On the heels of their success in winning the Aljunied GRC at the 2011 General Election, news has emerged that the Worker’s Party led by Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim is set to split.
Although Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang were recently returned unchallenged as Chairman and Secretary-General of the Worker’s Party respectively, older cadres have openly expressed their unhappiness at how the party big wigs are working to kick them out of the party that they had helped build.
In a sign of open defiance, senior cadres (who have voting rights) spoke candidly to reporters (including The New Paper (TNP)) at a coffee shop under the party’s headquarters in Syed Alwi Road.
The veterans shared how Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim have systematically maneuvered party members, often playing them off each other, to sideline veteran Worker’s Party members who had help former party leader J. B. Jeyaretnam build the Party brand. John Gan, formerly chairman of the party alongside Mr Jeyaretnam, has even declared that they were “going to do something in the next election. See for yourself later.”
According to Mr Gan, the “the younger members are not ready for the party and they think too highly of themselves.” Like the PAP Members of Parliament (MP) the WP opposes, the next generation of Worker’s Party members are not here to serve the people. They are just here for the power and prestige of being an elected MP. In the end, veteran WP cadres see no difference between the next generation of WP MPs and the PAP MPs. Just like the PAP, WP candidates are parachuted in, despite not having walked the ground, unlike the veterans who have done so for years.
Signs of a crack in the WP was apparent when Poh Lee Guan, the former assistant secretary-general, tried to contest the 2012 Hougang by-election as a spare candidate, without the party’s permission.
Older WP members had previously suggested that Dr Poh, who had been working the Hougang ground for more than a decade, was unhappy at being bypassed by Yaw Shin Leong and later by Png Eng Huat. Following the incident, Dr Poh was sacked by the party.
An insider, who claimed to be a veteran cadre, said: “Poh worked so hard and for so many years in Hougang, and Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim, instead of rewarding him for his loyalty, supported Png Eng Huat to become an MP.
Even before that, older members were unhappy that another veteran, Eric Tan, was bypassed for the Non-Constituency MP seat. That went instead to a younger Gerald Giam. Soon after, a number of veterans left the party, including Mr Tan, Mohamed Fazli Talip and Sajeev Kamalasanan.
Mr Sajeev, a project manager, told TNP that he quit the party in 2012 because he was disillusioned that Mr Low and Ms Lim did not walk the talk and often displayed a lack of integrity. “I asked Sylvia and Low why weren’t those who contested as candidates before offered recognition, but to this date I have not got a reply from them,” he said. “I was asking only for fairness, not for myself but for others. If you want to make your own people cadres (who can vote for the council), you must also be fair to those who stood for election in the past.”
When Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang were asked for their comments on the split in the party, they replied in classic Worker’s Party style by being vague. Sylvia Lim admitted that the election had been “fiercely contested” but denied there was a rift in the party, while Low Thia Khiang declined to comment when approached.
In this writer’s view, it is the beginning of the end for the Worker’s Party.