Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) Tan Cheng Bock might have stepped down as the Secretary-General, but that doesn't mean he's out for the count, as was assured during a PSP press conference on Apr. 3.
It was announced on Apr. 1 that Francis Yuen would be taking over Tan, as the Secretary-General following the appointment of the party's new Central Executive Committee (CEC). Yuen, who has a storied career in the field of aerospace engineering locally and in China, was previously the Assistant Secretary-General of PSP.
Not retiring but 'changing gear'
During the press conference, Tan elaborated more on his decision to take a backseat.
He shared that he is not retiring, but instead, he is "changing gear" and "repositioning".
"People keep asking me if I'm stepping down. But I just started last year, how can I step down?"
"There was a time when my direct input was crucial because the party was in its infancy, learning to walk. But now that the party has grown and matured, the new team must have the opportunity to use their strengths and skills to move forward."
Tan also revealed that he did a thorough health check-up after the last general election.
His doctor said that he is "still young and can continue" and so he will continue to serve, walk the ground and run in the next election as long as his health allows him to do so.
"If I'm able to, I'll be there."
Three focuses as the party's Chairman
As the party's Chairman now, Tan will concentrate on strengthening external support for PSP, as well as guiding and providing support to other members whenever necessary.
Additionally, Tan elaborated on his new roles as Chairman, which include:
1. Reaching out to more Singaporeans to raise awareness of and help them understand the party;
2. Mobilising and strengthening grassroots. Tan said that he enjoyed walking the ground and it is part of his "political DNA". Tan also emphasised that party members must walk the ground to earn votes instead of expecting votes;
3. Scouting for new talent and mentoring the party's leaders.
The new PSP chief Yuen also assured that Tan is not retiring from the party, saying:
"So you have not seen the last of him, we will not allow him to be fading off."
Done with 'teething problems' and rumours
PSP also addressed the recent allegations made by online site Redwire Times that a rift in the party led to some party cadres demanding for Tan to step down and let "more talented rising stars" take over.
Yuen highlighted that "nothing is further from the truth", and that Tan was in no way coerced into this decision.
Instead, this change in roles was something that Tan had in mind since the previous General Election, which he consulted Yuen, Non-Constituency Member of Parliaments Hazel Poa and Leong Mun Wai, and other senior party members on.
"We are done with all the teething problems we had over the recent months, all the rumours and unhealthy bickering. Every organisation will have that, it's nothing new. But it's how the organisation manages it, and how we can move on with confidence, compassion and credibility."
The recent restructuring within the party had also afforded it some "stability", Tan said.
"You may hear rumours here and there. This is all part of the political picture, but we know how to handle all these little problems that come before us. We understand our roles and the part we must play to move the party forward. Our desire is and always will be to build a better Singapore for us all."
Yuen elaborated that his role as the new Secretary-General now involved thinking about succession, better organisation within the party and a consolidation of what the party has achieved thus far.
"I come from a culture in big corporation where we say, leaders are successful where at any point in time, they can groom at least two in the pipeline to succeed them. PSP will be very successful as we move forward, where at every level, every position, whether on the ground or in the HQ, we have people ready to take on...And everybody walks towards one common goal as a team that is to work for the interests of the country and the people through the interests of the party."
Yuen also hinted at certain "innovative things" that the party would be implementing over the next few years to help relate to the people and remain in touch with the ground.Top photo by Ashley Tan