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Singapore People’s Party aims high

Benjamin Cheah/

Mr Benjamin Pwee/ credit: Terry Xu

The Singapore People’s Party (SPP) is seeking to win the hearts and minds of the people. Unveiling the SPP’s five-year “comeback plan”, Mr Benjamin Pwee outlined the SPP’s vision of collaborating with ordinary Singaporeans for a better future.

Despite its defeat in the recent General Election, the party aims to assert itself in Parliament. Mrs Lina Chiam, the best-losing opposition candidate, will accept the Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat, the party says. The SPP’s Policy Working Group, which studies policies and coordinates data from party activities, will aid her. In response to a question whether Mr Pwee, who is the Head of the Policy Working Group, will be the brains behind Mrs Chiam in Parliament, he clarified that he will facilitate and coordinate the flow of information within the party’s functional groups, while she will represent the party in Parliament.

Mr Pwee added that the party has identified up to four potential candidates for the next General Election. He did not disclose their names, instead saying that they will soon be seen in walkabouts and other party activities. This may be a signal that the SPP seeks to venture even further beyond its traditional stronghold of Potong Pasir and the electoral battleground of Bishan-Toa Payoh, but Mr Pwee said the party will decide only when the electoral boundaries are redrawn for the next elections.

The SPP is looking to expand its ground presence. The party is seeking venues in Potong Pasir, Bishan and Toa Payoh to hold regular face-to-face Meet-the-People Sessions (MPS). The party will ask the new Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir, Mr Sitoh Yihpin, if the SPP can continue to use Mr Chiam See Tong’s old cubicle for its MPS.  The SPP will identify key supporters in residential areas, and host neighbourhood gatherings to meet the SPP leaders. Party volunteers are currently sourcing for locations to open a party headquarters in Potong Pasir, and branch offices in Bishan and Toa Payoh.

The party will also leverage on media platforms in its outreach program. It will set up a media team, of which Mr Pwee is an integral part, to ‘ensure ongoing sustained visibility’ in the mainstream media and on online platforms. The media team will identify and select high-visibility public events to ride on to remain at the top of the public’s mind. The party is also currently exploring options to create a ‘virtual Meet-the-People Session’ (MPS), in which people from all over Singapore can raise issues to the party over the Internet. The SPP will distribute a new newsletter targeted at different segments of society. The party will also release a book every three to six months over the next five years, with possible subjects ranging from photo essays to monographs to coffee table books.

In the pipeline is the Singapore People’s Community Foundation. The Foundation, separate from the party, will ‘help the needy and left-behind’ of Singapore. Funding for the Foundation will be raised independently of the SPP, with Mr Pwee saying that the party has already found some donors.

New members have been co-opted into the Central Executive Council (CEC). Mr Pwee has been appointed the Head of the Policy Working Group and holds three additional positions: 2nd assistant Secretary-General, Party Spokesman and Media Manager. Mr Jimmy Lee is the Head of the Youth Wing, and Mr David Tan is the Head of the SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) Businessmen Affairs Bureau. These changes are seen as part of the party’s leadership succession plan; Mr Pwee, in particular, is tipped for more prominent roles in the party.

The SPP has also revised the roles of two existing members in the CEC. Mr Hohamad Hamim bin Aliyas is now the Head of the Malay/Muslim Affairs Bureau. Mrs Juliana Juwahir is now the Head of the Women’s Wing, replacing Ms Liu Wei Ni. Ms Liu did not ‘manage to secure approval from her employer’ to take up the post, prompting the change.

Other changes in the CEC would be minimal. Mr Pwee said that Mr Chiam See Tong will remain Secretary-General, and will continue to play a key role in party affairs. The composition and roles of the CEC are expected to remain stable, at least until the Party Congress, scheduled for next year.

With these announcements, the SPP is signalling that it is ready for the big league. Historically, the SPP has held on to its bastion at Potong Pasir. In the 2011 General Election, it moved out into Hong Kah North and Bishan-Toa Payoh. While the party lost every contested seat, it is preparing to move on and write the next chapter in Singapore’s political history.