THE National Solidarity Party (NSP) has lost one of its top leaders: its acting secretary-general Hazel Poa resigned from the party on Wednesday and has pulled out of the upcoming general election (GE) altogether.
The 44-year-old announced her surprise departure in a statement, saying she "strongly disagreed" with the NSP's decision to contest the MacPherson single-seat ward after all.
Barely an hour later, the NSP's central executive committee (CEC) revealed it would field a candidate in MacPherson - despite having earlier withdrawn its interest to allow the Workers' Party (WP) to go head-to-head with the ward's incumbent Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling.
In her statement, Ms Poa disclosed that the CEC had decided to support fellow council member Steve Chia's request to contest in MacPherson, effectively turning it into a three-cornered fight.
"It was a decision I strongly disagreed with, and hence not one I could implement. As the direction that the party has decided to pursue deviates greatly from my own, I see no choice other than to resign from the NSP," she said.
Just last week, the NSP had said that it did not want to field candidates in either MacPherson or the Marine Parade group representation constituency (GRC), in order to avoid a three-cornered fight with the WP in those two areas.
Explaining its abrupt U-turn from that decision, the NSP said its leaders had received feedback and pledges of support in recent weeks from "many residents" in Marine Parade and MacPherson.
The CEC said it had deliberated at length and decided to strike a balance between avoiding "unnecessary conflict" and keeping faith with the party's supporters.
While it will not contest Marine Parade on the merit that the GRC's Joo Chiat ward was previously contested by the WP, the NSP will go ahead in MacPherson, where "considerable outreach" had been done before the last GE in May 2011.
The CEC said in its statement: "This decision by the CEC is final, and reflects our view that maintaining opposition unity requires mutual respect and a spirit of compromise on the part of all parties."
As for Ms Poa, she maintained that her departure would not result in the NSP being "leaderless", given that the party's main leader is its president Sebastian Teo.
She added: "While I disagree with the decision that has been taken, I respect the right of the CEC as the decision-making body of the party to make that call. I wish NSP all the best in the coming GE.
"I would like to thank all who have encouraged me on my journey and given me helpful pointers, including members of NSP and other political parties, the public and the media. I apologise to all whom I have disappointed. My own disappointment is no less. For me, the coming months will be a time for reflection."
This is the second time that she has resigned from the NSP. The former government scholar was the party's secretary-general from June 2011 to September 2013, when she stepped down for health reasons. She was appointed acting secretary-general in June this year, after Tan Lam Siong, the previous chief, resigned.