There is no internal rift or implosion within the Reform Party, says party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam in a blog post on his website early on Tuesday morning (5 January).
Referring to an article by The Straits Times titled “Former Reform Party chairman Andy Zhu and others form new political party, Singapore United Party”, in which they reported that they had reached out to Mr Jeyaretnam for comment but have not heard from him, the politician said: “This is yet another example of the tricks perpetrated by the state media in their silly attempts to damage the Reform Party. “
Noting that the article was published on 3 January at 8.30 pm while the journalist only reached out to him for comment via email seven hours later at 12.55 am the next day, Mr Jeyaretnam clarified that he had, in fact, responded to the query around 2.10 am on behalf of the RP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC).
However, ST “failed to update the article” with the response.
“This is a minor story as it happens but by leaving the statement that I had been contacted but had not responded the ST is deliberately suggesting that I do not have a response and therefore by association that there is some kind of internal rift or implosion within RP,” said Mr Jeyaretnam.
The reality is “[f]ar from it”, he stressed. “We have a fantastic CEC and renewed enthusiasm since GE2020, a new women’s wing and a green manifesto,” he added.
In the post, Mr Jeyaretnam reproduced the email he received from the journalist as well as his own reply.
He noted: “You will see that at the time she wrote this email to me the ST article had already been published. Very poor journalistic ethics to claim she was working on an article.”
The ST reporter, Yuen Sin, in her email to Mr Jeyaretnam, asked him:
“You may be aware that several Reform Party members have left to join a new party, Singapore United Party, led by former RP chairman Andy Zhu. We are working on an article about this and I was wondering if we can get your comments on their departure and the new party – particularly on the perception that SUP is a breakaway faction from the RP?”
Mr Jeyaretnam’s reply — which he reproduced in the post — notes that Mr Zhu was actually expelled from the RP, adding that it is “inaccurate” to say that he left.
“He did not take up his right of appeal. After sanctions were taken against him following an internal Party disciplinary process, he hijacked the party’s social media pages to put out his own misleading statements. Luckily, Facebook were very helpful in having him removed but it left us with no choice but to expel him,” he wrote in the email response.
He added, “I will note that previously your publication made factual errors and claims probably based on Zhu’s misleading statements from that time.”
In the perception that SUP is a breakaway faction from the RP, Mr Jeyaretnam conceded that there does appear to be some former RP members in the new party and that he believes “it is accurate to say there was a faction led by Andy Zhu”.
Criticising the new faction, Mr Jeyaretnam said: “This faction was determined to take Reform Party into a 3-cornered fight in West Coast GRC, against Dr Tan Cheng Bock, in the face of all the evidence that this would be bad for the Reform Party, bad for the Opposition, and bad for the development of democracy in Singapore.”
“In other words bad for our country,” he warned.
Mr Jeyaretnam explained further, “This faction can also be characterised as misjudging the importance of digital campaigning and failing to transition. In particular, Andy Zhu misjudged the importance of national airtime, stubbornly refusing to join the Constituency Broadcast and effectively sabotaging it. We know how that ended.”
Concluding his email, Mr Jeyaretnam said that it is not a “loss to us nor any gain to the opposition ranks that these disgruntled former members are unable to put their egos aside and move on”.
“We have a marvellous team in our new CEC, ably chaired by Charles Yeo, and we are looking forward to contesting in Ang Mo Kio, Radin Mas and elsewhere at the next election,” said Mr Jeyaretnam.
A check on the ST article reveals that it has been updated at around 10 am today and now includes Mr Jeyaretnam’s response, about eight hours after his blog post was published.