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DPM Tharman and Dr Paul Tabyah exchange pleasantries on Nomination Day. (Picture from Straits Times)

DPM’s promise for a clean campaign broken: PAP Smear in full swing

On Nomination day, DPM Tharman and Dr Paul Tambyah were spotted chatting and shaking hands. In an interview with TOC, Dr Paul revealed that during the conversation, the DPM gave him his word to have a clean campaign. Just over three days since that conversation, that promise seems to have been broken. To his credit, it wasn't him but his colleagues and his boss, PM Lee, who shattered the promise.

In this video by TODAY, you can clearly hear DPM Tharman saying "Absolutely" when Dr Paul opined that both parties should focus on the issues during the campaign period.

In PAP's camp, the mudslinging is in, well, full swing. Throw in character assassination and lowblows into that mix too and it would really make the Bukit Batok resident wonder if all the grandiose Parliamentary speeches about 'Constructive Politics' that these very men and women once delivered were merely for show.

During the first PAP rally held in Bukit Batok Stadium on Friday evening, a chunk of the speeches from Minister Grace Fu and Mdm Halimah Yacob was dedicated to disparaging Dr Chee.

Minister Fu's words were, to say the least, contrary to her portfolio as the Minister for Culture and Community,

Dr Chee hopes to be a full-time MP, but you should note he's not actually giving up a full-time job. As far as I know, he hasn't held a steady job for many years. Let me be clear. I'm not criticizing his position to not hold a full-time job for so long. That is his personal choice. But the work experience, or the lack of it, is a relevant fact when we consider the credentials of the candidate.

In a move that was anything but graceful, she even asked Dr Chee if he had a "referral letter from Mr Chiam See Tong." Perhaps she, just like her fellow Minister, Vivian Balakrishan, should be schooled by Dr PJ Thum on the 'history of backstabbing.'

Trying to outdo her colleague, Speaker of Parliament, Mdm Halimah Yacob also castigated Dr Chee in her speech.

"Mr Goh Chok Tong was the Prime Minister at that time and he (Dr Chee) shouted at Mr Goh Chok Tong, I was shocked at a new candidate standing for election, to see a candidate behaving in that manner."

At this point, someone from the crowd shouted "Gangster, he is a gangster!"

Mdm Halimah continued, "So you see, you may gloss over it and say well... that is not important but I never forgot. Particularly we are Asians , we are Singaporeans , we respect our elders , people who hold important positions , leaders, we still respect them regardless of the party that they are in. So that in my view was very sad . So it is not just a candidate with the right qualifications and the right skills you need to ask what are the values of the candidate , equally important."

The following morning, as PM Lee trailed Mr Murali in walking the ground at Bukit Batok, he, too, jumped on the bandwagon by labeling Dr Chee as "unrepentant" in a door-stop interview.

He said he was "saddened but not surprised" to read Dr Chee's interview on Friday with the Lianhe Wanbao Chinese evening daily "because he's not sorry for anything he did"."He (said he) is proud of his record, he is proud of his crazy history, and yet when he comes today, he presents himself as a changed man.. But unfortunately, it's in character."

PM Lee also argued that Dr Chee was being hypocritical as although Dr Chee said that we shouldn't "kick a man when he is down" during SDP's first rally, the speakers before him did make reference to former MP David Ong's personal indiscretions. He accused Dr Chee of instructing the other speakers to attack Mr Ong.

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Dr Chee Soon Juan on Mr David Ong (Image by Martyn See)

Dr Chee has since replied to PM Lee's comments, rubbishing the PM's accusation that he instructed the other speakers to harp on David Ong.

"This is something I want to be very clear about. We need to make sure that all these things need to stop. I will remind my speakers not to harp on this matter at the rally tomorrow. If we are going to contest, we want to contest each other on ideas - what we want to do for the residents here. Whatever is off the table, we have to make sure it is kept off the table. I am the Candidate, not them. I will focus on the real issues and if such things have been said about Mr David Ong, I would put a stop to it."

A common thread that runs through the criticisms and cheap-shots directed at Dr Chee by PAP MPs and PAP fanpages like 'Fabrications About the PAP (FAP)" is how character is permanent. Their entire argument is premised on how a leopard can never change its spots. Going by their line of reasoning, even if we assume for the moment that Mdm Halimah Yaacob's accusation against Dr Chee for "shouting" at GCT like a "gangster" is justified, he can never change his ways by adopting more 'constructive' ways of engaging the powers that be, simply because to them, character is quite literally permanent in a person. So much for second chances and magnanimity, eh?

I would argue that, if anyone, the PAP are the ones who have not changed their spots, continuing to utilize their age old tactics of mud-slinging and character assassination while shying away from the bread and butter issues.

Aerial shot of the crowd lining up to get autographs from Mr Chee Soon Juan after a GE2015 SDP Rally (Picture by TMG)
Aerial shot of the crowd lining up to get autographs from Mr Chee Soon Juan after a GE2015 SDP Rally (Photo by TMG)

A ever-increasing number of people, however, have not taken the PAP's accusations at face value, especially in recent times. This is evidenced by the huge number of people who flocked to catch SDP rallies during the last General Elections and the snaking queues for Dr Chee's autographs after the rallies.

As the PAP smeared, Dr Chee appeared to be uniting support from fellow Opposition Politicians.

In a Facebook post, the SDP expressed their gratefulness for the encouragement from fellow opposition members like Mr Chen Show Mao, Dr Ang Yong Guan, Ms Jeanette Chong and Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam.

Dr Chee concluded his rally on Friday, by reminding his supporters to refrain from attacking his opponents.

"Never kick a man when he's down, there's no honour in that. For all I know David Ong is a good guy. But sometimes good guys make bad mistakes..

My criticisms of Mr Murali is not about his person, it's about his political views. So I tell my colleagues in the SDP and I hope all our friends and supporters will abide by this too: Please do not launch personal attacks against my opponent."

While Dr Chee wrapped up with a reminder to take the high road, the PAP seem to have just begun unboxing a barrage of mudslingers.

The bulk of the campaign period has yet to play out before us. When it comes to debates issues and policies, as seen in their alternative policy papers and speeches, Dr Chee and co can give the PAP a good run for their money.

However, when it comes to lowblows, the PAP, with their stronghold of the PA and the Press, does have in its hands, a very unfair advantage. Whether these early exchanges will lead to a full-fledged mudfest remains to be seen.

As Eleanor Roosevelt put it ever so eloquently,

"Great minds discuss ideas,average minds discuss events;small minds discuss people."

- Eleanor Roosevelt