While plans for 84-year old opposition veteran Chiam See Tong to step down have not been explicitly spelled out, party chair Mrs Lina Chiam commented about the time being “ripe to set the stage for leadership renewal”, and that the Chiams were going to make way for new blood.
According to SPP members who spoke to the media, in looking at possible secretary-general candidates, the two touted as front-runners are the party’s current organising secretary and former head of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) Steve Chia, or a former Singapore Environment Council executive director and press secretary to Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Jose Raymond.
Steve Chia, 48, who joined the NSP in 1995, was an NCMP from 2002 to 2006.
Although he had indicated that he would likely contest in MacPherson for the 2015 General Elections, he abruptly dropped out of the polls, citing the emergence of a website that listed details about a 2003 photo scandal he was embroiled in.
Jose Raymond, 47, joined SPP late in 2017.
He has been involved in party activities in Potong Pasir SMC and Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency.
Raymond is a former journalist and press secretary to Dr Balakrishnan when he was Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.
He is the deputy chairman of the Chiam See Tong Sports Foundation, which aims to help youth from needy families through their participation in sports.
TISG reached out to both Jose Raymond and Steve Chia for comment.
Raymond told TISG, “Mr Chiam See Tong helped my family when we were at our lowest points in life, with barely enough to keep our heads above water.
His unconditional generosity allowed us to have a roof over our heads.
I will forever be indebted to the Chiams for what they did for my family and will always pay it forward”.
When asked, Chia said, “It is a big shoe to fill in. Whoever takes over will need the full support of Party members, Mrs Chiam and the new CEC team to ensure that Mr Chiam’s legacy lives on for future generations.
I will ensure that we together as a team, will put in our best effort to make that legacy last”
Mr Chiam last contested in the 2011 GE, when he moved out of his Potong Pasir stronghold — which he had helmed since 1984 — to stand as part of a five-member team at Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency (GRC). But the SPP team, which secured 43 per cent of the votes, lost to the People’s Action Party which won with 56.9 per cent of the votes.
In that same election, Mrs Chiam who stood in Potong Pasir in his place, lost the seat to PAP’s Mr Sitoh Yih Pin — marking an end to the opposition’s 27-year reign in the Single Member Constituency. -/TISG