Central Executive Committee (PAP)

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Central Executive Committee
Established 1957
Seats 18
Direct non-competitive elections
Last election

2 December 2012[1] for the 33rd Executive Committee

4 December 2016[2] for the 34th Executive Committee
Meeting place
Parliament House and the Singapore skyline - 2002.jpg

The Central Executive Committee (CEC) is the highest ruling committee within Singapore's People's Action Party (PAP) and its "inner circle". The internal concentration of power in the PAP is vested in the CEC, headed by the secretary general, the PAP's internally most powerful position.[3][4]

From the 1950s to 1984, most of Singapore's influential leaders were members of the CEC, as well as the Cabinet of Singapore and the Defence Council of Singapore.[5] The election of the CEC through the PAP cadre system has been described as a "closed system" in which "the cardinals appoint the pope and the pope appoints the cardinals".[6]


The PAP's organisational structure has Leninist roots whereby a group of elite PAP members known as cadres elect 18 CEC members from a list of candidates. Originally when this structure was organised in 1957, the outgoing committee recommended a list of candidates for the next CEC. This has been changed recently so that the CEC nominates eight members and the party caucus selects the remaining ten.

The cadre system was started in 1957 by Toh Chin Chye, in an effort to prevent the popular leftist faction of the PAP, which dominated the early Party at the grassroots level and many of its committees, and composed much of its early membership, from ever taking control of the CEC again.[7]

Before 1957, every party member could vote in CEC elections. However, on August 9, 1957, the leftists took control of the CEC, and the original founders (the "Peranakan Circle") lost control. After Lim Yew Hock, cracked down on many of the leftist leaders in the CEC in 1957 (as well as many non-PAP leftist leaders in general), the Peranakan Circle regained control of the CEC.[3][7]

First generation dynamics[edit]

The core of the PAP, the members of the first generation CEC began much of their chemistry as a basement group in the Lee Kuan Yew's house. S Rajaratnam described the CEC's tight-knit dynamics as a small jazz band, where "each musician plays the same melody, but is with considerable latitude in the precise manner in which he backs up the others".[5] Although party elections caused various members to enter and leave -- overlooking the brief 1957 loss of power to the leftists -- the core of the first generation of the CEC remained roughly the same for several election cycles up until 1984.

Singaporean Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew was the core and firm centre of the CEC, providing "forceful leadership", in the words of political scientist Tilman. However, Tilman argues he was not the strongman of the political system as is wont to be found in many developing nations, as Lee could be opposed "cautiously" by other CEC members if dissent or resistance to Lee's policies became necessary.[5]

Most internal disputes within the CEC were confined to the CEC. Generally, the team would work out a consensus in the Prime Minister's office; contentious issues were often mostly resolved by Lee's one-on-one discussions with individual CEC members. Having been previously resolved informally, the debates that the CEC would carry out before any of the "institutional policy-making forums" (Parliament, Cabinet, etc.) were thus mostly ceremonial. At these forums, the CEC would exhibit total unity. Differences in the CEC rarely emerged as part of a larger group; dissenting CEC members would voice their dissent in private to Lee Kuan Yew.[5]

Historically important members[edit]

Current Members[edit]

Title Name
Chairman Khaw Boon Wan
Vice-Chairman Yaacob Ibrahim
Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong
First Assistant Secretary-General Teo Chee Hean
Second Assistant Secretary-General Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Treasurer Lim Swee Say
Assistant Treasurer K Shanmugam
Organising Secretary Gan Kim Yong
Organising Secretary Chan Chun Sing
Organising Secretary Ong Ye Kung[A]
Members Grace Fu Hai Yien
Heng Swee Keat
Tan Chuan-Jin
Vivian Balakrishnan
Sitoh Yih Pin[B]
Masagos Zulkifli[C]
Murali Pillai[D]
Josephine Teo[E]
  1. ^ Co-opted on 5 January 2017
  2. ^ Co-opted on 5 January 2017
  3. ^ Co-opted on 5 January 2017
  4. ^ Co-opted on 5 January 2017
  5. ^ Co-opted on 11 October 2017

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "People's Action Party Central Executive Committee". People's Action Party. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "People's Action Party Central Executive Committee". People's Action Party. 5 January 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Mauzy, Diane (2002). Singapore politics under the People's Action Party. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-24653-8. 
  4. ^ "PAP announces 34th CEC". People's Action Party. Retrieved 2017-09-07. 
  5. ^ a b c d Tilman, Robert (1989). Management of success: the moulding of modern Singapore. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 53–69. ISBN 978-981-3035-42-3. 
  6. ^ Koh, Buck Song (4 April 1998). "The PAP cadre system". The Straits Times. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Lam, Peng Er (1999). Lee's lieutenants: Singapore's old guard. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-86508-172-4.