SINGAPORE: Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang will not be contesting the post of secretary-general at the next party election to make way for new blood, he said at the party's 60th anniversary dinner.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the next party election is due to be held next year. Mr Low would have been the secretary-general of WP for 17 years when he steps down.
Mr Low said he has achieved what he set out to do when was handed the party’s reins in 2001 after Mr JB Jeyaretnam left - renewal of the Workers' Party and making "political progress towards democracy" in Singapore. WP now has a new breed of young politicians, he said.
Speaking to more than 1,000 guests and party members on Friday (Nov 3), Mr Low said it was time for the younger leaders to "take over" the party.
"It is time for these younger leaders to step up to the steering wheel ... to drive the party forward to continue this walk with Singapore," said Mr Low.
"I shall therefore not be contesting the post of secretary-general at the next party election to enable the younger generation of party leaders to take over the party completely."
Mr Low’s announcement was followed by loud cheers from the crowd. He thanked party members, volunteers, supporters and voters for their support.
“Without their trust and support, the Workers’ Party would not have been able to transform from the one-man operator party with one MP to an organised political party of today, with nine MPs in Parliament,” Mr Low said.
He urged the next generation of leaders and supporters to draw their strength from the party’s 60-year history.
“Resilience is also inherent in our Singapore DNA, enabling our party to make progress despite the winding political journey, its ups and downs in the last 60 years. I’m sure we will stay on course to work with Singapore for generations to come.”
Mr Low’s speech came at the end of the dinner, held at a banquet hall at HarbourFront Centre. He spent much of the evening mingling with guests and signing their copy of a commemorative book launched at the dinner, to mark the Party’s 60 years.
The book, ‘Walking with Singapore’, documents the party’s history since lawyer David Marshall formed it 60 years ago, about a year after he stepped down as Singapore’s first Chief Minister.
MIXED REACTIONS FROM PARTY MEMBERS
Mr Low’s announcement came as a surprise to many, although some said the announcement had been expected “sooner rather than later”.
One party member said while Mr Low thinks the move is good for party rejuvenation, it is a sad day for many, as he has been a good leader.
“It’s almost as if he (Mr Low) is reminding himself that he cannot be (at the helm) forever and that there is a need to have party renewal," a party member who joined in 2011 told Channel NewsAsia.
The member added that there are plenty of worthy people within the party ranks, and that “more will step up”.
NEW TOWN COUNCIL MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
Speaking before Mr Low, Party Chairman Sylvia Lim also announced WP has put in place a new integrated town council management software.
Party Chairman Sylvia Lim said the system, developed under the guidance of Town council vice-chairman, Png Eng Huat, is "comparable to the system used by other town councils".
Ms Lim said that when the Party won Aljunied GRC in 2011, the WP members of Parliament were "denied the use of the town council management system software" that residents had paid for.
"We coped as best as we could with the system in Hougang SMC (single member constituency) for five years" Ms Lim said.
Despite the "adverse news" on town council management issues, Ms Lim said there have been no disruptions to residents of Aljunied-Hougang and that the town is progressively being renewed and improved.
Assistant Secretary-General Pritam Singh also made a speech, paying tribute to members who had played a significant role behind the scenes.
The party also screened a trailer for an upcoming documentary about the Workers' Party, which will be released in two parts towards the end of the year.