3 possible reasons why Aljunied MP Pritam Singh was picked to be Chairman of AHTC

Bye bye AHPETC.

By Martino Tan | October 3, 2015

The Workers’ Party (WP)’s AHPETC is no more.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) said on Thursday (Oct 1) that 16 town councils have been formed following the September General Election (GE).

The new WP-held town council will be known as Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHPETC). Punggol East SMC, which has been re-captured by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), will join Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council and form the largest town council with 103, 073 residential units.

In a surprise move, the WP MP-elects decided to appoint from among its team Pritam Singh to take over former AHPETC chairman and WP chairman Sylvia Lim as the AHTC chairman.

Here are three possible reasons why Pritam was picked to take on the chairman role:

1. Leadership Renewal in the WP

Pritam, 39, is the youngest WP parliamentarian.

He is also one of the three members who are aged 39 and below in WP’s 14-member Central Executive Committee. More than half of the CEC members are in their 50s.

Chairman: Sylvia Lim Swee Lian, 50 (Aljunied GRC MP-Elect)
Secretary-General: Low Thia Khiang, 59  (Aljunied GRC MP-Elect)

12 members of the CEC:
Chen Show Mao, 54  (Aljunied GRC MP-Elect)
Muhamad Faisal bin Abdul Manap, 40  (Aljunied GRC MP-Elect)
Gerald Giam Yean Song, 37
Daniel Goh Pei Siong, 42
Lee Li Lian, 37
Png Eng Huat, 53  (Hougang SMC MP-Elect)
Mohammed Rahizan bin Yaacob, 59 (Was not a 2015 GE candidate)
Pritam Singh, 39  (Aljunied GRC MP-Elect)
L Somasundaram, 52
Dennis Tan Lip Fong, 45 (Non-Constituency MP-Elect)
John Yam Poh Nam, 53 (Was not a 2015 GE candidate)
Yee Jenn Jong, 50

As mentioned in the WP press release, Pritam’s appointment was to “further deepen leadership capacity and for job rotation”. Besides, he already served time as one of the town council’s two vice-chairmen (the other being Hougang MP Png Eng Huat), so it can also be seen as a natural leadership progression.

We also take it that Png, as the head of the town council’s super-under-scrutiny audit committee, may still have his hands full fending off attacks on AHPETC, so that would constitute part of the reason for him staying put as vice-chairman.

Perhaps in a move similar to the mentoring roles played by the Deputy Prime Ministers (DPMs) in the cabinet, the two more senior MPs — Lim and Png — will support Pritam as vice-chairpersons.

The town council chairman’s role may now (hopefully) be more manageable than that with AHPETC, following the loss of Punggol East SMC.


2. A tactical move to make Pritam more prominent

Google “AHPETC chairman” and this is what you will find:


Both Low and Lim are already household names.

Source: Workers’ Party website

The move to make Pritam the AHTC Chairman will mean that he will be the “face” of WP in future tussles with the government over town council issues.


3. A supporting role for Lim so that she can spend more time in her ward

According to The Straits Times, Serangoon (Lim’s ward) in Aljunied GRC lost to her PAP counterpart by about 300 votes.

Comparatively, Serangoon was the best performer for WP in the last GE, held in 2011.

Meanwhile, Pritam garnered a 55 per cent vote share for the residents in his ward against his PAP counterpart, alongside Low and Muhamad Faisal.

As the face of AHPETC in the last term, Lim inevitably devoted much of her time in parliament and in court over the issue.

With Pritam taking the lead in town council issues, Lim will hopefully be able to spend more time walking the ground to win back support from the Serangoon residents in Aljunied GRC.

Top photo from Dennis Tan’s Facebook page.

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About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & D. Bonhoeffer, the words of G.Orwell & T.Sorensen, & the music of the Beatles.

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