Workers' Party's (WP) has expelled Yaw Shin Leong from the party with immediate effect, paving the way for a by-election in the single member constituency of Hougang.
Party chairman Sylvia Lim said Yaw was expelled "because he has not addressed allegations” in his private life.
Yaw was alleged to have had an extra-marital affair with a married female opposition party member.
At a media conference at its Syed Alwi headquarters on Wednesday evening, the WP said the decision, while not unanimous, was made collectively after the Central Executive Council (CEC) met for a group vote the night before.
“The party believes in transparency and accountability," said WP chief Low Thia Khiang. It was a difficult decision to make but it was a necessary one so that Workers’ Party’s MPs can stand tall and hold their heads up to take the PAP government to account [sic].”
Low added that to his knowledge of the party's 55-year history, this is the first time a member of the party has been expelled in this manner.
“It may sound drastic but we feel it is necessary and in the public interest to do so, to show that we are serious in our commitment to maintain high standards," said Lim.
Lim added the CEC had invited Yaw to come forward and explain himself several times but he failed to attend the meetings. The 35-year-old Yaw also failed to show up for a meeting scheduled on Tuesday.
Lim said that from the time news of the allegations broke, there was nothing stopping him from approaching the council to speak to them.
"He has fallen short of the standards we expect in terms of responsible behaviour," she said.
"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. And that is the reason why we feel that he has not met what we expect."
When asked why the party took so long to break its silence, Lim said they were not privy to many facts and hence were not in a position to address the substance of the allegations.
Lim also said that she spoke with Yaw's wife on Wednesday morning, after failed attempts to reach Yaw himself, and was told that they were both aware of the decision that the CEC had made the night before.
Should Hougang residents be worried?
Lim maintained that Yaw's weekly Meet-the-People Sessions will continue as usual, except that other Workers' Party MPs will be "filling in" in the interim.
With the Hougang seat vacant, a by-election is set to be held under the Consititution. The exact date, expected to be within three to six months, will be set by Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong who will advise President Tony Tan to issue a writ for a by-election in Hougang SMC.
When asked if one of the WP NCMPs might step forward to the slate, Lim said they would not rule out the possibility but will only confirm the selected candidate come nomination day for the by-election.
Even though the party has enjoyed a more-than 20-year reign over the constituency, Lim emphasised that they "will not be resting on (their) laurels", and will be preparing for the expected by-election as they do for any other.
Lim also added that there is a possibility for Yaw to appeal the decision to the party's cadre conference, but whether or not he should do so is entirely up to him.
STATEMENT FROM THE WORKERS' PARTY, 15 FEBRUARY
The Workers’ Party has expelled Yaw Shin Leong from the party with immediate effect.
WP believes strongly in transparency and accountability, and expects no less from our party members, especially our Members of Parliament.
Shin Leong has been accused of several indiscretions in his private life. By continuing not to account to the Party and the people, especially the residents of Hougang, he has broken the faith, trust and expectations of the Party and People.
This is a difficult and painful decision for us. Shin Leong has been a core member of the Party leadership for more than 10 years, and has made significant and unique contributions towards WP’s growth. He has also served the residents of Hougang diligently. However, the Council has decided that it is in the public interest to take this step.
We also believe it is only fair to the Hougang residents that they have another opportunity to elect their Member of Parliament.
We apologise for having to put them through a by-election.
We wish to assure Hougang residents that they will continue to be served by the Party until the by-election is called.
The Meet the People sessions in Hougang will continue, with the other MPs covering. Residents are free to contact any WP MP for assistance. In addition, town council services will continue to be provided under the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.
Finally, we wish to thank the public for their concern towards the Party and for walking with us through this difficult period.
Over at Hougang on Wednesday evening, a quiet tension seemed to grip residents who were shocked by the news announced mere hours before.
More than 60 curious onlookers were spotted outside Block 310, Hougang Avenue 5, where Lim filled in for former MP Yaw's weekly MPS at its void deck. Some were eager to see who was there in Yaw's place, some were looking for more information about when the by-election will be and who will be fielded for it, and others were simply wondering if--perhaps even hoping-- something dramatic would happen.
Appearing between 8:30 and 8:45pm was NCMP Yee Jenn Jong, who recently took over Yaw's treasurer position in the WP's central executive committee. He told the circle of gathered reporters who flocked round that he was simply there on a routine basis to help Lim out. He also helped clear the air for residents who were puzzled or misinformed about the latest developments regarding their former MP.
The biggest surprise, however, came from WP chief Low, who arrived at the MPS to cheers and applause after concluding his own MPS in Aljunied slightly earlier than usual. Residents gathered there certainly seemed to reinforce their constituency's majority support for the WP, though, but it remains to be seen who the party will elect to field in the long-WP-held SMC, given that its residents' longtime favourite is no longer available to stand for by-elecion.
Reporting by Jeanette Tan