Gomez was a member of the Workers' Party from 2001 to 2006 and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) from 2010 to 2015. He also served as the Executive Director of Singaporeans for Democracy (a former non-governmental organisation) from 2010 to 2012 and he was a founding Executive Director of Think Centre, Singapore's oldest political association in 1999.
Gomez came to national attention in Singapore during the 2006 general election campaign following an incident in which he accused the Elections Department of losing his minority-race candidate's application form, but was later forced to apologise when closed-circuit television evidence showed that he had placed the form in his briefcase. He stood as a member of the Workers' Party's team in the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency at the election, ultimately losing to the team of the governing People's Action Party (PAP) in the constituency by 44% of the votes to 56%.
Gomez has previously been the Deputy Associate Dean (International) at the School of Humanities, Communications and Social Sciences at Monash University (Australia) and has lectured and conducted research at various tertiary institutions including Thammasat University (Thailand), Mahidol University (Thailand) Universiti Utara Malaysia, Keio University (Japan) and United International College (China). Gomez was also a Programme Officer at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Sweden, and a Research and Project Manager for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
Gomez was born in 1965. His father, Thomas Vincent Gomez, was a founder and prominent member of the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Worker's Union (SMMWU).
Gomez studied at Serangoon Secondary School and Nanyang Junior College before going on to the National University of Singapore (NUS) from 1988–92, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Political Science. He then completed a Master of Arts degree in Politics and Human Rights at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom in 1994.
Gomez was appointed as a Visiting Associate at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore in 1995, and was as a Visiting Researcher at the National Institute of Education Centre for Research in 1997–98. He taught a course on the NUS Southeast Asian Studies programme in 1997, and on the University of Leeds distance learning Master's degree programme in Asia-Pacific Studies from 1997–2000. He occasionally contributed book reviews that appeared in The Straits Times and other local publications. He also wrote opinion pieces on culture and identity that appeared in various local magazines.
Gomez began working for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Asia in 1996. He also continued his interest in academia through several research organisations and tertiary institutions. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Media and Communications Department at the Hong Kong Baptist University in 2002, and also presented guest seminars at the University of Hong Kong. From 2002–04, he co-ordinated and guest lectured on a course on International Ethics and Human Rights at Thammasat University in Thailand, and was also an Adjunct Lecturer on the Human Rights Programme at Thailand's Mahidol University.
In 2004, Gomez began studying for a Ph.D. at the Monash Asia Institute of Monash University in Australia. While he was there, he co-ordinated a publication project entitled the Singapore Studies Workshop Series, which resulted in three special issue journals (two in print and 1 online). They include SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia vol 20/2 (October 2005) as a special focus issue entitled "Democracy and Civil Society: NGO Politics in Singapore"; Asia Rights (online journal) issue 5 (December 2005) "Human Rights Spotlight: Singapore"; and the Copenhagen Journal of Asia Studies vol 23 (July 2006) "Stability, Risks and Opposition in Singapore".
Gomez also worked as a Programme Officer at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Sweden from 2006 to 2008. From 2008–09, Gomez was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Political Science at Keio University in Japan. In between May 2009 to end May 2011 Gomez was the Deputy Associate Dean (International) and Head of Public Relations at the School of Humanities, Communications and Social Sciences at Monash University.
Gomez presently serves on the editorial board of Asia Rights, an online journal of human rights produced by the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) at the Australian National University.
Gomez was a founding editor of Think Centre (an NGO which works on democracy, rule of law and human rights issues in Singapore) and served as the Executive Directory of Singaporeans for Democracy (a former human rights NGO). During 2015, Gomez co-founded the Asia Centre, an educational enterprise based in Bangkok that seeks to connect peoples and regions through collaborative partnerships.
In 2015, Gomez along with other Singaporean activists, nominated Dr Chia Thye Poh for the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of the 32 years Dr Chia spent as a prisoner of conscience and his pioneering work of speaking up for political and other freedoms in Singapore.
Gomez has written extensively on civil society, democracy, human rights and new media in Singapore and in the Southeast Asian region.
His first book was Self Censorship: Singapore's Shame (1999). He then went on to write Internet Politics: Surveillance and Intermediation in Singapore and other academic articles on new media and politics on Singapore and countries in the Southeast Asia region. For his work on and off the internet he was ranked as one of Asia's 50 most powerful communicators in 2001.
Gomez joined the Workers' Party in 2001. He was a member of the Workers' Party team which attempted to contest the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency at the 2001 general election, but were disqualified because their nomination papers were incomplete. The name of the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) they were intending to contest had not been written down on the form.
He stood as a member of the Workers' Party's team in the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency at the election, ultimately losing to the team of the governing People's Action Party (PAP) in the constituency by 44% of the votes to 56%.
Accusations and Subsequent Apologies Towards Electoral board
In the lead up to the election, Gomez drew international attention when he accused the Elections Department of losing his minority-race candidate's application form.
The "James Gomez Saga" attracted considerable media attention during the 2006 general election. It began after Gomez claimed that he had submitted his minority-race candidate's application form during a visit to the Elections Department with Workers' Party Chairman Sylvia Lim on 24 April. (As teams of candidates in GRCs must include a minority-race candidate, a candidate from each party's team in a GRC must make such an application before the election.) Two days later, Gomez called in at the Elections Department to enquire about the status of the form. He was indignant when he was told that they had not received his form, and he told an officer from the department that there would be "consequences" if it had been misplaced. The following day, the Elections Department confirmed that their closed-circuit television footage had revealed that Gomez had in fact put the form in his bag and left the building without submitting it.
On 29 April 29, Gomez apologised after the release of the CCTV evidence and admitted that he had not filed his application, contrary to his earlier claims. He said that he had been distracted by his busy schedule. (His failure to submit the form did not prevent the Workers' Party team from running in Aljunied GRC because they had a second minority candidate on their team, Mohammed Rahizan bin Yaacob, who had submitted the required paperwork.)
PAP candidate Inderjit Singh speculated that Gomez's non-submission of the form may have been an intentional ploy to try and gain publicity and cause confusion. Gomez responded by insisting that he had made a genuine mistake and called for others to "move on" from the issue. On the eve of polling day, the Workers' Party leader, Low Thia Khiang, backed Gomez and stated that "the incident was merely an unintentional omission, a mistake made while busy". However Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said that the facts showed that Gomez had lied.
On polling day, Gomez and his Workers' Party colleagues in Aljunied GRC lost to the PAP's team by 56,593 votes (43.9%) to 74,843 (56.1%). This was the highest percentage of the vote garnered by any opposition losing candidates, and was therefore enough to secure one of the team's members (Party Chairman Sylvia Lim) a seat as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP).
After polling day
Immediately after the election, the Elections Department filed a complaint about Gomez threatening a member of their staff by saying there would be "consequences" if his form has been lost.
On 8 May, two days after the election, Gomez was stopped by police at Changi Airport and prevented from boarding a flight to Stockholm (where he worked at the time for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance). He was held for questioning over whether he had committed criminal intimidation in his dealings with the Elections Department. Gomez and other members of the Workers' Party, including Low Thia Kiang and Sylvia Lim, were questioned regarding the issue. On 9 May, Gomez was questioned for a second time for five hours, and for a third time on 10 May for three hours. Meanwhile, Low assured police that there would be full co-operation with the police on the matter.
In the end, Gomez was let off with a "stern warning" regarding the incident. The police maintained that there had been "several serious inconsistencies" in the account of events that Gomez had given. However the public prosecutor stated that the willingness of Gomez to co-operate with the police and his lack of a previous criminal record led to the decision. Following this, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said that the decision not to prosecute did not make Gomez any less dishonest and called him a "bad egg".
As a result of the saga, "James Gomez" became the most searched term on Technorati in May 2006.
Gomez joined the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in November 2010.
At the 2011 general election, Gomez stood as an SDP candidate in the Sembawang Group Representation Constituency. The SDP's team was defeated by the team from the PAP by 63.9% of the votes to 36.1%.