WP gives younger CEC members new roles

No post for Low Thia Khiang; Gerald Giam to be treasurer, Dennis Tan organising secretary

Former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang will not hold any post in the party's top decision-making central executive committee (CEC), which appointed its new office-bearers last evening.

The party gave new roles to the younger members in the CEC, which party insiders say signal that a younger team is taking charge.

Yesterday's meeting was the first one since the CEC was elected on Sunday. It was also the first one under a new party leader in 17 years, after Mr Pritam Singh was elected unopposed as WP secretary-general. Ms Sylvia Lim was re-elected as party chairman.

In a reshuffle of posts, Mr Gerald Giam will take over as treasurer from Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan from May 15.

Mr Tan succeeds Hougang MP Png Eng Huat as organising secretary, with fellow NCMP Daniel Goh assuming the same post. New CEC member Terence Tan was named deputy organising secretary.

Mr Leon Perera replaces Mr Giam as president of WP's Youth Wing, and retains his post as deputy chair of WP's media team. Dr Goh retains his post as chair of the media team, Aljunied GRC MP Faisal Manap is still party vice-chairman, while Ms Lee Li Lian remains deputy treasurer.

Besides Mr Low, there are four other committee members who round up the 14-member CEC - Mr Png Eng Huat, Mr Chen Show Mao, Mr Firuz Khan and Dr John Yam.

This means three of the party's six elected MPs - Mr Low, Mr Png and Mr Chen - are not holding any posts in the CEC.

WP cadre Henry Ho said the changes indicate that newer CEC members like Dr Goh, Mr Giam, Mr Tan and Mr Perera will play a "busier role", while older members take a back seat.

As for Mr Low, former deputy organising secretary Kenneth Foo Seck Guan said the WP veteran can still provide guidance to the rest of the team as "his years of experience are invaluable".

He added: "To me, the CEC has kept two things in mind: party renewal, and giving a chance to members they have identified to be strong in a certain role."

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Singh declined to share what was discussed, or comment on other questions about the party, including his goals and the role Mr Low will play. He was flanked by the new office-bearers, while Mr Low and other committee members were notably absent.

Mr Singh said the next few months will be busy, as he meets WP members to get their views on moving forward.

It will be up to members to raise any issues on their minds, he said, adding: "I don't want to drive the conversation in a particular way."

Mr Singh also deflected a question on a Facebook post by Mr Chen, who hoped for "more forward-looking progressive leadership" that is "more open to new ideas, people and ways of doing things".

He said: "It's not fair for me to put words into (Mr Chen's) mouth, better for you to interview him."

Mr Chen had repeatedly declined to comment on his post.

After his election on Sunday, Mr Singh had said that he wants the party to move forward as a team and that "the process will be quite consultative".

Party cadres welcomed their new chief's consultative approach to leadership. Mr Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, a former CEC member, said: "Mr Low also had an open-door policy, though his years of experience meant it is not as critical for him to hear from the rank-and-file members. But it is a good approach for any new leader in an organisation to take."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline 'WP gives younger CEC members new roles'. Print Edition | Subscribe