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Time to make a decision on S’pore: SDP

Jewel Philemon/ Pictures by Jeremy Philemon

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) unveiled its first batch of six candidates for the upcoming General Election (GE) on Thursday, at a press conference held at The Landmark Village Hotel.

SDP secretary-general Dr Chee Soon Juan said the slate of candidates the party will be fielding in this GE are 'high-calibre professionals' and 'committed Singaporeans' who will make this GE about the people.

The six candidates are: Dr James Gomez, 46; Ms Michelle Lee, 35; Mr Jarrod Luo, 27; Mr John Tan, 49; Ms Teo Soh Lung, 62; and Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, 40.

It is yet to be announced which constituencies these six candidates will be fielded in.

Dr Gomez said he personally feels like, in his own words, “a new me” and that he feels more “refined – in terms of my thoughts on policies”. He says, “I feel more politically stronger. And it’s not just me. I have the opportunity to work with a new operating system: the revitalized and energetic SDP team that will be working hard for the people.” Dr Gomez joined the SDP last November. He is currently the Deputy Associate Dean (International) and Head of Public Relations at the School of Humanities, Communications and Social Sciences at Monash University, Australia.

Ms Michelle Lee, 35, is a English and Literature teacher, and has first-class honors in Government and Economics. “Singapore is on a bullet train of so called progress,” Ms Lee said, “However many Singaporeans do not have the opportunity to catch this train and are falling behind. Their real life problems are not given any weight.” She also cited the rising costs of living and the influx of foreign labor as the reasons for putting many Singaporeans under intense pressure. She also urged the voters to carefully consider the very many issues that affect them. She reiterates, “The government should be the servant of the people and not the masters.”

“Being involved in politics is, ultimately, to serve the people,” says first-time candidate Mr Luo. He is the Honorary Secretary of the Youth Wing of the SDP: The Young Democrats. He joined the SDP back in 2008. Mr Luo says he is looking “forward to serving them (the people).”

Mr John Tan, fondly called “my trusted assistant” by Dr Chee, highlighted empowerment or rather the lack of, as a key issue in Singapore. “I have studied intrinsic motivation and empowerment,” Mr Tan said. “But, when I look around me, many of my fellow Singaporeans experience anything but empowerment. And that is something I want to bring to this country. It is something that everyone has to feel for themselves and I believe that the PAP Government has stolen that from us. How can we feel empowered when every time things go wrong, we get blamed and when every time things go right, they get the glory?” Mr Tan is the Assistant Secretary-General of the party. He is also a social psychologist who spent ten years in the United States researching and writing on intrinsic motivation and empowerment.

Ms Teo Soh Lung, a widely known political figure, is a former lawyer who is also the co-founder of the Law Society Criminal Legal Aid Scheme. Ms Teo was embroiled in controversy when she called for the Government to withdraw the Legal Profession Amendment Bill which had sought to take away the rights of the Law Society to comment on legislation. She was later, in 1987, arrested and incarcerated without trial under the Internal Security Act. She was released four months later but was imprisoned again for refuting the Government’s allegations against her. She was finally released in 1990.

Ms Teo recounted her state of mind after her release. “I had wound up my legal practice and I seriously contemplated moving to a less developed country in Asia where I can contribute something,” she said. It was then that her mother’s health took a turn for the worse and she stayed back and worked on her memoir (Beyond the Blue Gate). “A few years later, I thought through my decision in the position of a Singaporean. I thought, ‘Why should I leave Singapore when there is so much to be done here?’ I am no quitter so I decided to stay. And I wish to contribute to my own country.”

“We are in the presence of greatness,” quipped Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, referring to what Ms Teo. Dr Wijeysingha cited Ms Teo’s memoir as one of the things that brought him into politics. Dr Wijeysingha is the Executive Director of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) which is a non-government organization which advocates the rights of migrant workers. Dr Wijeysingha is also believed to be responsible for heading the SDP team which drew up the Shadow Budget 2011 (click here) the SDP’s economic programme.

Dr Wijeysingha focused on the PAP’s policy framework which was first revealed in their public statement on 19 March 2011 and later solidified in their manifesto, which was released a few days ago. Dr Wijeysingha pointed out a few interesting events that happened in that gap (between the public statement and the manifesto).

Among the events highlighted were, Tampines Group Representative Constituency (GRC)’s Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Mah Bow Tan’s comment, “A massive amount of reserves is more important than housing the people” (which Mr Mah Bow Tan reiterated to the Straits Times again); and Tanjong Pagar GRC’s MP Ms Indranee Rajah’s letter to the Straits Times which implied that ‘dictatorship is more important than the people of Singapore.” Dr Wijeysingha labels these comments as “deeply revolting.”

“This is the time for the people to make a decision on Singapore,” he said.

Watch the video here.

The SDP’s next batch of candidates will be unveiled on Friday.