SINGAPORE: Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh said that the party was trying to balance continuity and renewal in its latest Central Executive Committee (CEC) changes, with he and party chair Sylvia Lim continuing to head WP even as younger members were inducted into the CEC.
Mr Singh remains secretary-general and Ms Sylvia Lim stays on as party chair, while former WP chief Low Thia Khiang and veteran former MP Png Eng Huat were retained as committee members in a Cadre Members' Conference on Sunday (Dec 27).
When asked what this signifies, Mr Singh said that there needs to be a trajectory for renewal.
"This time around, the cadre membership ... recognises the importance of this renewal trajectory that we are on - having a good balance of experience and new blood," he said.
"I think it's very important that some of our most experienced members continue to be a central part of the party," he added.
READ: Workers' Party MPs He Ting Ru, Jamus Lim, Raeesah Khan and Louis Chua elected to Central Executive Committee
Among the newer members of the CEC are the four Sengkang Members of Parliament, Ms He Tingru, Mr Louis Chua Kheng Wee, Dr Jamus Lim and Ms Raeesah Khan
They are joined in the committee by the younger party members, who had contested in East Coast GRC - Ms Nicole Seah and Mr Kenneth Foo.
The CEC is also made up of MPs for Hougang and Aljunied GRCs - Mr Dennis Tan, Mr Faisal Manap, Mr Gerald Giam and Mr Leon Perera.
The average age of the 14 members is about 45 years old. Among the CEC members, only Mr Low is in his 60s, while the youngest is Ms Khan at 27. Three members - Mr Chua, Ms He and Ms Seah - are in their 30s.
"CONSCIOUSLY GROOMING YOUNGER LEADERS"
Explaining why she ran again for the post of chairperson, Ms Lim said she had considered if she could still contribute effectively after 17 years as chair, but kept in mind that Mr Low stepped down as secretary-general only two years ago.
"I did consult the current SG Pritam, as well as some other CEC members, and they felt that I should still stay on," she said.
"We are, of course, consciously grooming our younger leaders to take over in due course, from my position also. Exactly when that will happen will depend on many factors and and also what the party needs at a particular point in time."
In response to a question, Ms Lim said the number of women in the current CEC is not the highest in WP's history.
"I recall that ... soon after I joined the party, probably in the early 2000s, there was a time when we nearly had 50 per cent of our CEC members being women. Four out of 14 is still not good enough in my view, " she said.
"We did say at the last conference that we amended our constitution to place emphasis on the need for diversity in the council, not just racial diversity, but diversity in many ways. I think we are making progress, but I think (it is) still not good enough."
She added that the party needs a "broad spectrum" of advice and expertise, and that the recent GE campaign benefitted from the advice of younger people.
"If not for advice from people from a younger generation, we would not have been able to communicate that effectively. So I think one of the keys for the party is to always ensure that we have the broad spectrum of advice and expertise ... in order for us to reach out to as broad an electorate as possible," she said.
A senior member of the party, former Aljunied GRC MP Chen Show Mao, was not re-elected to the CEC. Mr Singh confirmed that Mr Chen, who was not at the conference, was still a party member.
Some other members not re-elected were Assoc Prof Daniel Goh, Ms Lee Li Lian and Mr Terence Tan.
But Ms Lee and Mr Tan, along with Mr Low and Mr Png, will be among a roster of party members who will stand in for Ms Khan and Ms He in Sengkang GRC. Both members are due to go on maternity leave.
Mr Singh had written in a Facebook post earlier this month that when the two go on leave, WP members will help with weekly Meet-the-People Sessions and house visits in Sengkang GRC on a rotational basis.