SINGAPORE: Veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong has stepped down as secretary-general of the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) after 23 years at its helm, following the election of its new Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Wednesday (Oct 16).
“Mr Chiam has given to politics for 40 years already. It’s time for him to have a rest," Mrs Lina Chiam, SPP's chairman prior to Wednesday's election, told reporters after the event.
Mrs Chiam was re-elected to the CEC, although her official position is still undetermined.
"I think he has given all what he can for Singaporeans, what he can do to his ability," she added.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, the party paid tribute to its outgoing leader: "The Party would like to send its best wishes to our founding Secretary General Mr Chiam See Tong for his decades of service to the party and to Singapore."
The post also thanked the outgoing CEC.
"We are confident that the renewed party leadership will uphold the Party motto of service before self and always have the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart," the post said.
Mr Chiam’s departure from the party’s top decision-making body was announced during the biennial SPP Ordinary Party Conference on Wednesday, during which 12 members were elected to form a new CEC.
Although Mr Chiam will no longer lead the party, he will still remain a member, Mrs Chiam said.
Of the 12 members elected, four are new to the committee: Mr Jose Raymond, Mr Ariffin Sha, Mr Eman Lim, and Mr Jalil Wari.
“The meeting went on very well, amicably,” said Mrs Chiam. “Everybody was like a family and we all voted consciously and happily.”
Mr Chiam, 84, is the longest-serving opposition MP. He started his career in politics as an independent candidate in 1976 and was elected to the Potong Pasir constituency in 1984.
Mr Chiam has been with the SPP since 1996, after an acrimonious split led to his departure from the Singapore Democratic Party, which he had founded in 1980.
Mr Chiam last contested in the general elections in 2011, where he left his Potong Pasir stronghold to lead an opposition team in the five-member Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
According to media reports, SPP members indicated at a prior meeting the possibility of leadership going to either Mr Raymond, a former Singapore Environment Council executive director and press secretary to Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, or Mr Steve Chia, SPP’s organising secretary who headed the National Solidarity Party at one point.
Mr Chia was also elected to the CEC on Wednesday.
According to Mr Raymond, the official positions of the CEC members will be announced within three weeks from the date of the Conference.