SPP's Lina Chiam stays mum over new CEC, internal conflict

(UPDATE: Sunday, 9:30pm, adding comment from Lina Chiam)

Six key members may have just quit the  Singapore People's Party (SPP) but the party's leadership says business is as usual.

On Sunday, the SPP held a closed-door five-hour Ordinary Party Conference at Siang Kuang Avenue to elect a new Central Executive Committee. The OPC came after six key CEC members abruptly quit the party on Friday.

But all SPP's Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Lina Chiam would say to the media after the five-hour conference was that the eight remaining members of the CEC had been re-elected.

She declined to elaborate on the identities and number of members in the committee and said all will be revealed later, although Yahoo! Singapore understands the existing members to consist mostly of party veterans and long-time loyalists.

She also declined comment on reports of an internal conflict over the leadership style and future direction of the opposition party led by her husband and party secretary-general Chiam See Tong.

Last Friday, six members officially quit the party, among them, former assistant secretary-general of the SPP Benjamin Pwee, who apologised to voters and Singaporeans, stating that the CEC had failed to "create a new consultative collective team leadership for SPP."

They also said they were "deeply sorry" for letting down the party's voters and Singaporeans and admitted that deep, long-term relationships with key CEC members had "quickly unravelled and broken down".

The statement ended by wishing Mrs Chiam and her next elected CEC "every success as they take the Party forward in their chosen direction and leadership style."

Yahoo! Singapore reported on Friday that first assistant secretary-general Wilfred Leung, second assistant secretary-general Benjamin Pwee, organising secretary Ting Sze Jiang, Malay/Muslim Affairs head Mohamad Hamim bin Aliyas, his wife Juliana Juwahir, who is also a member of the party CEC, and SME businessmen affairs head David Tan all quit the party en masse.
It's understood that Pwee and his fellow CEC members favour a more group-based and inclusive style of leadership.

The mass exodus leaves just one new face on the previous party CEC -- Jimmy Lee, who was part of the four-man team that stood with Mr Chiam in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC in last year's election.

He was not present at Sunday's OPC, but told Yahoo! Singapore last week that he is adopting a wait-and-see approach, saying that he will decide whether or not to join the party's CEC if he is co-opted into it again.

Earlier on Saturday morning, Mrs Chiam accepted the resignation of the six members and said "there is no change" at the SPP and it's "operations as normal".

She posted on her Facebook page, "They want to pursue their own interest and the party respects them on this... The party under the leadership of Mr Chiam See Tong will continue to seek new passionate and talented individuals with the right aptitude and who will pursue the opposition cause cohesively."

The post was signed off by Mr Chiam See Tong, sec-general of the SPP.

Last week, it emerged that Leung and Pwee had advised the CEC of their intention to decline being re-elected, while Tan was the first to inform the committee of his decision to resign from the party.

Tan told Yahoo! Singapore on Friday, “My reason is my sense of belief that one or two key CEC members are not willing (to accommodate) a complete change over for collective leadership and accountability, and that being the case, my presence in the party will not add credible value.”

He added that the decision to leave the party was a difficult one for both himself and “several like-minded CEC members”, whom he did not identify.

Additional reporting by Ewen Boey and Faris Mokhtar