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Reform Party names Charles Yeo as acting chairman in leadership reshuffle

SINGAPORE — The Reform Party (RP) on Wednesday (Aug 5) named Charles Yeo its acting party chairman and Mr Mahaboob Batcha acting treasurer, as it embarks on an internal review process to take stock of the recent General Election (GE) and help the party strengthen its online presence.

Reform Party names Charles Yeo as acting chairman in leadership reshuffle

The Reform Party's incumbent chairman Andy Zhu (left) and acting party chairman Charles Yeo (right).

SINGAPORE — The Reform Party (RP) on Wednesday (Aug 5) named Charles Yeo its acting party chairman and Mr Mahaboob Batcha acting treasurer, as it embarks on an internal review process to take stock of the recent General Election (GE) and help the party strengthen its online presence.

But the news triggered some bitterness, especially from incumbent chairman Andy Zhu. Soon after the party released its statement on the new appointments, Mr Zhu took to the party's Facebook page to lambast what he called an “undemocratic” move by party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam.

Mr Jeyaretnam told TODAY that Mr Zhu and Ms Noraini Yunus, the incumbent treasurer, have been stripped from their roles and removed from the party’s top leadership body, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), due to unspecified allegations.

​“All I can say is that (Mr Zhu) was removed by a unanimous vote of the CEC,” he said.

The party said that the newly appointed members will be placed on an initial probation period and that they must stand for election at the party conference, which is due to be called soon.

In Mr Zhu’s Facebook post, which was made under the RP official account, he wrote: “This is an undemocratic stance by the SG (secretary-general) Kenneth Jeyaretnam to make this announcement of new appointments while the matters and allegations against the party chair and treasurer are not finalised.

“To my understanding, the CEC is deliberating over the issues. In the meantime, there should not be any new appointments until a decision has been taken and the party constitution allows 14 days for the rights of appeal.”

The same criticism was posted on his own Facebook page.

Mr Zhu told TODAY that he had already indicated to the party his intention to step down as chairman and was not against Mr Yeo’s appointment. However, he was unhappy with how the party removed him from his position over allegations that he said were baseless.

THE ALLEGATIONS

CEC members said that the allegations made against Mr Zhu and Ms Noraini were that the pair did not follow proper procedures when handling the party’s bank account.

When Mr Jeyaretnam learnt about this two weeks ago, he suspended the pair from their duties. 

An inquiry regarding the issue was held last Thursday with CEC members over a video conference. The committee met again on Monday to elect the new acting chairman and acting treasurer. 

Mr Jeyaretnam said that the CEC members then reached a “unanimous” consensus on the penalties for the pair, and that nobody objected to these penalties — a claim that two CEC members who attended the meeting denied.

The penalties include stripping them from their roles, removing them from the CEC and a lifetime ban on them holding office in the party.

Mr Jeyaretnam added that Mr Zhu and Ms Noraini still have the opportunity to appeal the decision.

Two CEC members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they felt that the penalties were too drastic for the offences that Mr Zhu and Mr Noraini had committed and that they should have been given time to appeal before the party went public with its decisions.

“Taking into consideration the efforts that Andy has put in, I don’t think he deserves such a punishment,” one CEC member said. 

They stressed, however, that despite not following proper procedures, there had been no misappropriation of funds.

Mr Yeo, a criminal lawyer, told TODAY: “There was a finding within ourselves that Andy had no fraudulent intent, but he did not follow the best practices.”

The contention came about when the pair went to the bank to activate electronic banking for the party’s account so that the party could receive donations through PayNow digital transactions.

Although they had the CEC’s approval to do so, the charge was that they had bypassed the committee by failing to inform them that the bank had requested a letter of approval from the party

Mr Zhu said: “From my understanding. I have already got their consent to go to the bank (to do the activations).” So as chairman, he decided to draft a letter that was signed off by Ms Noraini to get the bank to approve the activation.

The second accusation was that the pair had made payments to vendors through PayNow without fulfilling the party’s requirement of having two committee members sign off on every payment, which had always been done with cheques.

Mr Zhu said that they had not used cheques because they had to make payments quickly so that the posters and fliers for the recent General Election campaign could be printed on time.

“I always facilitate the payment with Noraini’s consent and with CEC members around,” he said, adding that he has always informed the committee whenever the party had to make a payment.

LEADERSHIP CHANGES

Mr Yeo, who gained an online cult following after his performance during the party’s constituency political broadcast in the recent GE, has been a party member since late 2018 and was the party’s campaign manager.

“I am hopeful about the future and pledge to do my best,” he said, adding that he looks forward to supporting Mr Jeyaretnam, energising the membership and encouraging more youth participation.

Mr Zhu, 37, is a real estate marketing director who has been with the party since 2008 and was elected chairman in 2011.

Mr Zhu, Mr Yeo, Ms Noraini and Mr Jeyaretnam were part of the five-member team that unsuccessfully contested Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency. They got 28.1 per cent of the vote against a People’s Action Party team led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The new acting treasurer, Mr Mahaboob, is a 52-year-old entrepreneur. He did not contest in the GE this year.

RP said in its statement on Wednesday: “As a businessman, (Mr Mahaboob) expects to competently manage the party’s finances in line with both external and internal regulation and looks forward to working with the other CEC officeholders in advancing the party’s interests.” 

The party added that it is producing new manifestos on individual policy areas to complement the green manifesto it published during the GE and that manifestos for women and education policies are at the focus-group discussion stage.

It urged those interested in contributing to the manifestos to contact the party and watch out for surveys that will be posted on its social media pages.

Related topics

Reform Party charles yeo Andy Zhu Kenneth Jeyaretnam

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