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Chee Soon Juan to Chan Chun Sing: Do not stigmatise failure

Chan Chun Sing Chee Soon JuanSingapore Democratic Party secretary-general Dr Chee Soon Juan has responded to comments by Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing, who yesterday (15 January) accused him of being a political failure and not deserving of the attention that international news website Huffington Post paid him by publishing two of Dr Chee's letters.

"Dr Chee has stood for elections thrice – and lost badly all three times, once receiving just 20 per cent of the vote," Mr Chan said.

Dr Chee's reply: That the PAP should refrain from stigamatising failure, and refrain from "engaging in the politics of name-calling and personal destruction".

Mr Chan had earlier said that Huffington Post has "given Dr Chee Soon Juan considerable but undeserved attention and space. You perhaps believe that he is a weighty political figure in Singapore. He is nothing of the kind."

Mr Chan cited Dr Chee's his electoral failure and highlighting how SDP has gone from the leading opposition party in the days of former secretary-general Chiam See Tong. He also recounted incidents where "Dr Chee was dismissed from the National University of Singapore for misappropriating research funds and for other serious misconduct, including surreptitiously recording conversations with university staff", and the various lawsuits brought against him by leaders of the People's Action Party.

Referring to Dr Chee's claim that he has been under-represented and misrepresented by media in Singapore, Mr Chan concluded that "Dr Chee’s problem is not that he has not been heard by Singaporeans. His problem is that they have."

In response, Dr Chee published a statement on the SDP's Facebook page, indicating that, unlike Mr Chan, politics for him has taken a different path.

"I have instead undertaken to speak up for the people of Singapore in what was, to put it mildly, a very difficult political terrain," he said. "Nevertheless, I am proud of my achievements, as I am sure Mr Chan is of his."

However, Dr Chee noted that Mr Chan's comments were " troubling on two fronts".

"The first is the PAP's out-dated practice of stigmatising failure. This is unfortunate. I want to tell my fellow Singaporeans, especially students, that we must not be afraid to fail. It is from our failures that we learn and become better persons and go on to achieve great things.

The second has to do with PAP's habit of engaging in the politics of name-calling and personal destruction. It is disappointing that the younger generation of ministers like Mr Chan has not set a new direction for the conduct of politics in Singapore instead on relying on that of a bygone era."

He ended by urging Mr Chan to "go beyond such an un-constructive form of politics which Singaporeans detest and graduate to a more mature level of contestation of ideas which the people deserve."

He also repeated his invitation for the PAP to engage the SDP in public debate on national issues such as the Central Provident Fund, healthcare, housing, population and education.


Dr Chee Soon Juan's response to Mr Chan Chun Sing's comments in full

Mr Chan Chun Sing is certainly an accomplished man in Singapore. He has risen quickly through the ranks of the army and appointed a minister. I commend him on his remarkable achievement, there is much to be admired.

I have, unfortunately or otherwise, chosen a different path. It is, admittedly, not a conventional path and, certainly, not one that leads to power, privilege and a high salary. In this respect Mr Chan is right, I have not succeeded.

I have instead undertaken to speak up for the people of Singapore in what was, to put it mildly, a very difficult political terrain.

Nevertheless, I am proud of my achievements, as I am sure Mr Chan is of his. But I do want to sound him a note of caution: When we attain our goals in life, we should not look down and criticise others who have yet to achieve theirs.

Even if I have failed in Mr Chan's eyes, he must resist the urge to denigrate. Wasn't it Albert Einstein who once said: “You never fail until you stop trying”? I have not stopped trying and I don't think I will.

I do, however, find Mr Chan's comments troubling on two fronts:

The first is the PAP's out-dated practice of stigmatising failure. This is unfortunate. I want to tell my fellow Singaporeans, especially students, that we must not be afraid to fail. It is from our failures that we learn and become better persons and go on to achieve great things.

The second has to do with PAP's habit of engaging in the politics of name-calling and personal destruction. It is disappointing that the younger generation of ministers like Mr Chan has not set a new direction for the conduct of politics in Singapore instead on relying on that of a bygone era.

How does calling me a failure help to solve the problems that Singaporeans face? The more the PAP engages in mud-slinging and ignore the grave problems that confront our nation, the more dire will be the lot of our people.

For the sake of Singaporeans, let us go beyond such an un-constructive form of politics which Singaporeans detest and graduate to a more mature level of contestation of ideas which the people deserve.

To this end, I repeat my invitation to Mr Chan and his PAP colleagues to debate me and my SDP colleagues on issues such as CPF, healthcare, housing population, education, etc that Singaporeans care about.

Chee Soon Juan

The two Huffington Post articles that Mr Chan was referring to:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chee-soon-juan/free-the-singapore-media-_b_6306736.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chee-soon-juan/without-freedom-there-is-_b_6149966.html