WP changes party Constitution, in first major review in six decades

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim speaks to reporters after the party's biennial conference on April 8, 2018. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party (WP) has amended its party Constitution in its first major update in six decades.

"The changes have been approved," said chairman Sylvia Lim on Sunday.

On Sunday, cadres voted for changes that include inserting a call for "diverse representation" within the party's central executive committee (CEC). This replaces an existing clause stating that cadres must "keep in mind the need for genuine interracial cooperation and the representation of the workers" when electing its party leaders.

Ms Lim had previously told the Straits Times that the party has been "reasonably successful" in electing a multi-ethnic group of leaders, but party politics has traditionally been male-dominated, especially in the leadership.

She said: "This will continue to be a challenge but we need to encourage and groom more women leaders. Gender diversity is one way to reduce groupthink."

Citing how data shows gender diversity on corporate boards improves company performance, Ms Lim added that "there is no reason why this is not applicable in political organisations".

Another change is to delete references to the party's objectives on eliminating "colonial exploitation" and "seeking unity of workers of Singapore" - a reference to WP's founding belief of a party exclusively for trade unionists.

Said Ms Lim: "One of the main reasons Mr (David) Marshall set up the party was to work with the trade unions. Over time, this became impractical as the largest union, the National Trades Union Congress, grew and cemented its 'symbiotic relationship' with the ruling party."

Other changes were mostly administrative.

These include:

- WP's new objectives are: to prevent exploitation of Singapore and its people, to protect Singapore's sovereignty and independence, and to protect workers and improve the quality of life of Singaporeans.

- Clarify that new cadres must be deemed "fit and proper persons" in the CEC's opinion to be appointed.

- Raising the annual member subscription rates from $3 to $10.

- Members do not have to be attached to the party's branch where they live.

- Delete references to "the Party Conference", which has become defunct.

- Cadre members' conferences will be held at least once in two years.

Ms Lim said the Constitution has not undergone a major change since it was drafted in the 1950s, involving only "piecemeal amendments" since, such as a new clause in 2016 that enabled the party to buy and hold property.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.