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4 new faces voted into Singapore People’s Party CEC as veteran Chiam steps down

SINGAPORE — Facing a pressing need for leadership renewal, the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) has elected a new 12-member central executive committee (CEC) with a third comprising new faces. Figurehead Chiam See Tong is also stepping down as widely reported, but his wife Lina Chiam is staying on.

Mrs Lina Chiam speaking to reporters after the Singapore People's Party conference on Oct 16.

Mrs Lina Chiam speaking to reporters after the Singapore People's Party conference on Oct 16.

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SINGAPORE — Facing a pressing need for leadership renewal, the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) has elected a new 12-member central executive committee (CEC) with a third comprising new faces. Figurehead Chiam See Tong is also stepping down as widely reported, but his wife Lina Chiam is staying on.

Mr Jose Raymond, the former Singapore Environment Council’s executive director who was said to be a potential new party chief along with ex-National Solidarity Party leader Steve Chia, got the least number of votes among those elected to the CEC.

Mr Raymond was tied with former Workers’ Party member Mohamed Fazli Talip for the 12th spot but got through after a second round of votes.

The election was held during the SPP’s Ordinary Party Conference at The Agora on Sin Ming Lane on Wednesday (Oct 16), with 84-year-old opposition veteran Mr Chiam conspicuously absent.

Mrs Chiam told reporters that her husband, who is in poor health after suffering two strokes and a hip injury, “is resting at home”.

She had signalled at a meeting early last month that the time is “ripe to set the stage for leadership renewal”.

The 70-year-old was elected into the party’s CEC, but declined to comment if she will stay on as the party chairman.

The big question of who will fill Mr Chiam’s shoes as the next chief of SPP will be answered only in the next three weeks, she said.

“Mr Chiam has given (himself) to politics for 40 years already, and I think it is time for him to take a rest. And I think he has given what he can for Singaporeans,” said Mrs Chiam.

Mr Jose Raymond speaking to reporters after the conference. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

FRESH BLOOD IN THE CEC

The party conference that lasted close to three hours on Wednesday night saw four new faces elected into the party’s new 12-member decision-making body.

They are:

  • Mr Raymond, 47, chief strategy officer of communications firm Spin Worldwide. He once served as Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s press secretary

  • Mr Ariffin Sha, 22, a law student who is studying overseas at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington and actively contributes to socio-political website The Online Citizen

  • Mr Eman Lim, 39, director of corporate development at By Definition Pte Ltd, a social enterprise

  • Mr Jalil Wari, a longtime supporter of Mr Chiam

Besides Mrs Chiam, the other members who had been re-elected into the party’s decision-making body are:

  • Organising secretary Steve Chia, 48, who once served as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament from 2001 to 2006

  • CEC member Williiamson Lee, 39, a sales executive and longtime SPP member

  • Treasurer Ng Theng Lim, who is a businessman

  • Assistant treasurer Shahir Shahfie, who works in the oil and gas industry 

  • Assistant organising secretary Mario Ong, 39, an administrative officer at the Singapore General Hospital

  • Assistant organising secretary Kathleen Cheong, who is in the creative media industry

  • CEC member Yong Seng Fatt

During the election, some 20 members voted on 15 names.

Mr Fazli, 38, an SMRT employee who is part of the outgoing CEC, was not among the 12 picked.

TODAY understands that there was a tie between him and Mr Raymond in the vote, and a second round of voting was required to determine who should be elected in‍ as the member with the 12th most votes.

In the vote-off between Mr Raymond and Mr Fazli, the result was 12-4 with five abstaining. 

Other than Mr Chiam and Mr Fazli, another outgoing member is Mr Yen Kim Khooi, 63, who stood as an independent candidate in the 1991 General Election. The party’s vice-chairman Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss had stepped down on Sept 2. On Friday — a day after the CEC elections — Mr Fazli tendered his resignation from the party. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

The members of the new CEC will next decide who the office bearers will be during the first CEC meeting.

Frontrunners tipped to take the top post are Mr Chia, who has been active in the opposition circles since 1995, and Mr Raymond, a former People’s Action Party (PAP) member who joined the SPP in October 2017 and has been doing walkabouts with the party in Potong Pasir.

Potong Pasir was Mr Chiam’s stronghold for 27 years before it fell to the PAP in the 2011 General Election when he moved out to stand as part of a five-member team at Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency.

Mr Chiam’s team lost to the PAP that year, securing 43 per cent of the vote, while his wife — who stood at Potong Pasir in his place — narrowly lost the seat to the incumbent as well, with 49.6 per cent of the vote.

Asked if he harbours aspirations to be SPP’s secretary-general, Mr Raymond said: “I don’t think I am at liberty to speak right now because the meeting just ended, and I guess we will only make the decision on who leads the CEC in three weeks’ time.”

TODAY could not reach Mr Chia for comment.

CLARIFICATION: In an earlier version of the article, it was stated that Mr Mario Ong was not re-elected into the CEC. SPP has clarified that he was. Instead, Mr Yen Kim Khooi was not re-elected. 

Related topics

Singapore People's Party Chiam See Tong Politics General Election Lina Chiam

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