Workers’ Party new leadership in high spirits, jovial Q&A with sneaky media query thrown in

Low hopes Singaporeans can give Pritam room to mature as Sec-Gen, like how they gave him room previously.

By Belmont Lay | April 8, 2018

The Workers’ Party, Singapore’s preeminent opposition party, has a new leader.

Pritam Singh elected as new Workers’ Party Secretary-General

Pritam Singh, 41, has become the new Secretary-General, a position he assumed unopposed, taking over the reins from veteran Low Thia Khiang who has held the post for the past 17 years.

In the post-Central Executive Committee (CEC) election doorstop interview with the media on Sunday, April 8, at WP’s headquaters at Geylang road, flanking Singh were Low and Sylvia Lim, who retained the chairwoman post unopposed.

The leadership trio appeared to be in high spirits as they talked about what are the immediate plans, Low’s contributions moving forward and a sneaky media query about forming the next alternative government thrown in for good measure.

Video here:

This is their interview transcribed:

Opening statement

Pritam: So, firstly, media has reported that Mr Low has stepped down as Secretary-General of the party and Sylvia and I together will lead the party forward for the next two years.

Just some words on Mr Low. Obviously, very, very big shoes to fill. He has driven the party forward with a lot of perseverance and dedication. It is important for the party to build on the foundation he has laid out to continue forward as a rational, responsible and respectable party. Team work will be very important for the new team moving forward for the next two years.

And we look forward to working with not just the party and its volunteers but all Singaporeans to take the form and shape of a loyal opposition, which is interested in Singapore and Singaporeans. They must always be the heart of what we do. Thank you.

Sylvia: I suppose this is a milestone for the party. It shows our commitment to our party renewal. Of course we’re very happy that Mr Low has decided that he wants to continue to contribute his work in the council, so we can benefit from his experience as a council member.

We certainly look forward to this new era, I would say. And look forward to serving Singaporeans in the best way possible.


Is WP leadership renewal done?

Reporter: Now that you have stepped down, do you consider the leadership renewal completed or is it still ongoing or will we still see more changes?

Low: The current phase of leadership renewal is completed. It started since 2001 when I took over as Secretary-General. I set party renewal as first priority. A party without renewal, without new blood, a party will die a natural death in time to come.

I am pleased that today we have younger team in place, and they are prepared to step forward. And I have said in the past that the renewal will be complete with the SG (Secretary-General) being renewed and that it is today. So, the first renewal for the Workers’ Party for this current development phase is completed.

However, renewal is never complete because we have the 40s with us, I think we still need to put in effort to attract younger Singaporeans in their 30s, so the renewal process can continue. And we will not dry out at the end of the day. So, yes, it is completed for the current phase.


Mandarin queries

Reporter: (In Mandarin) What hopes do you have for the new Sec-Gen?

Low: You can ask the new Sec-Gen what his visions and hopes are, it would not be too appropriate for me to answer this. But I just hope Singaporeans can give the new Sec-Gen a chance, give him the time and space, like how they gave me, to mature as a Sec-Gen of a party.

Reporter: (In Mandarin) What roles would you have in the party moving forward?

Low: Moving forward? Let’s see how the situation is like moving forward.

Low’s future political career

Reporter: Do you intend to contest in the next General Election as well?

Low: I have my plans for the next GE, but I think it is premature to discuss now.


What is Pritam going to do right away?

Reporter: So, to Mr Singh, what is your immediate plan now?

Pritam: So, obviously at the outset, I’ll be reaching out to the party membership once more, just to get some sense of what are their views, and wishes and vision for the party moving forward. So that is immediately on the agenda. Obviously the CEC would meet quite soon, and it’s important for us to move forward as a team, and the process will be quite consultative.


Sneaky media query about forming the next government: Received clarification from Low

Reporter: Mr Singh, Mr Low has said that the party is one step closer to becoming an alternative party, is that still the vision for the party as well?

Singh: I think it is premature for me to go into those discussions without having spoken to other members of the party moving forward. So, I won’t go into that.

Low: I think I wish to clarify that I said the party is now building a foundation to move forward to be the next alternative government. I didn’t say that the party is going to be the next alternative government, it’s different. The foundation has been laid and that depends on what Singaporeans want. At least we have provided a foundation for the party, Singaporeans voted for it, there’s a possibility. Compared to the past, I think we are at least having something that, has a foundation. Not saying we are ready to be the next alternative government or moving towards an alternative government. I didn’t say that.


Good spirits because people are vying for WP leadership position unlike… 😂

Reporter: Today, everybody seems to be in quite good spirits today. Can you tell us a little bit more on what happened at the conference and basically what are the significant moments?

Sylvia: Well, we always look forward to the conference, being held once in two years. And I think it is a very healthy phenomenon that our council places are hotly-contested, it actually shows that people want to assume the leadership position. So, we’ve come a long way from the past where we couldn’t even fill the positions in the council, so it is a good state to be in. So, that’s why we are in a good mood.

[Laughs in Workers’ Party]


What did Sylvia Lim say to the cadres behind closed doors?

Reporter: Can you share a bit more about the speech to the party…?

Sylvia: Well, that’s between me and the cadres, I’d rather keep it that way. [Laughs in Sylvia Lim] Thank you.

About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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