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Attacking Dr Chee’s character uncalled for: SDP’s Dr Paul Tambyah

At the Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) second rally on May Day for the Bukit Batok by-election, SDP members addressed the recent comments made by individuals including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat which criticised candidate Dr Chee Soon Juan’s character.

SDP member Dr Paul Tambyah was one of the eighth spoke at the rally, addressing thousands of attendees at Bukit Gombak Stadium. While defending Dr Chee’s character, he also noted that it should be a candidates policies that should be scrutinised instead of his character.

“Criticise the speech, policies, values. But do not attack the man,” Dr Tambyah said.

Dr Tambyah also recounted to the audience his earlier conversation with Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Nomination Day, where both men had agreed to put the focus of the campaign on issues of the people. Instead, Dr Tambyah observed few constructive debates, but numerous “venomous attacks” by the People’s Action Party (PAP) targeting Dr Chee.

Mr Lee spoke to reporters after a morning walkabout around Bukit Batok with PAP candidate Murali Pillai on 30 April. The former questioned Dr Chee’s suitability as Bukit Batok’s Member of Parliament (MP) and also took issue with his character.

At the first SDP rally in 29 April, Mr Lee observed that “all the speakers fired away” at ex-Bukit Batok MP David Ong. Following which, Dr Chee took the stage, saying, “You must not hit somebody who is down. That is very bad,” which Mr Lee called out as “completely hypocritical.”

Dr Tambyah agreed with Mr Lee other comments that all candidates should have past actions examined transparently and honestly, while also adding that such an opportunity to “examine the assets of all the PAP ministers and MPs” would be welcomed.

Nevertheless, while Dr Tambyah acknowledged from what has been seen, both men contesting the by-election are good people, he argued that the election should not be focused on the characters of the candidates.

“This election is not about Dr Chee or Mr Murali’s personality, it is about the issues that they propose, not character assassination,” he said.

Dr Tambyah also took issue with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu questioning Dr Chee’s ability to take up the position of MP. At the PAP’s first rally on 29 April, she stated that Dr Chee had not held a steady job in many years, making him lacking in work experience.

In response, Dr Tambyah stated that he found Ms Fu’s comments “puzzling” and
pointed out Dr Chee’s career as a politician and author. Ms Fu “does not seem to believe that someone can make a living from doing academic research for international institutions of higher learning and publishing books,” Dr Tambyah. He expressed concern regarding Ms Fu’s comments given her role as part of the MCCY.

Aside from addressing various PAP members’ comments, Dr Tambyah emphasised the need to shift the focus to policy proposals by the SDP. He noted how the SDP put up all their policy proposals for public debate since 2012, and invited input from the public regarding the policies.

Dr Tambyah also spoke of the changes he foresaw should Dr Chee be elected. “For one, the PAP MPs will work a lot harder,” Dr Tambyah said. He highlighted the recent Committee of Supply debates with empty PAP benches. “Perhaps they were all away at their part-time jobs in the business and corporate worlds,” he said.