SDP chief Chee Soon Juan waves to supporters. Photo: Joseph Nair/Yahoo Singapore
The issue of character once again came to the fore as Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan appealed to the People’s Action Party to stop the “personal attacks” that he said had besmirched the Bukit Batok by-election campaign.
Addressing his opponent K. Muralidharan Pillai directly at the party’s third political rally on Tuesday (3 May), he noted that PAP heavyweights like Lee Hsien Loong, Heng Swee Keat and Goh Chok Tong had all engaged in personal attacks against him. For example, Prime Minister Lee called Chee “hypocritical and unrepentant”, while Emeritus Senior Minister Goh compared him to a fox asking to look after the hen house.
Adding that Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had promised the SDP’s Paul Tambyah to run a clean campaign, Chee said that Murali’s party colleagues had broken the promise “repeatedly”. On the SDP’s part, he said, the opposition party had refrained from attacking Murali personally.
“They have attacked me in the most personal and vicious of ways, even resorting to using made up newspaper headlines,” said Chee, referring to a Lianhe Wanbao report that had said the SDP chief was proud of his “crazy past”. Wanbao later amended the headline in the online version of the article.
Appealing to Murali to get his colleagues to stop the personal attacks, Chee said, “I don’t want to see politics become so poisonous. I’ve seen how it can ruin countries, and if we continue down this path, we will tear our country apart.”
A surprise speaker
Neo Swee Lin is greeted by the SDP’s Jaslyn Go, as she goes on stage. Photo: Joseph Nair/Yahoo Singapore
Actress Neo Swee Lin, best known for her role in the popular TV sitcom Phua Chu Kang, made a surprise appearance as a speaker at the rally. Neo read an open letter signed by 30 individuals from the arts scene, academia, civil society and more, which said that the by-election campaign had “deteriorated to a level that undermines our Singaporean values”.
“It is indeed a sad state of affairs when people who have been entrusted with positions of power…perpetuate such unbecoming behaviour.”
Neo added that for her and actor husband Lim Kay Siu, “In a perfect future, we will have a true democracy in Singapore, with more balanced views represented in parliament. We will never have that with one ruling party dominating the political scene.”
An appeal to ‘good sense’ and ‘good hearts’
Chee is greeted a supporter while signing copies of his books. Photo: Joseph Nair/Yahoo Singapore
But while his checkered past has often been used against him, Chee openly referenced his previous reputation as a political firebrand who often took on the establishment. Noting that he had been called names, sacked, sued, jailed and made a bankrupt, he declared, “I will not kneel before them because one cannot stand up for one’s principles…on bended knees.”
Chee ended his speech with a message for his three young children, “The most important lesson that I can impart to you is that we don’t ruin others in order to rise up. We don’t step on others’ dreams in order to fulfill ours. And we don’t ridicule others for not being like us.
Instead, we lift up our friends. We extend a hand to strangers and we forgive our enemies. We do what is good, so that others may see the goodness in our hearts and want for themselves what they see in us. That is character!”