The People's Action Party (PAP) appointed a new Party Whip yesterday, in a move which observers say consolidates its fourth-generation leadership and prepares the party for the next General Election.
Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Transport as well as Communications and Information, takes over the role from Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who has been Party Whip since September 2015.
Dr Janil, an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, will be assisted by two deputies: Ms Sim Ann and Mr Zaqy Mohamad.
Mr Zaqy, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower and an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, takes over from Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs as well as Social and Family Development.
Mr Tan, the MP for Radin Mas, has been a Deputy Party Whip since September 2015.
Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information as well as Culture, Community and Youth, and an MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, is the incumbent Deputy Party Whip.
Asked about his appointment, Dr Janil said: "(I'm) honoured to take on this role, I'll do my best to fulfil my duties. Am grateful for the support from Sim Ann and Zaqy Mohamad."
The role of a Party Whip is to ensure good communication in the party ranks, contribute to the smooth running of its parliamentary machinery and serve as disciplinarian.
The Whip also ensures the party's MPs vote according to the party's position. But at times, the Whip can "lift the Whip", allowing party members to vote according to their conscience.
Political observer and former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin said the Whip is an important role as the person must be able to project the party's ideologies and philosophies to his fellow members and the public, ensuring there is strong support.
"At the end of the day, it's not just about enforcing the Whip or not. The party position has to be cohesive and members have to be persuaded of the party's ideologies," Mr Zulkifli said.
Dr Janil is well-suited for the role, as he is articulate and conveys the PAP's ideology without "hard sell", he added.
This is evident in the dialogues and engagement he has had with the public on the topic of race relations in 2017 and last year, Mr Zulkifli added.
National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh said the new appointments are about the PAP consolidating its 4G leadership. "Beyond the function, the more important thing is the symbolism of who is put where and why. It's about positioning them in the public eye and giving them the respect in the party - in preparation for the coming election," he said.
Prof Singh noted Mr Zaqy being moved from the backbench to a Minister of State position last year, and said he could possibly be a future Senior Minister of State.
After Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, Mr Zaqy is a key player in PAP's emplacement of Malay political power, said Prof Singh.