Mr Ng Teck Siong, former Chairman of the Reform Party, intends to provide a formal response concerning remarks recently made by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam that implied the Reform Party was an empty vessel devoid of leadership when Mr Jeyaretnam took over as Secretary-General last year.
In an exclusive interview with TODAY freelance reporter Loh Chee Kong published on 08 Apr (see here), Mr Jeyaretnam said that when he was elected party chief, the party “was in quite a bad state”, that it was a “drifting, rudderless empty vessel” in which “morale had dwindled, the number of members had decreased and there hadn’t been central executive committee meetings for about four or five months.”
Speaking to TOC’s Political Desk on the same day the TODAY article was published, Mr Ng Teck Siong refuted these assertions, claiming that the party had been healthy and progressing up to the time he resigned as party Chairman.
Mr Ng said that after JBJ passed away, the Reform Party had conducted at least two CEC meetings between October 2008 and April 2009. He had chaired each of the meetings and maintained proper attendance records.
The Reform Party had attracted over 20 members from all walks of life, as of Mr Ng’s departure. During his tenure with the party, Mr Ng had organized several walkabouts at Jurong West and had conducted sales of JBJ’s books at Raffles City Shopping Centre, Speaker’s Corner, Harbour Front, as well as in the HDB heartlands.
The party had also successfully organized a forum in February 2009 analysing the government’s Budget statement. It was attended by about 70 people, including members of the opposition parties such as Mr Steve Chia from the National Solidarity Party (NSP), Mr Sin Kek Tong from Singapore People’s Party (SPP), Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin and Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), as well as prominent public figures like Mr Tan Kin Lian.
Mr Ng however admitted that he had not been successful in attracting enough capable leaders and members into the party as he would have liked.
The TODAY article quoted Kenneth Jeyaretnam as saying that for the first time, Singapore has an opposition party that “is perceived as economically competent, credible, and proposing alternative policies that could really make a difference or change Singapore”.
But Mr Ng criticised Mr Jeyaretnam for failing to address Singapore’s flawed political system, which if not rectified, would hold back Singapore’s progress in other areas.
Mr Ng also disapproved of Mr Jeyaretnam’s remarks concerning veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong. Mr Jeyaretnam had said: “In a democratic country, if a party has failed for 25 years to expand its base beyond one seat in Parliament then I think the leaders would have been voted out.”
Mr Ng said that this remark was uncalled for. In the 1991 general elections, the SDP under Mr Chiam See Tong’s leadership had captured 3 parliamentary seats, demonstrating that Mr Chiam had the capability to expand the party’s base.
During his interview with TOC’s Political Desk, Mr Ng also recounted the events leading up to his resignation from the Reform Party. He said that in early 2009, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam had approached him and asked to be appointed the Secretary-General. Mr Ng had refused, citing Jeyaretnam’s lack of political experience. However, the party agreed to accept Jeyaretnam as an ordinary CEC member. Shortly thereafter, Mr Jeyaretnam again asked for the post of Secretary-General, and when repeatedly refused by Mr Ng, rallied other CEC members to pass a motion of no-confidence against Mr Ng. Thereafter, Mr Ng resigned from the party, citing that he had lost the confidence of his colleagues.
Mr Ng Teck Siong intends to hold a press conference at Speaker’s Corner on Saturday evening (10 Apr) to make a public statement regarding Mr Jeyaretnam’s remarks about the Reform Party and Mr Ng’s leadership. Details will be announced as soon as they are available.
Ng E Jay