The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of Progress Singapore Party (PSP) had informed Kala Manickam of her termination of membership in December last year, prior to her public spat with party member Brad Bowyer over a Facebook post.
This was relayed to TOC by the party’s leadership on Wednesday (13 January).
“Memberships don’t lapse. You either resign to leave or have your membership terminated,” said Francis Yuen, PSP’s assistant secretary-general in response to queries over Ms Kala’s departure from the party.
Ms Kala was one of PSP’s Nee Soon GRC candidates in last year’s general election.
Responding to the party’s claim, Ms Kala told TOC that she did not receive “any official replies” from PSP leaders despite writing emails and meeting them several times “to highlight what I perceived as shortcomings, both in processes and members of the party”.
“One CEC member, who is also my friend, spoke to me but it was just casual. In one of my last communications with them, I asked them how I may renew my membership. But I got no reply from them,” she added.
Touching on the allegation that she had terminated her PSP membership, Ms Kala said that she had stated “very clearly” that her membership had lapsed with effect from 31 December last year.
“I am not sure how anyone can terminate a lapsed membership. I did make repeated enquiries as to how I may renew my membership, but there was no response from the Party leadership. Perhaps, I was a thorn in the flesh. Or maybe, I asked too many questions,” she lamented.
When queried by TOC if the party’s leadership had informed her of their decision to terminate her membership, Ms Kala said: “Nothing official. It came from my friend who is also a CEC member. She gave me a few options as to how I can stay on and I agreed to every one of them.”
“If they have terminated me, it must be according to their constitution. I wish they would clarify if they had acted according to their constitution if they had indeed terminated me. But also that is not what Francis is saying. He said I terminated myself. How can I terminate myself?” She stressed.
Ms Kala had earlier said in a Facebook post on Tuesday (12 January) that her party membership “lapsed with effect” from 31 December last year.
She said that she had “noticed several glaring lapses and shortcomings” in the party since the 2020 election.
“I duly and dutifully highlighted these to the management only to see my feedback being ignored time-and-time again.
“The final straw was when I highlighted the misinformation a prominent fellow party member made on Covid-19. Once again, my feedback was ignored,” Ms Kala alleged.
She added that she is “not aware of any action taken against the Party member”.
Ms Kala also criticised PSP for its purported failure “to publicly clarify its position on Covid-19 relating to matter like vaccinations, masking-up, safe-distancing, opening-up the economy, etc”.
Mr Yuen had earlier told Channel 8 that the party “will not further comment on why she terminated her membership”.
He clarified that Ms Kala’s departure from PSP is unrelated to party member Brad Bowyer’s remarks on 19 December, in which Mr Bowyer questioned the need to wear masks and for social distancing measures to continue, which resulted in Ms Kala rebuking him for his “irresponsible” comments.
Mr Bowyer, who was one of Ms Kala’s running mates in the general election last year, also voiced his distrust in the COVID-19 vaccines.
Mr Yuen noted to TOC that Ms Kala had been earlier notified at the end of last year that the party leadership has decided that her membership would be terminated, after much deliberation over issues raised about her membership.
This information had been relayed to her prior to the public spat that she had with Mr Bowyer — her fellow running mate in Nee Soon GRC in GE2020 — in which she criticised him for making such remarks on COVID-19.
Mr Yuen also noted that Ms Kala had been given some time to resign on her own accord so as to part on amicable terms, and eventually an official termination notice was sent to her by party Secretary-General Dr Tan Cheng Bock as there had been no response from her.
He also pointed out that even if the decision to terminate Ms Kala’s membership has been made, disciplinary action would have been taken in light of her actions regarding the public incident.
Ms Kala did not deny or confirm whether Dr Tan had written to her about her membership.
Background of the incident between Kala Manickam and Brad Bowyer
The public tiff revolved around Ms Kala’s criticism of Mr Bowyer’s remarks on COVID-19 precautionary measures and the efficacy of vaccines, with her saying: “Being a COVID-19 survivor, I am extremely disturbed by the misinformation and fear you are spreading.”
Ms Kala told The Straits Times that she was tested positive for the coronavirus on 27 August last year, just a day after her mother was also tested positive for COVID-19.
Ms Kala was the approved caregiver for her mother during her 14-day quarantine after she returned to Singapore from India on 14 August.
She said that Government measures such as making wearing masks mandatory, putting in place social distancing regulations and rolling out a calibrated reopening of the economy are moves that are crucial in protecting the community.
“In the midst of a public health pandemic, we should not spread conspiracy theories on vaccines, like what you are doing here,” she chided Mr Bowyer.
“We have to follow the lead of the Government and health professionals to keep our people safe. Surely the economy cannot be more important than human beings,” she added.
Mr Bowyer questioned why Singapore is not able to enter Phase Three of its reopening earlier than 28 December, seeing how there have been “virtually no new cases in the community for months”.
He went on to question the Government for “pushing experimental vaccines with known side effects”, pointing out that the threat for the coronavirus is “virtually zero” and the disease does not require “serious treatment”.
Mr Bowyer said that the Government should instead promote “healthy lifestyle, exercising in the sun, nutrition and other natural immune-system-boosting activities” to safeguard people from COVID-19 and other future viruses.
Ms Kala responded: “I am alarmed at your recent posts on the topic because I stood with you as a candidate in Nee Soon GRC… I believe the Party has to distance itself from your dangerous opinions.”
Post taken out of context, questions were fair to ask: Brad Bowyer
Mr Bowyer later said that the questions he raised in his earlier post were “fair” and it had been “grossly mischaracterized and taken out of the context”.
“Secondly I feel the questions I had posed were fair and were asking for hard evidence and justifications for the current and continued policy landscape,” he added.
Mr Bowyer went on to clarify that the views he makes online are his own and that he is “extremely glad” to be part of PSP as it allows its members to have their own voice on social media.
He believes that it is “important to have a proper discourse about such issues in the public domain even if they are sometimes difficult conversations to have”.
The PSP member also apologised to Ms Kala for feeling the way she did and wished her well, given that she was tested positive for COVID-19 a few months ago.
“I will continue to post on topics I feel we need to discuss and as I always do will do so within the guidelines set by the party and adjust if necessary or asked to from time to time as I am still learning all the subtle nuances of being a political figure in Singapore,” he concluded.
PSP’s stance on masks and social distancing measures has always been clear
In response to the post made by Mr Bowyer, Mr Yuen pointed out that PSP has always been clear on its stance on the wearing of masks and practicing of social distancing.
Way before the Singapore government said that it will no longer discourage wearing of masks, making it mandatory eventually and introduction of social distancing measures, Dr Tan has already suggested in Jan 2020 that surgical masks should be worn and that people to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.