth Foo and Mr Tan Kong Soon, both 39, are the new deputy organising secretaries.

"The line-up has shown that the party has successfully cultivated a younger leadership core which, as I said, will be able to succeed the older leadership when the time comes," he said.

He did not have a timeline nor did he want to engage questions on when he might decide to step down and hand over as secretary-general.

"When the time comes, you will know. I will not be able to tell you much about that because the situation changes," he said.

Mr Low retained his position as secretary-general at the party's biennial election on May 29 despite a challenge from fellow Aljunied GRC MP Chen Show Mao.

Asked if Mr Chen's unprecedented move was discussed at last night's CEC meeting, Mr Low said council deliberations were confidential and should not be divulged.

Mr Low held on to his position, winning 61 votes to Mr Chen's 45 at the election.

Mr Chen, 54, retained his post as party treasurer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'Core of next WP leaders in place, says Low'. Print Edition | Subscribe