SINGAPORE — Dr Tan Cheng Bock, the leader of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), announced on Friday (17 January) new additions to the party’s central executive committee (CEC), including a new assistant secretary-general.
Speaking at the party’s Chinese New Year dinner to a crowd of more than 500 members and guests at Ban Heng Restaurant at Harbourfront Centre, Dr Tan said that, with the five new CEC members as well as numerous members stepping up, PSP is no longer a “Tan Cheng Bock” party.
The new CEC members are assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai, and members Francis Yuen, Andrew Ng, Ong Seow Yong and Chika Tan.
New assistant sec-gen has background in finance
Leong, founder and chief executive officer of investment firm Timbre Capital, will be replacing former assistant secretary-general Anthony Lee Yung Hwee, who is stepping down from the position to take care of his daughter.
Michelle Lee, 43, who was already in the CEC, will also be replacing K S Singam as vice-chairman.
Addressing the crowd, Leong, 60, said that even though he was initially reluctant to join the group, he was moved by Dr Tan’s “selfless dedication”. Both men had been acquainted while attending events for the Raffles Institution alumni.
“When I shared my intention with my friends (my decision to join), all of them advised me against it although all of them agreed that change is needed for Singapore,” said Leong, who has a background in finance as a fund manager and investment banker, with a stint as managing director of OCBC Securities.
Calling himself a “political rookie”, he added that he would have to “work hard to earn the people’s recognition on top of my paper qualifications”.
Citing Leong’s background, Dr Tan said that he would bring “managerial, organisational and financial competence” into the party.
The additions bring PSP’s CEC member count to 18.
House visits in West Coast GRC
Representatives from other opposition parties and other notable personnel were present at the dinner.
Peoples Voice (PV) leader Lim Tean, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan and chairman Paul Tambyah, as well as Workers’ Party (WP) CEC member Gerald Giam were seen in attendance, with Dr Chee and Lim seated beside each other. Historian Thum Ping Tjin also attended the dinner.
Dr Tan’s announcements came five days after the party conducted its first house visits since its launch in August last year.
On 12 January, he had led more than 200 party members and volunteers in their door-to-door home visits in West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
Dr Tan was previously Member of Parliament (MP) in the single-seat Ayer Rajah constituency for six terms until it became subsumed under West Coast GRC in 2006. He was an MP for 26 years.
Speculations on opposition alliance
Friday’s dinner also follows speculation of a possible four-party alliance by opposition parties Singaporeans First party, Democratic Progressive Party, People's Power Party and Reform Party.
When asked, Dr Tan did not rule out a coalition, stating that the party will “work with all opposition parties and will be able to work out arrangements nearer to the general elections”.
“I just want to have a loose association now...we will wait and see because each political party has its own agenda, so I’ll have to see how best I can gel with them.”
Asked if PSP was in talks with other parties, Dr Tan replied “of course”, naming WP, SDP and PV as possible allies.
Speaking to the media, Dr Tan also addressed queries related to his personal assistant, CEC member Alex Tan Tiong Hee, who was recently reported to have described leaders of the four-party opposition alliance as captains of "sinking boats" who were "clasping one another's hands to save themselves from drowning".
Dr Tan reiterated a statement that the party had earlier put up, distancing itself from Alex Tan’s views.
“I think sometimes little hiccups here and there don’t worry too much. His views didn’t represent mine; it’s not PSP’s views,” he said.
He rejected the view that Alex Tan’s words could have negatively impacted PSP’s relationship with other opposition parties.
“In politics sometimes things do happen, don’t be too worked up by it. You must look at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is to... get all together,” he said.