The decision by the party’s Central Executive Council (CEC) was taken after a meeting on Tuesday.
“It is of course a very difficult decision to make,” secretary general Low Thia Khiang said. “It is disappointing. Although he has made his contributions to the party in the past, however, the party believes in transparency and accountability. We cannot compromise the basic fundamental principles which we believe in. Although it is a difficult decision, it is a painful one to make, we will have to make so that the Workers’ Party and its MPs can stand tall and hold [their heads up high] to take the PAP government to account.”
What seemed to have triggered the party’s decision was how Yaw was not forthcoming with the party, the WP says. “There were some allegations made against Shin Leong’s private life, several allegations, and we feel that we have to expect our elected MPs to address the allegations in a responsible manner,” party chairman Sylvia Lim said. “Unfortunately, we do not think, in this case, our expectations have been met. We think that the public also deserve to have them addressed.”
She disclosed that the party had invited Mr Yaw to speak to the party’s council on the matter but that he has not done so. “In the face of these allegations, we would expect, especially our elected members, to come forward to address the allegations, not only to the party leadership but also to the public,” Ms Lim said. “That is the reason we feel that he has not met what we expect and he is being expelled.” Ms Lim explained that the party “had very limited information” about the allegations against Mr Yaw.
“We’ve taken this decision because we have certain expectations as far as accountability and transparency are concerned,” Ms Lim said. “We’re not making any statement on whether the allegations are true or not. We’re saying that we expect, especially our MPs, to be responsible. So that’s the reason why we’re taking the decision and we feel it is only fair for Hougang voters to have another chance to make their decision.”
The expulsion was a collective one made by the party’s leadership, said Non-constituency MP, Gerald Giam, adding that the decision was not unanimously supported by members of the council. However, Mr Low said “[there was] a clear majority for the motion to expel Yaw from the party.”
Mr Pritam Singh said the key point in the whole saga was when the press started to report that there were more than one other individual involved in the alleged affairs with Yaw.
“At that point, the party realised that there could be more individuals and we were not in the know of what information was in the hands of the media, who are these women, what are the details, we did not know any of that,” Mr Pritam said. “With more individuals coming to the fore, we did not feel that keeping quiet was an option anymore. The obligation to be upfront with the people, to be upfront with the party, to the voters, took a new turn. He continued, in his course of action, to remain silent and we did not feel that was in keeping with the standards the Workers’ Party expects from its elected MPs.”
“The action that we’ve taken may no doubt be deemed by some to be very drastic,” said Ms Lim, “but we feel that this is something necessary for us to do and it is in the public interest to do that. We like to assure the public that we are serious in our commitment to maintain high standards.”
A source close to the party said he is saddened by what has transpired but that the party has made the right decision. Speaking to publichouse.sg on condition of anonymity, he said the truth was that the party had given Mr Yaw ample time to come forward and explain himself.
“From the time the news first emerged to now, it’s been almost a month,” he said. “The party believed in giving him ample time despite the pressure from the public.” He also echoed what Ms Lim said at the press conference, that “there’s no selection process which is fool-proof.”
Ms Glenda Han, who was a member of the WP team in Ang Mo Kio GRC – led by Mr Yaw then - in the 2006 General Election, posted the following on her Facebook page:
“With this stand taken, I hope this step also cements the faith and trust Singaporeans have in us to uphold and stand for what we believe in.”
Online reactions so far seem to concur with her and many have expressed support for the WP’s decision.
In the meantime, all eyes will now be on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to call for a by-election in Hougang.