PSP's new asst Sec-Gen, ex-Air Force colonel, will be key to party's future after Tan Cheng Bock: Opinion

He ran a strong contest against Health Minister Gan Kim Yong during GE.

Martino Tan | August 05, 2020, 12:38 PM

When Parliament reopens on Aug. 24, much of the spotlight will likely fall on Progress Singapore Party (PSP)'s first two parliamentarians, Leong Mun Wai and Hazel Poa.

Both have taken up the Non-Constituency MP seats, after PSP's West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) team led by the party's secretary general Tan Cheng Bock, achieved 48.31 per cent of the vote, the highest vote share out of the candidates who were not elected in GE2020.

While their parliamentary speeches and performances will no doubt remind Singaporeans of PSP's emergence as potentially the second most prominent opposition party after the Workers' Party (WP), it may be the party political work that will determine PSP's future.

PSP's new appointments indicated that its two most senior leaders -- the Sec-Gen and Assistant Sec-Gen -- will be focusing on building the party.

According to The Straits Times, Tan was the one who proposed separating party and parliamentary responsibilities.

The new second in command

So who is the new 2IC supporting Tan?

Enter Francis Yuen Kin Pheng, former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, and former CEO of industrial conglomerate Hong Leong Asia.

Yuen, 70, was one of the first six candidates to be introduced by Tan alongside Poa.

Yuen has taken over Leong as the Assistant Sec-Gen, and he told The Straits Times that it is a good time for PSP to consolidate and restructure.

Yuen also explained how the party and parliamentary responsibilities will be separated, with Yuen and the other non-parliamentarians in the central executive committee (CEC) focusing on interviewing new members and setting up ground operations.

Second best GRC performance for PSP

During GE2020, Yuen led his Choa Chu Kang team to one of PSP's best performances.

The Choa Chu Kang team consists of Yuen, academic Tan Meng Wah, law undergraduate Choo Shuan Ming, and engineer Abdul Rahman.

Yuen and team scored 41.3 per cent against the PAP Choa Chu Kang team led by veteran 3G leader and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

Yuen's GE2020 score was second only to Tan's West Coast team in terms of PSP's GRC performance.

Moreover, Yuen's team scored above 40 per cent, just one of three PSP challenges that ran PAP close. (West Coast GRC - 48.32 per cent, Marymount SMC - 44.96 per cent, Choa Chu Kang GRC - 41.36 per cent).

The rest of the PSP candidates attained electoral scores that were lower than 40 per cent but higher than 35 per cent.

Not a bad start for a political debutant.

Yuen was the face of PSP during the GE debates

Yuen's presence was keenly felt during PSP's campaign.

He represented PSP in the only live televised English debate of the GE campaign.

He was also PSP's representative in the pre-GE Forum 2020 organised by the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), and moderated by former-Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Viswa Sadasivan.

As PSP continues to grow, it appears that its plan is to focus on its youth and women's wings, not dissimilar to how established political parties organise themselves.

Both the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) have youth wings (Young PAP, Young Democrats) and women's wings (PAP's Women's Wing, Women Democrats).

Workers' Party (WP) also has a youth wing, led by Aljunied GRC MP-elect Leon Perera.

Yuen also told in a previous interview that the party will likely enter "a stage of consolidation" in terms of its membership after the upcoming GE.

"We just want to make sure that the process... the policy of widening membership to everybody, we’d actually institute a bit more steps to the process to ensure that we’ve gotten a strong core of members and a strong core of volunteers because we should also consider the process whereby people come in first as a volunteer before they become a member. Right now they can be a member straightaway."

That said, he stresses that the party is "prepared to change", and is not afraid to make changes when they think things "have not worked well" for them.

For PSP to thrive beyond Tan, it will take someone with the organisational abilities and the management expertise to build the party and do it well.

And the person may well be the man who has gone on to work in leadership roles in the Singapore Armed Forces, Hong Leong Asia, ST Aerospace and global companies, such as Honeywell and Ingersoll Rand.

Top photo via PSP Facebook