Pritam Singh elected as new Workers' Party Secretary-General

A new era for the Workers' Party.

Sulaiman Daud | April 08, 2018, 03:12 PM

It's official -- Pritam Singh is the new Secretary-General of the Workers' Party (WP).

On April 8, the party held a leadership election at their new headquarters in Geylang Road.

Chen Show Mao, who was tipped to make his own bid for the post of Sec-Gen, ultimately decided not to do so, paving the way for Singh to be elected unopposed.

This means that Singh will lead the WP together with Sylvia Lim, who was also elected as Chairman unopposed, in the next general election. That's provided if the GE is in two years' time.

Latest achievement

Singh's victory is the capstone to his steady rise in the WP, ever since he joined the party eight years ago.

He was elected as MP for Aljunied GRC in the 2011 general election and in 2014, he was named the party's organising secretary.

In 2015, he was re-elected as MP and took over as Chair of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council. He worked with KPMG to fix the issues that were flagged in a special audit.

In 2016, he was named the WP's Assistant Secretary-General, a post that has been vacant since 2006.

And in 2018, he was the sole WP representative on the recent Parliamentary Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, serving together with Ministers like K Shanmugam and Desmond Lee.


A different kind of leader

Singh's new role sends a message of contrast to the PAP for the Singaporean voters, whether intentional or not.

Singh is currently just 41 years old.

He is younger than the PAP's two younger frontrunners for the top job in their party, Ministers Chan Chun Sing and Ong Ye Kung, who are both 48 years old.

And as a non-Chinese leader, it calls to mind the fact that all four of the PAP frontrunners (Ministers Chan, Ong, Heng Swee Keat and Ng Chee Meng) are Chinese, as well as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

After all, if enough WP candidates win in the next general election, Singh would become the first ever non-Chinese Prime Minister of Singapore.

Screen shot via Workers' Party Facebook page.

Low stepped down

Singh's victory was made possible by former Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang's decision not to contest in this election, which he announced in Nov. 2017.

The party is thought to be popular with the Chinese community, due to Low's long tenure as leader and his background as a Chinese-educated Nantah graduate.

However, having a non-Chinese leader is not something new for the party. Before Low, JB Jeyaretnam was a prominent figure in the local political scene.

And before JBJ, the ethnically-Jewish David Marshall founded and led the party in 1957.

In an interview with the Straits Times on Feb. 14, Low said that he might discuss with Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin the possibility of the new Sec-Gen taking his front-bench seat in Parliament.

That means when Parliament sits in May, Singh might be on the front bench, facing the PAP leaders on the other side. Said Low:

"The Speaker should decide on that, whether it's important symbolically to have the new leader sitting at the position."

Chen's bid

In May 2016, Chen's name was put forth to oppose Low for the post of Secretary-General in the CEC election.

The vote came down 61-45 in Low's favour, with Low himself abstaining from the vote. It was the first time that Low had faced a challenge for his position.

When Low decided not to run of his own accord, Chen seemed like another main contender for the top job in the 2018 CEC election.

However, it was rumoured before the election that Chen will not be making a bid for the role.

Chen ultimately did not seek election for the post, paving the way for Singh to be elected.

Singh now has about a month to get used to his new role before making his maiden speech in Parliament as the new leader of the WP.

Watch this space.

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Top image by Sulaiman Daud.