Workers’ Party’s new slate of leaders all younger than Chairman Sylvia Lim: Here’s what that means

A WP leadership team mostly in their 40s.

Martino Tan | April 13, 01:05 am

There is no turning back on leadership renewal for the Workers’ Party (WP).

Singapore’s leading opposition party held its first Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting on Thursday evening (April 12) and chose its office bearers for the term of 2018 to 2020.

WP NCMPs Dennis Tan & Daniel Goh promoted, no role for Chen Show Mao in new CEC

Here are the very newly-minted leaders who are likely to lead WP into the next GE, if it is called within the next two years:

Chair: Sylvia Lim Swee Lian
Vice-Chair: Muhamad Faisal bin Abdul Manap
Secretary-General: Pritam Singh
Treasurer: Gerald Giam Yean Song (effective from 15 May 2018)
Deputy Treasurer: Lee Li Lian
President, Youth Wing: Leon Perera
Organising Secretary: Dennis Tan Lip Fong
Organising Secretary: Daniel Goh Pei Siong
Deputy Organising Secretary: Terence Tan Li-Chern
Chair, Media Team: Daniel Goh Pei Siong
Deputy Chair, Media Team: Leon Perera

Committee Members:
Low Thia Khiang
Png Eng Huat
Chen Show Mao
John Yam Poh Nam
Firuz Khan

And here are three quick take-aways from the newly-formed WP leadership team:

1. A generational change in leadership: Much younger average age

Besides 53-year old Lim, the rest of the WP leaders are in their 40s.

To illustrate, here are the new WP leaders, from the oldest to the youngest:

Chair: Sylvia Lim, 53
Organising Secretary: Dennis Tan, 47
President, Youth Wing and Vice Chair of Media Team: Leon Perera, 47
Deputy Organising Secretary: Terence Tan, 46
Organising Secretary and Chair of Media Team: Daniel Goh, 44
Secretary-General: Pritam Singh, 42
Vice Chair: Muhamad Faisal bin Abdul Manap, 42
Treasurer: Gerald Giam, 40
Deputy Treasurer: Lee Li Lian, 40

The average age of the nine WP leaders, therefore, is 44.55 — to be precise.

Now, compare the average age of this new WP leadership crop with the 16 4G leaders who signed the collective public statement regarding leadership succession on Jan. 4:

Some observations from Ong Ye Kung ST interview and 4G leaders’ statement on succession

Here are the ages of the 4G leaders as of Jan 5:

Minister for Finance: Heng Swee Keat, 56
Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry): S Iswaran, 55
Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law: Indranee Rajah, 54
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources: Masagos Zulkifli, 54
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth: Grace Fu, 53
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office: Josephine Teo, 49
Minister for Education (Schools): Ng Chee Meng, 49
Speaker of Parliament: Tan Chuan-Jin, 48
Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, 48
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office: Chan Chun Sing, 48
Minister for National Development: Lawrence Wong, 45
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education: Janil Puthucheary, 45
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development: Koh Poh Koon, 45
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health: Chee Hong Tat, 44
Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth and Trade and Industry: Sim Ann, 42
Minister for Social and Family Development: Desmond Lee, 41

The average age of the sixteen 4G leaders is 48.5, nearly four years older than the WP’s new generation of leaders.

While the future looks bright for the next decade or so, the 40-something-year-old WP leaders would do well to heed Low’s astute observations on the ongoing learning process.

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

Low told the media that while the current phase of leadership renewal is completed, “renewal is never complete because we have the 40s with us”.

The PAP’s bigger talent pool means there are certainly people in their 30s waiting in the wings who will help refresh the slightly-older 4G leadership.

On a separate note, WP is also learning from the PAP in testing its promising leaders.

Photo by Lim Weixiang for Mothership.sg

We noticed that the WP is stretching two potential future party leaders by giving them two portfolios each.

Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Daniel Goh is the Organising Secretary and Chair of the party’s Media Team, while his fellow NCMP Leon Perera is both President of the Youth Wing and Vice Chair of Media Team.

Both were among the team the party sent to contest East Coast GRC in 2015.

2. Daniel Goh is the one to watch

Photo by Lim Weixiang for Mothership.sg

It seems like personal popularity is not the only value that matters in WP.

Goh wasn’t one of the most popular CEC members at the election just past — he was ranked eighth in terms of votes among the party’s 12 elected CEC members.

Here’s a breakdown of votes Workers’ Party leaders received at CEC election

But he must be doing well among his leadership peers to be trusted enough to hold two crucial roles — Organising Secretary and Chair of the Media Team.

The Straits Times noted that Goh has been assisting former party chief Low Thia Khiang with his work in the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol division of Aljunied GRC.

Is Low grooming Goh to take over him in Aljunied in the next GE?

3. Battle-hardened leaders assigned as treasurers, up-and-coming given Organising Secretary roles

For those with a short-term political memory, these were the nine WP parliamentarians in 2013:

Source: Pritam Singh Facebook.

The two parliamentarians standing immediately to Chen’s right are then-NCMP Gerald Giam and then-Punggol East SMC MP Lee Li Lian.

Admittedly, they have lost some prominence in the public sphere over the past two-plus years because they haven’t been around in the current term of Parliament. Even within the party, Lee also played a less active role, as she was a council member without any specific portfolio.

Both Giam and Lee are now back, though — they have been appointed as Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer respectively.

Photo by Ng Yi Shu.

However, even as it’s all-aboard the Daniel Goh hype train, we should also not neglect the ongoing rise of his fellow NCMP Dennis Tan.

Both Goh and Tan have been promoted as WP’s two new organising secretaries.

The WP organising secretaries play important roles in the party, because they help connect the party with its grassroots.

More importantly, WP’s organising secretaries are a rare breed of WP leaders with illustrious achievements.

Both of its latest two secretary-generals, present and past — Low and Pritam — are former organising secretaries.

Recent organising secretaries are members of parliament — Png Eng Huat (Hougang SMC MP), Pritam (Aljunied GRC MP) and Lee (Punggol East SMC MP).

It looks clear that most of the party’s organising secretaries have bright political futures, even Hougang SMC MP Yaw Shin Leong, who was the Organising Secretary from 2006-2011.

Workers’ Party members closing ranks publicly as Pritam Singh made leader

Top photo from Workers’ Party Facebook page.

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 & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the words of George Orwell & William F. Buckley Jr., & the music of the Beatles.

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