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Kenneth Jeyaretnam assumes role which his father previously held. Andrew Loh.

The rising son

Andrew Loh

The longest period that any political party in Singapore had gone without a secretary general was from 1963, when The Barisan Socialis' secretary general, Lim Chin Siong, was incarcerated for “subversive” activities and eventually left politics altogether, and 1988, when the Barisan Socialis’ members joined the Workers’ Party. (Source)

25 years.

While nowhere near that length of time, the relatively new Reform Party (RP), founded by the late opposition veteran JB Jeyaretnam (JBJ), had also been without a secretary general – for the last seven months. JBJ passed away in September 2008 and the position had been vacant.

On 26 April 2009, however, after a vote of no-confidence in its chairman was successfully carried by a majority of the CEC, the Reform Party appointed JBJ’s son, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, as its new secretary general. James Teo, a long- time supporter and friend of the late JBJ and who was responsible for persuading Kenneth to join the RP, was appointed treasurer and Edmund Ng is the new party chairman.

Mr Ng Teck Siong told TOC he had also tendered his resignation from the party “completely”.

Before the vote of no confidence on 26 April, questions were already being asked about why no one was appointed secretary general since September of last year.

When Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, 50, joined the RP in March of this year, it was expected that he would assume the position. But things have not worked out that way, and this latest resignation of its chairman is fueling speculation that more is happening in the Reform Party than meets the eye.

The Online Citizen asked the RP’s chairman, Ng Teck Siong, for a comment but he told TOC he would rather not speak on it for the moment and that he would be holding a press conference later. Kenneth Jeyaretnam too referred us to the press statement released by his party.

A check with the party’s website shows no listing of the Central Executive Committee.

So what is the road ahead for the party?

For a start, the party now has a secretary general and a chairman who will need to set the direction for the party. It is also believed that this will be a period of “house-cleaning” and healing of any rifts within the party. It is unclear who else might resign along with the chairman.

With Kenneth Jeyaretnam at the helm, the party looks set to chart a course leading to the next general elections. The party is expected to focus on bread and butter issues and the economy, as Jeyaretnam told the Associated Press  on 10 April: “I want to create an image of economic competency of the opposition, meaning that I can advocate policies for economic prosperity and I can advocate better economic policies than the present government,” he said.

When he joined the RP, Jeyaretnam said he wanted  to honour what his father stood for but that he will be his own man.

Now that he has assumed the role which his father previously held, Jeyaretnam has the opportunity to shape the party according to his beliefs in a way which will indeed honour his father. 

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Read also: Breaking News: Breaking News: Chairman of Reform Party resigns, Kenneth Jeyaretnam is new Sec Gen.

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