WP60 – Breakthrough in Aljunied (2001 – 2008)

Breakthrough in Aljunied (2001 – 2008)

The 2000s was a period of transition for The Workers’ Party. In 2001, Secretary-General of 30 years, J. B. Jeyaretnam, stepped down from his post and resigned from the party due to disagreements. Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang took over the helm. Shortly after, Law Lecturer Sylvia Lim also joined the party and eventually became its Chairman. The Workers’ Party was also rejuvenated by an influx of younger members during this period, especially after the 2006 elections.

27 May 2001:
Re-election of the Central Executive Committee (CEC)

The re-election of the CEC at the Conference of Organisers was then due, and the Secretary General, JBJ, who was removed from his Cheng San NCMP seat after being made bankrupt from libel suits by PAP members, thereby effectively disallowing him from running in an election, announced to organising members that he would not be seeking re-election as Secretary General. The Conference which convened on 27 May 2001 elected Low Thia Khiang as Secretary-General.

The Hammer reintroduced

To combat the constraints of a state-controlled media, Hammer, which ceased to be published since 1996 because of the defamation legal suits over an article written in the Tamil language, was revamped and re-published, under a new Chief-Editor.

21 October 2001:
JBJ resigned from WP

A few days before the Nomination Day of GE 2001, JBJ announced his resignation from WP.

2 November 2001:
General Election

Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

WP’s theme for GE 2001 was “Power to the People”, but fielded just two candidates, including Low, who had been the MP of Hougang since 1991. Low was re-elected in Hougang SMC with 55% of valid votes, down from 58% in 1997. The Party lost in Nee Soon East SMC and was disqualified in Aljunied GRC for filing incomplete papers. The Party had decided to contest in Aljunied GRC as it did well in the 1988 GE having chalked up 49% of the valid vote in what was known as Eunos GRC then.

Setting up of Northern, Eastern and Northen-Eastern Area Committees for more focused grassroots engagement

After GE 2001, WP had to constrain its limited resources to its targeted constituencies, and a new strategy had to be drafted in view of the unique Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) system where electoral boundaries would be redrawn just before every election. 3 Area Committees were set up to become operationally effective platforms for aspiring candidates to step up on grassroots engagement.

1 June 2003:
Re-election of 22nd Central Executive Committee (CEC)

Rejuvenated by the injection of new blood, WP soon underwent a leadership renewal, which saw a group of young professionals co-opted into the 22nd Central Executive Council (CEC). They include Sylvia Lim, Yaw Shin Leong, Poh Lee Guan and James Gomez.

Sylvia Lim moved on to become the first-ever female Chairman of WP, stepping up on its pace of renewal and creating a fresh and exciting atmosphere in the political scene.

Using alternative media for outreach

With the arrival of the internet, it was also vital for WP to spearhead a free-flow of information along this superhighway. Hammer Online was unveiled together with a brand new WP website www.wp.org.sg. To reach out to youths, a WP blog was created as an unofficial website for WP supporters to exchange news and views and forge greater solidarity for a common cause.

1 November 2003:
Public consultation exercise

A Public Consultation Exercise was held on the topic of New Poor and Social Cohesion.

5 March 2005:
Public consultation exercise

A Public Forum was held as an alternative avenue for Singaporeans to have their say on the government’s proposal to build a casino.

5 July 2005:
Birth of WP’s Youth Wing

WP’s very first Youth Wing was set up to produce an alternative youth platform with its own niche and to organise national, political, grassroots, social and community activities to increase awareness among youths.

15 October 2005:
Youth Wing’s first public forum

Public forum entitled “Elections and Your Vote: A Token or Taken Right?”

14 January 2006:
Launch of WP Manifesto for GE 2006

Launch of a new WP Manifesto, aptly titled “You Have a Choice” in line with WP’s theme for the 2006 elections.

6 May 2006:
General Election

WP fielded 15 new faces of whom 10 were professionals and 6 were below 31 years old. Although none of WP candidates were returned elected except for Low in Hougang, the results showed that there was growing support for WP. The incumbent PAP team was returned to Aljunied GRC by a narrow margin of 6.1% of votes over WP. As the leader of the highest-scoring opposition team who lost, Sylvia Lim accepted the Non-Constituency MP appointment in accordance with a decision by the CEC.

23 February 2007:
Public consultation exercise

A Public Forum was held to discuss the draft Penal Code Amendment Bill, which raised concerns over excessive punishment, gender bias and an overemphasis on prosecution over defence.

3 May 2008:
Inaugural YouthQuake forum

Youth Wing held its inaugural YouthQuake forum. The first in a series of public forums, this forum focused on the question: “Should Singaporean Youths be allowed to vote at 18?”