With unanimous votes, the Workers’ Party yesterday displayed the traits of a mature and sound organisation. The election, which in it’s nature should be divisive, has turned out to be an indicator of the party unity was settled in less than a day. Compare this to the ruling party PAP, Lee Hsien Loong is still undecided who to select to be his successor even after 3 years. There has been hypes about a “4G leadership” but nobody has emerged a winner at the PAP camp while Ministers continue to elbow each other for the multi-million dollar PM role.
However, the successful transition at the Workers’ Party particularly hinged on one person’s sacrifice: Chen Show Mao. Given his impressive resume and outstanding performance in Parliament, the former Rhodes scholar has with him a significant pool of supporters who prefer he take over the WP. The election yesterday would have turned out to be an ugly one, if Chen Show Mao did not make the gentleman’s route to rally his support behind Pritam Singh.
According to a WP cadre, Chen Show Mao met up with his supporters weeks before the election yesterday and explained to them why he is not contesting for the secretary general position. The party is greater than the man, is his message. Chen Show Mao is a team player and he believes in democracy, unlike the monarchic leadership of the PAP.
Given Chen Show Mao’s credentials, he can readily set up a new political party anytime. There would be scores of followers, and Chen Show Mao can easily take down any Single Member Constituency like Chiam See Tong did. Chen Show Mao can start fresh, away from the town council “improper payment” accusations by the ruling party. But he did not. The seasoned MP rallied behind Pritam Singh, and directed his supporters to prioritise party unity.
Yesterday was not the first time Chen Show Mao played the unsung hero. In 2016, Chen Show Mao played the villain and launch a surprise challenge with Low Thia Khiang for the sect-gen position. Chen Show Mao lost 61-45, a considerable feat considering Low Thia Khiang’s decades of stewardship. It is tantamount to a Minister challenging Lee Kuan Yew for the PM’s position, nobody does that. While many speculated and even threw unsubstantiated accusations at Chen Show Mao, the truth is he sacrificed himself to remind the party the need for a new leadership. Chen Show Mao stepped into the mud himself to send a message to the party leadership: it is time for succession planning. True enough, the good old wise man Low Thia Khiang accepted the signal and less than 2 years later today, a new sect-gen is elected.