The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock on Saturday (3 Apr) clarified that the recent leadership renewal is a conscious attempt to let Singaporeans know that the party is not his alone, but “belongs to Singaporeans who care for Singapore”.
The party announced on Thursday (1 Apr) that it appointed former Republic of Singapore Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Francis Yuen, 71-year-old, as its new secretary-general, while Dr Tan has been repositioned as chairman in PSP’s new Central Executive Committee (CEC).
Six new CEC members were elected along with two new members being co-opted into the CEC.
RedWire Times, an online news site, reported on 25 March that some party cadres had demanded that Dr Tan – who founded PSP in 2019 – step down as secretary-general and hand over the leadership to “more talented rising stars”.
In a press conference at the party’s headquarters on Saturday, Dr Tan said the leadership change was unrelated to the reports, and that he had been thinking to reposition.
“This move will be better for Singaporeans, because they will realise that we are actually consciously making an attempt to let Singaporeans know that the party PSP is not Tan Cheng Bock’s party. PSP belongs to Singaporeans who care for Singapore.”
“This is a very conscious move not only on my part but on the advice of all my party leaders here,” he added.
With his new position as chairman of PSP, Dr Tan will now focus on reaching out to Singaporeans and walking the ground.
“I want to concentrate on reaching Singaporeans we didn’t reach before, that is very important. I want them to know what PSP stands for, and that we are a party that they must consider in the future.
“Secondly, I want to help to mobilise and strengthen our grassroots. I’ve always walked the ground and it’s something I enjoy doing … It’s part of me, it’s part of my political DNA,” he noted.
Dr Tan also backed Mr Yuen for PSP’s new secretary-general, saying that older people with experience should not be pushed aside.
“Of course, if they are young, it is a bit better. But look at our society, it is also ageing,” he said.
Dr Tan continued: “It is a pity if we don’t use our retirees with so much experience and just push them aside to say that the young people must come out… We’re not looking for young people just to make everybody happy.”
When asked about whether Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) Hazel Poa and Leong Mun Wai would be considered for the position of secretary-general, he replied: “I’m not going to follow what the normal political structure is like, because we are a progressive political party.”
Responding to rumours of conflict within the party, Dr Tan acknowledged that some party members had their own personal agendas, adding that “If you’re not a team player, I don’t take you.”
Mr Yuen, who contested in Chua Chu Kang GRC during the GE last year, claimed that Dr Tan was not coerced into stepping down as secretary-general.
“It’s been a great honour to take on this position, and I can add on to say that nothing is further from the truth that (Dr Tan) is coerced into making this decision.
“It is his plan all the while, he has closely consulted myself, Mun Wai, Hazel and a few other of the senior people … It’s very natural, the transition,” he noted.
Mr Yuen also hinted that he aims to lead the party at least up until the next GE, and that he aims to make PSP a “party of choice” for Singaporeans.
“We want to build a party of choice that people can relate to. We champion their interests and we champion the interests of Singapore. More than that, we have the ability, the people, the leadership to be able to carry on for a long time to come,” he added.