On Friday, 16 January 2015, the Straits Times published a letter from the Minister of Social and Family Development (MSF), Chan Chun Sing.
The letter, titled “Chee sacrifices S’pore to win points overseas: Chan Chun Sing”, was a response to an earlier letter by Dr Chee Soon Juan, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), on 18 December in the same newspaper.
In his letter, Dr Chee had written about the issue of income inequality in Singapore, among other things.
Dr Chee had also written two articles for the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post, which Mr Chan had also taken issue with.
Mr Chan had, on Friday, written two letters – one to the Straits Times and the other to the Huffington Post.
Both letters had attacked Dr Chee’s character, particularly the letter to the Huffington Post in which Mr Chan described the former as “a political failure”.
Dr Chee in turn responded to this letter from Mr Chan and said that it was troubling that the PAP has continued its “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 said. (Read here.)
Dr Chee has also written a reply to Mr Chan’s Friday letter to the Straits Times. In that letter, Mr Chan had accused Dr Chee of “[playing] to the foreign gallery in writing in its media.”
Mr Chan also said Dr Chee “sacrifices S’pore to win points overseas”, according to the Straits Times.
In response, Dr Chee sent a letter to the Straits Times on Friday.
In his letter, Dr Chee had cited how former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had himself “rather uncharitably likened Singaporeans to indolent animals where ‘spurs had to be stuck into the hide’ to make us work harder” in a “Western magazine”.
In an interview with the National Geographic in 2009, Mr Lee was asked if he thought “people just get lazy or what”.
Mr Lee replied, comparing Singaporeans with migrants:
“No, I think the spurs are not stuck on your hinds. They are part of the herd, why-go-faster? But when you’re lagging behind, you must go faster to catch up with the herd. I’m quite sure that there are children of the migrants who strive arduously. When they grow up in the same schools as the Singaporeans, the same playing fields, same environment and they begin to adopt Singaporean habits in the ways of living and thinking. So I’m quite sure they’d become like us. Well, because we’re shrinking in our population, our fertility ratio is about 1.29.”
Dr Chee said it was not him who is undermining Singapore, as Mr Chan had alleged.
“It is not I but the PAP who are persuading young Singaporeans not to pursue a university education while giving foreign students generous financial grants to study at our universities,” Dr Chee said.
“It is not I but the Government who has allowed in millions of foreigners to work in Singapore at the expense of Singaporeans’ jobs and wages.”
However, according to a note posted on its Facebook page on Saturday, the SDP said the Straits Times has declined to publish the letter unless it was allowed to make edits to it.
“The Straits Times has refused to publish Dr Chee Soon Juan’s letter to Mr Chan Chun Sing,” the SDP said. “It wanted to edit out the essence of Dr Chee’s reply. When Dr Chee said that he would like the letter to be published in full, the Straits Times refused.”
Here is Dr Chee’s letter in response to Mr Chan’s accusations, in full. The parts in brackets are the parts which the SDP says the Straits Times wants to edit out before publication.
It is not I who is sacrificing Singapore
In his letter ‘Chee sacrifices S’pore to win points overseas: Chan Chun Sing’ (ST, January 16, 2015), Minister Chan suggests that I am anti-Singapore because I publish op-eds in the international media.
I did not write these pieces to criticise Singapore, I wrote them to criticise PAP policies. The PAP and Singapore are two different things. We must not equate one with the other.
The reason I have written in these news sites is because Singaporean newspapers are reluctant to publish my pieces. Just in the last three month, the Straits Times has rejected all three of my op-eds which I submitted.
[If Mr Chan insists that I am undermining Singapore, then he should note that it is not I but Mr Lee Kuan Yew who, in an interview with National Geographic, a Western magazine, rather uncharitably likened Singaporeans to indolent animals where “spurs had to be stuck into the hide” to make us work harder.
It is not I but the PAP who are persuading young Singaporeans not to pursue a university education while giving foreign students generous financial grants to study at our universities.
It is not I but the Government who has allowed in millions of foreigners to work in Singapore at the expense of Singaporeans’ jobs and wages.]
Mr Chan should not be directing his anger at me.
He says that I betrayed Mr Chiam See Tong. Former High Court Justice Warren Khoo who presided over the trial between Mr Chiam and the SDP said that he could find no malicious behaviour on the part of the SDP since the Central Executive Committee did attempt to seek reconciliation with Mr Chiam.
To be sure, Mr Chiam has contributed significantly to Singapore and the SDP honours him. We will do this by inviting him to our 35th anniversary dinner to be held later this year.
The differences between the SDP and him are miniscule compared to the problems Singaporeans are facing. It is important that we come together and work for the good of our nation.
There are genuine differences in how the SDP and PAP want to take Singapore forward. On this we can have an honest, even robust, debate. But let us not continue to demonise each other just because we hold different views.
Singaporeans want us to have a contest of ideas, not call each other names.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party