Sometime back, ST reported that Singapore People’s Party (SPP) chairman Sin Kek Tong is retiring. He told ST that he is stepping down and will not be running in the next central executive committee (CEC) election, due to be held at the party’s conference in late November.
Speculation is growing among SPP members and supporters that secretary-general Chiam See Tong will decide to run for the chairmanship. Under the SPP constitution, the secretary-general is the most powerful office bearer. So if Chiam becomes chairman, it means he will be giving up much of his formal power. It will also show that he is serious about “renewal”.
As usual, the Chiams are not saying anything.
If Chiam moves on, then either Benjamin Pwee or Wilfred Leung, both currently assistant secretary-generals, will run for the secretary-general post. I understand that Leung has a full-time job in Shanghai, so this may be an obstacle in him standing given that the duties and responsibilities of the post require the holder to be based here. So it is likely to be Pwee, if Chiam decides to move on to be chairman.
If Pwee gets the post, it would be a most a meteoric rise. By his own admission, he only got to know Chiam only a few weeks before the May GE. He would therefore have outshone fellow scholars Tan Jee Say (presidential candidate), and Hazel and Tony (NSP CEC members, with the former being secretary-general), in rising so quickly to the top in Opposition politics. In the NSP, the president, not the secretary-general, is the most powerful official, while TJS has no organisation to take advantage of the votes he got in the presidential election (25%).
Someone who has had dealings with Pwee recently says as befits a scholar and ex-admin service person, he is analytical and methodical. He also has gd inter-personal skills. He is a charismatic speaker as I can testify having heard him speak at TOC’s dinner honouring Chiam. Tan Cheng Bock, as earlier reported, is believed to be advising Pwee and other SPP members who helped him in his recent presidential campaign. He is helping them plan the transition from brand Chiam, and how to get support in Western S’pore, his territory.
Note that Chiam has a liking for brainy people. Remember his going out on a limb trying to help unproven, untested newbie Kenneth Jeyaretnam of the Reform Party takeover the Singapore Democratic Alliance? Even after KennethJ proved himself bereft of management and EQ skills, I was told, he offered KennethJ a place on his Bishan Toa Payoh team. KennethJ declined as it would mean resigning from RP (where he was in charge of a deserted, sinking ship sampan) to become an ordinary SPP member. It seems he insisted on being made a CEC member if he joined SPP.
I don’t know much about Leung except that he has walked the Long March with the Chiams and other SPP members since 2005, so I can’t comment on his abilities.
Note that in typically S’porean fashion, there will be only one candidate each for the chairman’s and secretary-general’s post. There will be the usual back-room deals in the name of “unity”. Some things never change.
Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam is likely to remain as second vice-chairman. But “new faces” are likely to run for key positions.
Let’s wish the SPP well.