This morning, the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) announced that it would be holding its next Ordinary Party Conference on 16 October 2019 where it would be electing a new Central Executive Committee (CEC).
In the statement, the Party’s Chairwoman, Mrs Lina Chiam, hinted at leadership renewal by stating that “SPP will be 25-years old in November. As we reach this important landmark, it heartens us to see so many compassionate, competent and caring young leaders who are coming forward to serve the country.” This announcement is much welcomed news for the party, which has been subject to criticism of stagnant leadership from certain quarters in recent years.
The Legacy of the Chiams
The party, which has been led by Mr Chiam See Tong for almost a quarter of a century, seems poised for leadership renewal and the introduction of potential new faces into the CEC. Mr Chiam See Tong served as the Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir for 27 years from his election in 1984. Mr Chiam See Tong’s last public appearance was at the Chiam See Tong’s Sports Foundation Dinner held on 22 August 2019.
At the dinner, Mr Chiam received glowing tribute from the former Prime Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong. Mr Goh and Mr Chiam were often engaged in many fiery debates in Parliament in the 80s and the 90s. Mr Chiam and Goh also participated in the first ever televised political debate in Singapore. Mr Goh, who was the guest of honour for the dinner, described Mr Chiam as a “well-meaning, decent and honest politician and Member of Parliament“.
“I support the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund partially because I respect Chiam as a well-meaning, decent and honest politician and Member of Parliament. I say this sincerely, not just because of tonight. I think Lina (Chiam’s wife) would know, whenever I saw Chiam, we were able to talk with decorum very well.
Chiam entered politics not for selfish reasons, or because he thought the PAP was not doing a good job. He believed that Singapore should have a two-party system like other liberal democracies, with each taking turns to run a country. On the other hand, I believe that a small vulnerable country like Singapore needs a strong, durable government to protect and advance the people’s interest. Because I think a revolving door kind of government would do us no good.
So despite our differences in views on the system for Singapore, one dominant party or two parties with revolving doors, each taking turns to govern Singapore, we got on well. Chiam practiced constructive politics. And he helped set the tone for civil, Parliamentary debate in Singapore. That’s very important, constructive, civil debate in Parliament.”
– Mr Goh Chok Tong on Mr Chiam See Tong
Mrs Lina Chiam, who served as an NCMP from 2011 to 2015 and contested in two general elections in Potong Pasir SMC has also served as the Chairwoman of the SPP for at least four terms now. In 2011, Mrs Chiam became a NCMP after losing to Sitoh Yi Pin by a razor-thin margin of 114 votes.
During her time as NCMP, she was known to be one of the most hardworking MPs as she consistently spoke up on a plethora of issues in Parliament. Some of her more notable speeches include the one she made during the passing of the liquor related laws following the riots in Little India and on MDA Regulations.
An injection of fresh blood into the SPP
In the statement, the Party stated that the upcoming OPC provided the “opportunity to rejuvenate and elect its new leadership team and inject a set of passionate leaders who will help us take the party forward.” The party, which has two former NCMPs and a former MP (Mr Steve Chia, Mrs Lina Chiam and Mr Chiam See Tong respectively) in its ranks, has number of potential candidates that could form part of the “new leadership“, including members Mr Jose Raymond and former NCMP Mr Steve Chia.
Mr Jose Raymond has been doing groundwork at Potong Pasir SMC for about two years now. He is expected to be fielded by SPP as their candidate for Potong Pasir. Mr Raymond was an award-winning journalist whose previous accolades include being Senior Director of Communications and Stakeholder Management at the Singapore Sports Hub and helming the Singapore Environment Council as its Chief Executive Officer from September 2011 to December 2014.
Apart from his groundwork, the story of how Mr. Chiam had helped Jose’s family when they were down and out in 1990 and how Jose then went on to spearhead the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund in 2017 along with national swimmer Ang Peng Siong, must surely make the impending battle for Potong Pasir one of the most intriguing to come in the upcoming General Elections.
Steve Chia, who served as an NCMP in 2001, is an opposition veteran who joined the SPP in 2017. He has contested in four elections since 1997. He has been seen walking the ground in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, which SPP contested in the 2011 and the 2015 General Elections.
In addition to the possibility of new faces at the helm of the party, the statement also makes mention of a group of “compassionate, competent and caring young leaders” who have gotten involved with the party in recent times. One such person is Mr Kavick, a party member who has been seen walking the ground in Bishan and Toa Payoh in recent years.
Mr Kavic was a nominee for the inaugural Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award and made the GreenBiz and World Business Council for Sustainable Development “30 Under 30″ list of emerging global leaders who are shaping the next generation of sustainable business. He has provided frequent commentaries on leading media platforms. He tutors on environmental economics & public policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and sits on the National Mirror Committee on Circular Economy.
Jeannette’s Departure from the SPP
The SPP also mentioned Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss’ departure from the party in the statement. Mrs Chong’s statement on her resignation, which was posted on her page, suggested that she parted ways with the party on good terms.
We will continue to provide you with updates in the lead up to what could shape up to be the end of an important era in opposition politics as soon as we receive more information.