'No split within Worker's Party': Low Thia Khiang

The Workers' Party (WP) has swiftly dismissed talk of a rift developing within the party.

Meeting local media after businessman Png Eng Huat was named as the party’s candidate for the Hougang by-election, WP's secretary-general Low Thia Khiang emphasised that "there is no split" and the party is united behind Png in his quest to win over voters.

Low also revealed that neither he, nor the party's central executive committee (CEC), knew that veteran WP member Poh Lee Guan had applied for a political donation certificate.

"I found out from the news," Low said. "We were not informed of his intention [to run as a candidate in Hougang] and he had not contacted any of the CEC members."

Low also shot down Poh's claim that he was WP's "spare" candidate for this by-election, reiterating that "Png Eng Huat is the only one we support".

On Monday, the Elections Department announced in a statement that four people had each been granted a political donation certificate, a requirement for candidates wanting to contest in an election.

The four were the People's Action Party's Desmond Choo, acupuncturist Zeng Guoyan, Png and Poh.

But on Tuesday, Poh, who contested under the WP banner in Nee Soon GRC in last year's General Election, did not show up at the nomination centre, even as he was spotted at a coffeeshop nearby, where he made his claims.

Low, though, said that he has not contacted Poh over his surprise move, as he felt that the latter should be the one contacting the party.

"The Workers' Party leadership don't expect to be caught by surprise," he said, adding, "He [Poh]is not a new member and he should know what he should do."

The veteran politician and Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC did not wish to speculate, when asked if Poh's actions were caused by his unhappiness at not being fielded in the by-election.

Members who want to be candidates in elections or assume leadership roles within the party "must prove themselves", he stressed.

Low also expressed confidence that the Workers' Party "has no problem", amid suggestions that residents' faith in the party have been rocked by this surprising development.

"Hougang residents know the Workers' Party and me for so many years. They know what kind of person I am... We have shown to be responsible and transparent," he concluded.

Meanwhile, newly-minted candidate Png has described Hougang as "where it all began" for the WP.

Adding that the nearly 24,000 voters here have "made a 20-year statement of democracy" since Low was first elected in 1991, Png pledged to "serve to the best of my ability" if given the mandate.

From now until polling day on 26 May, Png said he is planning to engage in plenty of "ground level" activities, including walkabouts, shops and house visits.

"I represent a party that has a track record in Hougang," said Png, who has been active in the ward since 2006. "We have to preserve it."