During a door-stop interview after Dr Chee's "cycle-about" this morning, a ST reporter posed a puzzling question to him.
"Dr Chee, this morning PM spoke about some racist comments that were posted on your Facebook wall and how there were no filter or deletion.. what is your stance on the racial issue?" - ST Reporter
The reporter was making reference to PM Lee's remarks that were made when he followed the PAP Candidate Mr Murali to meet voters in Bukit Batok earlier today. PM Lee had said that he saw racist comments directed against Mr Murali on Dr Chee's Facebook page.
".. Murali is here, I see online some comments making this point about race in a quite open way. I hear some rumours going around within the constituency that people say, ‘Just vote for the Chinese, that’s good’. I think that is completely wrong and bad.
I see also on Chee Soon Juan’s webpage, his postings and then there are comments, and there are some comments which are along this vein too, and they have not been refuted or taken down.
So I have no doubt that somewhere along the way, when pressures heat up, people will feel that well, maybe this is one way you can use race to your advantage. I think it is wrong"
Dr Chee's response was as follows,
Look, I have made it very clear.
We have been saying this for the longest time - If the PAP wants to talk about racism, then I will refer you back to some of the comments that the PAP leaders have made about the Malay community.
I think that it is absolutely, absolutely appalling. Stop playing politics. This is what I am trying to tell you, stop playing politics.
You can't just pick and choose from all the comments that have been made on my Facebook. It is not possible to go through every one of the hundreds of comments that are in there. But what we want to do is we keep everybody up to date on issues and to stay away from personal attacks on race, personal indiscretions and so forth - keep to the issues. You continue to encourage them to do that.
That's gotta be the way to do things.
What I am referring to about playing games is this. They keep picking on things, like comments on Facebook and so on . Their party leaders are making all these racist comments themselves , so this is what I want to get in and try to make sure all these things stop . It is just not edifying and I think in politics, there should a be certain standard.
It would seem absurd to label SDP or Dr Chee as racists for comments posted on their pages. On average, each post would attract hundreds, if not thousands, of likes, comments and shares. Anyone remotely familiar with Facebook would most certainly know that Dr Chee and his team of admins have close to zero control over comments which appear on their page. In this short 9 day campaign period, it is also a huge waste of time and resources to comb over all comments that would appear on the SDP's pages.
PM Lee, who met the founder of Facebook not too long ago has a Facebook page that has over a million followers. He should know full well how ridiculous his allegations directed at Dr Chee sounds. It is almost as though he just wanted an excuse to label Dr Chee as a racist.
Minister for Culture, Ms Grace Fu also alleged that the SDP had asked "Chinese residents to vote for Chinese candidates only." This is completely baseless as Dr Chee and the SDP has never once mentioned anything of that sort. Dr Chee and the SDP have always consistently maintained racial equality and even have a policy paper for the Malay community.
Two of his Party members are respected leaders of the Malay Community, too. Mr Damanhuri Abas was the Drector of the Muhammadiyah Islamic College and Mr Jufrie Bin Mahmood chaired the SDP from 2011 - 2013.
In fact, if we were to look at the proponents of the notion that Singaporeans vote along ethnic lines, then the late Mr Lee would feature prominenty. During a televised interview in the lead up to GE2006, the following conversation ensued.
LKY : That was with the PAP in complete control. That generation voted for the PAP.. You watch the candidates that we are giving in the single wards. Do we field a minority? Do we field a woman? No! You watch the opposition. Will they have a woman or minority challenging a Chinese male? No, because they know that on the ground they cannot win.
Journalist : Do you feel that it's a vicious circle that you're perpetuating this lack of confidence in the voting public?
LKY " No, no, this is not lack of confidence in the voting public, These are basic, visceral, emotional biases. I don't like this MP because he can't understand me. He's Malay and I'm not Malay. And the Malay voters want a Malay MP. It's a reality."
It's really strange how both PM Lee and his Ministers don't agree that voters vote along racial lines yet choose to retain the GRC system which was introduced because of the very notion that people voted along racial lines. But we shall leave that discussion for another day.
As ridiculous and baseless as the allegations may be, it is, however, not the first time an Opposition Politician has been labelled a racist in an effort to discredit him/her.
During the 1997 General Elections where the PAP narrowly won Cheng San GRC against a WP Team which featured the Opposition Stalwart Mr JB Jeyaretnam and Lawyer Mr Tan Liang Hong, the latter was accused of being a chauvinist.
In this interview with Think Center, Mr Tan Liang Hong shed light on the smear campaign against him. Notice the parallels with the situation laid before us this morning,
Asked about the charges of chauvinism levied against him by the ruling party, Tang said that the basic problem with his candidacy was that he was able to move the Chinese ground. Although he was in social contact with many of the PAP leaders, when he contested in the general elections, they branded him as anti-Christian and a Chinese chauvinist.
This was calculated to push the minorities and the English-educated Christians away from him. More importantly to also cause dissension among the Chinese community. From a public relations point of view, the Chinese community would not want to come out looking like a chauvinist in multi-ethnic Singapore.
Thus painting him as a multi-chauvinist was a strategy the PAP adopted as Tang was perceived as an important political threat to the regime's hold on power. When asked whether there are other Chinese leaders that might take over from where he left off, he said that presently most were scared and were not prepared to stand up in a public way against the PAP.
Nevertheless, he said the Chinese as well as the other minorities needed to reclaim control from the PAP, as the ruling party rhetoric marginalises everyone who explores the ethnic issue as attempting to sow discord and chaos. In fact by continually painting the discussion of religion and ethnicity as taboo subjects, the PAP maintains the upper hand on how it harnesses such issues for its own political advantage.
Going by Tan Liang Hong's account, it may be only a matter of time before Dr Chee, too, is labelled a chauvinist.
As Dr Chee put it, PM Lee's appalling actions are nothing more than mere politicking. It is indeed strange for PM Lee to resort to such under-handed methods. Have they really got such little confidence in their candidate Mr Murali?
Have they no faith in the concept of meritocracy that they have preached for over half a century. As though deploying both a DPM and the PM to walk the ground with Mr Murali was not enough, they have to resort to such despicable low-blows too.
Their actions, just a mere 2 days into the campaign, reek of desperation. Many in the legal fraternity will attest to Mr Murali's ability to hold his own in a Court of Law. I reckon that he would do the same in the Court of Public Opinion as well. It's about time that the PAP let him fight his own battle.