(L) – NTUC’s Ng Chee Meng, (R) – Victor Lye

The People’s Action Party (PAP) announced in a press statement on Thursday (19 November) that it has selected two non-Members of Parliament (MP) to include in its central executive committee (CEC).

In this rather surprising move, PAP said that former MP and secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Ng Chee Meng and the party’s candidate for Aljunied GRC in GE2015 and GE2020 Victor Lye have been co-opted as members after the CEC met.

Other two new faces that have been appointed in the party’s highest decision-making body are Cabinet Minister Edwin Tong and MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Alex Yam.

Mr Lye is a businessman and PAP grassroots leaders who had contested in the last two general elections, but lost both times to WP.

Commenting on the appointment, Mr Lye said to TODAY that he was humbled by the decision.

“What the appointment means to me is the recognition of our PAP activists who work so hard, ground-up, in opposition wards. We need to continue our political effort despite the odds,” he noted.

On the other hand, Mr Ng has been voted into the CEC by PAP members two years ago, however in the recent GE, the NTUC secretary-general was part of the PAP team for Sengkang GRC but lost to the Workers’ Party (WP).

He was not elected when PAP members met earlier this month to vote for its 36th CEC.

Some of the prominent fourth-generation leaders who are part of PAP’s CEC this time around are Education Minister Lawrence Wong, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and National Development Minister Desmond Lee.

Both Mr Wong and Mr Lee were elected by party cadres for the first time into the CEC at the PAP’s biennial party conference earlier this month.

Two other MPs who were co-opted into the CEC for gaining the next-highest number of votes after the top 12 were elected are Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah as well as Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Political experts surprised by the decision

In a report by TODAY, political pundits and party members pointed out that they were surprised by this unconventional decision. There have not been any non-MP CEC members for nearly twenty years.

Policy researcher Woo Jun Jie said that appointing backbenchers and candidates who lost in the last GE would give the CEC more ground-level voices. This in fact aligns with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech last week where he called for more ground engagement and stronger symbiotic ties with NTUC.

On the other hand, Associate Professor Eugene Tan, a political commentator from Singapore Management University’s law school opined that, “The co-optations of Victor Lye and Alex Yam seek to make the CEC more inclusive. It better recognises the role and value of the party’s diverse rank and file. It also aims to harness this grassroots energy as the party adjusts to the evolving political landscape.”

He also stated that the choices go hand in hand with the ground realities today – that being on the PAP ticket during the election does not guarantee success.

But, Assoc Prof Tan added that there is also a role to be played by unsuccessful candidates in the party.

“When it comes to trying to win back these seats, these unsuccessful candidates would have walked the ground and would have a better sense of wrestling constituencies back.”

Speaking about Mr Lye, political analyst Felix Tan from SIM Global Education said: “There are indeed other MPs who could have taken the spot, but perhaps they picked Victor Lye for his party contributions and involvement so far, and that they want to put him in elections in future.”

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