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JBJ to set up “The Reform Party” (Report)

Posted by theonlinecitizen on May 20, 2007

Video of the press conference is at the end of this article.

Recently discharged from bankruptcy, former Workers’ Party chief JB Jeyaretnam announced that he is registering a new political party.

Wearing a polo shirt with the words “The Truth Will Set You Free”, Mr Jeyaretnam fired off a list of issues which he wants reformed or corrected. Among them, the rule of law, the courts, the police, the civil service, the trade unions, the media and the election process.

The litany of these issues took up almost one hour of his press conference.

The president’s salary: Criticising the president’s salary, Mr Jeyaretnam called it “an abuse of public funds” and asked why the president needed to be paid such a high salary. He also criticized the election of the president. “He was no more elected than Lee Kuan Yew was elected minister mentor”, he said.

Election process: “We got to do away completely with the election process. We got to take the election process and give it to an independent body – an independent election commission.”

The courts: Mr Jeyaretnam called for a judicial commission which will have the power to appoint judges, and taking this power away from the prime minister. “In a country with a constitution, the courts are the most important, even more important than parliament. The courts are the guardians of the constitution.”

The police and law enforcement agencies: “The police should be moved out of ministerial control….We should have the police turned into a corporation, like in Britain, answerable to parliament.”

The trade unions: Calling for the trade unions to be independent, Mr Jeyaretnam asked, “What other country in the world has a cabinet minister as head of a trade union?”

The press: Apologising to members of the media who were present, he described the press as a ‘scandal’. “The press in Singapore is the voice of the government. It’s time we had an independent press worthy of our society.”

Mr Jeyaretnam then surprised many in the audience by announcing that he is forming a new political party. This new party will solely be focused on effecting “a complete change in the way that this country is being run.” Thus, the tentative name he has chosen for the party is “The Reform Party”. “But I will have to see if the others in the party will agree.”

“I have spent all these years of my life trying to do something for them (Singaporeans). I’m already 81. And I’ve to tell Singaporeans that we’ve got to say enough is enough. We’ve had enough now. I would like Singaporeans to say that they want a complete change with the way the country has been run.”

Urging Singaporeans to join him and his new party, Mr Jeyaretnam said he only wants “Singaporeans who want a change in this country. It’s time for change.”

“If any Singaporean is happy with the system in Singapore at the moment, he shouldn’t come to us. Go and see Mr Chiam See Tong or Low Thia Khiang who are happy with the system.”

Criticising the Workers’ Party secretary general, Mr Jeyaretnam quoted MM Lee Kuan Yew as saying “Mr Low Thia Khiang did a good job in getting Jeyaretnam out of the Workers’ Party.” He added, “I’m sure Low must have known that when he opposed the party doing anything to help me, he was serving the cause of the PAP. The PAP wanted me to be kept as a bankrupt.”

Turning to his new party, Mr Jeyaretnam said he ‘wanted hundreds of Singaporeans to come and join us.” He also revealed that he has ‘more than’ the 9 persons he needed to register the new party.

Suggesting that the party could be called “The Reform Party”, he said this is because ‘reform will be its main plank – reform the system of government, reform society, all sectors of society.”

Asked by a Reuters journalist about funding for his new party, Mr Jeyaretnam said that there will be a subscription fee to join the party.

“If Singaporeans aren’t interested, they don’t want a new party dedicated tot his objective, well so be it. But if Singaporeans come forward, I hope they will also bring the money with them.”

Asked if he would join the Singapore Democratic Party instead of forming a new party and if he has spoken to Dr Chee, who champions some of the same issues as him, Mr Jeyaretnam said he hasn’t spoken to Dr Chee.

“I want to found a party which is totally dedicated to this – change in government and the society. And I think it will be good to start anew – a new name, a new party, a breakaway from all the other parties.”

Mr Jeyaretnam’s answer to the question of whether he sees himself contesting the next elections under this new party was, “I don’t see why not – unless, of course, the government moves against me again.”

Would he be running for the next elections, considering that he is already 81 years old?

“Well, I don’t know. It’s in the hands of the man above there, whether I will have the strength and the health. But even if I can’t, I hope to be able to get others who share the same ideals to run.”

His next task, Mr Jeyaretnam said, is to get his practising licence back. He will “do counsel work and take up cases which no one in Singapore is willing to take up.”

This report is by Andrew Loh, who is also a member of the Workers’ Party and the owner of theonlinecitizen. Any bias in the report is not intentional.

Read also Choo Zheng Xi’s commentary on Mr Jeyaretnam’s return to politics: JBJ’s return to politics – Method in the madness?

Channelnewsasia’s report is here.

Reuters’ report is here.

Below is part one of the video on the press conference, courtesy of watchtower.

Part two is here.



16 Responses to “JBJ to set up “The Reform Party” (Report)”

  1. article19 said

    Thanks for the report. Did you take photos or video of the press conference? 🙂

  2. Hi Pseudonymity…
    Yes, I did bring a video cam. Thing is, the audio was terrible. So, I’m not going to put it up. I’m sure someone else will.

    *Update: Indeed someone else has. Thanks to “watchtower”, the video is now posted.

  3. A Sammyboy forummer said

    Andrew Loh might be a WP member but his report is far from biased. He did not censor off the part about JBJ criticizing LTK, not like our 154th censoring bad things about PAP and they are not even PAP members.

    Just my thoughts on the man. What surprises me is JBJ remarks that LTK got him out of WP and served the PAP cause by refusing to help him. I’m saying this with all due respect to JBJ who has fought for a better S’pore.

    First, JBJ knew he resigned on his own and LKY is wrong to say LTK got him out. Why is JBJ propagating his own enemy’s lie? Second, the arguments he uses on LTK that he is serving PAP’s cause, if applied on himself, makes it subjective who is serving PAP’s cause. JBJ paid PAP money and enriched them, his lawsuit also became his party’s lawsuit and JBJ still expected them to help him and in the end he sued his own party.

    Third, JBJ seems to believe he’s the only one capable of making things happen for WP and opposition. He’s the only one who has to be out of bankruptcy, not the rest. Over the years as WP leader, he not helped his own members get out of trouble, like Gopalan Nair, Francis Seow, Tang Liang Hong etc. Later, he did not help Chee Soon Juan with his lawsuit. But he blames WP for not helping him. JBJ may be brave but the opposition cause is bigger than one man no matter how big a name he has.

  4. […] Posted by article19 on May 21st, 2007 My thanks to watchtowerv for the video of JBJ’s press conference yesterday and TheOnlineCitizen for its report. […]

  5. If I am in his shoe, I will use the $233,255 sum of money to pay for election candidates in the next election. If one needs $20,000, about 21 cnadidates can stand for election on the oppsition side.

    He is already old about 82 years old. How long can he live ? The opposition needs money to support more candidates to stand for election. It is sheer waste of donation by others to clear him of bankcrupcy.

  6. AC said

    JBJ is a spent force in Singaporean politics.

    His a brand of politics that is tried and proven to be a failure – the PAP have proven time and again they are willing and able to sue him silly, and it is an inevitability that bankruptcy will strike him before the next election if he remotely represented a threat. Like Kew said, the money spent on getting him out of bankruptcy is poorly spent.

    I see a distinct possibility of him playing the role of a spoiler in the next election given his disdain for the 2 existing opposition MPs. If and should JBJ contest any electorate that is already targeted by the SDA/WP a lose lose situation develops for the opposition where opposition votes get divided up and weakened.

    If and when this worst case scenario happens, I wonder if LKY will praise JBJ.

  7. Guy said

    Actually I don’t understand why JBJ has to defame LTK for no rhyme & reason. Does he know by saying LTK “was serving the cause of the PAP” he is doing the same as SDP when they challenged CST to join PAP which CST sued SDP. Lucky for him LTK don’t look like the suing type & I don’t think he’ll sue his former master…… but this is a sign of JBJ’s unchanged carelessness & a future glimpse of more legal suits coming his way if he comes back to politics & repeats such comments on PAP. Sigh…… a waste of his 2 son’s money & money of his supporters.

  8. sarek said

    There is a podcast hear of the press statement for those who are interested:

    Permalink 06:54:40 pm, by uncleyap Email , 139 words, 4 views English (CA)
    Categories: (1) Press Statements
    Podcast of Mr. JBJ Press Conference 20.May.2007

    Size of the above file is approx. 8.5MB and playback length is over 1 hr. It is the voice recording of Mr. JBJ at press conference on 20.May.2007. Please download and save this file, which may take 5 mins on broadband connections.

  9. Hi guys,

    I think it will be amistake to write off JBJ. He’s been at it for decades and I am quite sure that he will have some impact on the next elections – if he stands.

    Having said that, whether the impact will be enough to cause any real threat to the PAP is left to be seen. Perhaps the more significant result of his “return” will be on the opposition camp itself.

    Depending on who joins his new party (if indeed he forms one), the different parties of the opposition will have to re-assess their game plans. This is because JBJ is a recognised name and he can practically contest anywhere – including Tanjong Pagar GRC – and may get a good result.

    But the next elections are still some ways away. Much can happen. Lets see the constitution of his new party first – the members, potential candidates, funding, ground troops, and the stance that the new party will take.

    Still, JBJ should not be written off just yet.

    Just my personal opinion.


  10. Hey Sarek,

    Thanks for the info… 🙂

  11. JK said

    I take issue with JBJ’s points about the following:

    The courts: Mr Jeyaretnam called for a judicial commission which will have the power to appoint judges, and taking this power away from the prime minister. “In a country with a constitution, the courts are the most important, even more important than parliament. The courts are the guardians of the constitution.”

    – Any decent student of administrative law will recognise that this is controversial. Of course the courts should recognise that they have to watch the government if the government does something against individuals which affects their rights. BUT on the other hand, in many circumstances the courts neither have the democratic mandate to make and carry out policy, nor the expertise in doing so. EVEN IF we add in clauses into the constitution which require judges to scrutinise all laws passed so that their effect on rights ( e.g. like article 6 of the constitution) is no more than necessary to take care of the public interest, different judges can come to perfectly legitimate and different conclusions about where the line should be drawn.

    Take the ISA for instance. Would this piece of legislation be unconstitutional? No.

    Judge X might take the view that the protection of habeas corpus is so fundamental that no public interest can justify detention without trial.

    Judge Y might take the view, however, that while detention without trial is a serious infringement on rights, nevertheless since the Home Affairs minister is given the mandate to protect the public from terrorists, he can do so as long as he does it in good faith; that the courts are not constitutionally competent to decide on matters of national security; and that furthermore, the ISA was passed through parliament in the proper manner and form and therefore is good legislation.

    Judge Z however, might take the view that while the arguments made by Judge Y are all correct, nevertheless the court is not going to defer to the judgment of the Home Affair Minister- the latter must convince the court, in closed session if necessary, that on the balance of probability there are good reasons to detain the terrorist suspect without trial.

    NONE of the above can be said to be “wrong” points of view. I hope the discussion above has given an inkling of the complexity of issues involved in human rights cases.

    The police and law enforcement agencies: “The police should be moved out of ministerial control….We should have the police turned into a corporation, like in Britain, answerable to parliament.”


    ( I just had to scream this out. Just because JBJ says this doesn’t make him right).

  12. sarek said

    Let me try to clarify the issues raised by JK.

    the courts neither have the democratic mandate to make and carry out policy, nor the expertise in doing so.

    It is never a court’s job to make or carry out policy. The court’s job is to decide if the legislative branch’s action of making policy or the executive branch’s action of carrying out policy or executive order violate the constitution. The court can only rule on such issues when someone file a case against the legislative branch or the executive branch. It can never act on its own desire actively review the actions of the legislative branch or executive branch.

    The Supreme Court judges in USA are nominated by the president and confirmed by the congress to receive indirect democratic mandate. The USA Supreme Court judges do not rule on constitutional issues alone. The decision is based on the majority vote of a panel of judges to address the different judges can come to perfectly legitimate and different conclusions about where the line should be drawn concern.

    In Singapore context, that entity is the Constitutional Court.

    Think Centre calls for Constitutional Court decision and Moratorium on death penalty …

    My understanding is that Mr Jeyaretnam called for a judicial commission which will have the power to appoint judges is not limited to constitutional issues but also include lower court judges like those hearing his and Dr Chee’s cases.

  13. sarek said


    JBJ was brief on this topic. So, I can be sure if what JK’s comment was based on fair understanding on what JBJ has in mind.

    The following may be what JBJ has in mind:

    How is the MPA structured?
    The MPA Board is made up of 23 members: twelve members from the Assembly (including the Deputy Mayor), four magistrates and seven independents. One of the independents is a direct appointment by the Home Secretary. The Chair of the MPA is chosen by the members themselves – all of the 23 members are eligible for this position. The Mayor may appoint twelve members of the London Assembly to the MPA Board.

    Who will appoint the Metropolitan Police Commissioner?
    The appointment of the Commissioner will continue to be a Royal appointment made following a recommendation by the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary must have regard to any recommendations by the MPA and any representations from the Mayor before making his own recommendation.

    I believe JBJ was reasoning in the direction of having something like this Metropolitan Police Authority to manage the daily operations of the police force. In the case of MPA Board that is made up of 23 members from different authorities to manage the police operations.

    The idea is to have the Home Ministry to delegate the management of police daily operations to a more neutral and independent entity. It can reduce the chance of certain individual controlling the police force to act against public interests.

  14. If JBJ wants to reform Singapore’s political process, it will be good for Singapore.

    However he needs to be consistent and focused and not be drawn into acrimony with the ruling party over diverse personal issues.

    I am sure he will get a lot more support from other active citizens if he avoids such pitfalls.

    He could start with proposals for example to amend the constitution, set up independent judiciary, police force, civil servants etc. These various proposals would be enough for a start and not be distracted by other issues of personal nature.

    Personal issues will take care of themselves when the fundamental issues are addressed.

    Please read proposals to amend the constitution, introduce process management for collective leadership, revamp the top-down leadership system etc as posted at [url][/url]

  15. Gabriel Yee said

    Mr JBJ, first of all i would like to point out that it would be great to have some opposition voices in parliament that actually POINT OUT glaring errors in our system. Whilst i cannot agree with all (in fact most of) the issues you have raised, id just like to point out a couple of things.
    You mentioned the HEALTHCARE COSTS. As a 2nd year medical student myself at NUS, and having read up and being lectured formally on healthcare issues, i must say that the rising healthcare costs is NOT ENTIRELY a result of the government’s mismanagement/tyranny. Heatlhcare costs are generally rising, but actually the government has being doing a GOOD JOB in keeping its PROPORTION of healthcare spending down (something like 3.3% of GDP in 2000 im not too sure of the exact. But the range the WHO recommends is anywhere between 1-6% of GDP) Actually the healthcare costs (as proportion of GDP) have been going DOWN and singaporeans are definitely getting better and better healthcare. I am not being biased here just because i am a medical student as you might probably think and if you happen to see this, i will be happy to discuss these issues with you.
    With regard to courts, i do agree with you that the prime minister SHOULD NOT select the judges. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and as we can see from history so many times, a corrupt/incompetent judiciary was the cause of many a country’s downfall.

    That being said, I hope that you would take care of your health and that God will continue to grant you the good health to pursue the issues. But i pray that you would consider the issues that you raise very carefully, because in my humble opinion, not all of them are valid and in fact some of them are very wrong ways of looking at things.
    However, you really do have my family’s and my respect for all you have been trying to do these past few years and you will be in my prayers. God bless.

  16. ng teck siong said

    Gabrial, I certainly appreciate the points you have raised in this website and that you disagree with some of the issues Mr.JBJ have raised while also agreeing with some. It is good to differ but it is even better to know more and find out Why Mr.JBJ has raises these issues. So as chairman of the new REFORM PARTY,I invite you to come down to our party’s office at l8A Smith Street, in Chinatown or call me on my handphone 91179350.May be a fuller discussion of many of the issues may enlighten us deeper. Your point about our courts is very good indeed and that history had proved many countries’s downfall because this. Thank you.

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