A unified opposition under the banner of one coalition will instil greater confidence and trust within Singaporeans when making their choice at the ballot box in the next general election, said SDP chief Chee Soon Juan.
Speaking to reporters during a media doorstop at the Yuhua Village Market and Food Centre in Jurong East on Sun (4 Aug), Dr Chee said that “differences between the parties are minuscule”, in comparison to the larger goal of breaking the overwhelming majority of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in Parliament and “providing Singaporean voters with an alternative that they can have confidence in”.
“As long as the opposition remains disparate and remotely bunched, we are not going to win the confidence of voters,” he said, adding that the SDP is continuing its efforts to engage prominent ex-PAP cadre and Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock in forming such a coalition, alongside the Workers’ Party (WP) which is currently the only opposition party in Singapore to have representatives in Parliament.
Dr Chee said: “We continue to ask [Dr Tan] to make sure that discussions are facilitated, and that we iron out all the differences going into the next GE, so [that] we come out looking coordinated, looking that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.”
Both the PSP and WP have rejected the idea of an opposition party alliance, with Dr Tan stating that “it is not nice” to “push your way in and take over control of all these parties” at a party press conference last month, while WP chief Pritam Singh told The Sunday Times in 2011 that joining a coalition is “not one of our aims” and that WP “has never discussed the idea of coalition at all.”
Dr Chee and other representatives of the SDP went on an extensive walkabout throughout five constituencies – Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang, Yuhua, Holland-Bukit Timah and Marsiling-Yew Tee – in which the party had fielded its candidates in GE2015, and intends to do so again in the next GE.
SDP to focus outreach towards younger Singaporeans, Party’s Youth Wing “intimately involved” in GE preparation: SDP chief Chee Soon Juan
While the SDP remains committed to its efforts to reach older generations of Singaporeans as seen in their walkabout at the hawker centres, Dr Chee said that the SDP recognises the importance of extending its outreach “to the younger generations too”.
“This is where I think it’s going to be an important battleground… and that’s winning the hearts and minds of the younger generation,” he said.
Echoing an SDP Youth Wing member Fadly Azad’s statement to the media during the doorstop, Dr Chee said that “the Young Democrats are going to be very intimately involved in the planning stages, in the strategising … in public relations … So all this is in preparation for the next GE,” said Dr Chee, which he predicts will take place “any time between late this year and early next year”.
“I don’t believe the PM is going to wait any longer than the middle of next year to dissolve Parliament,” he added. “And it’s not a lot of time for us. We’ve been gearing up … and we have a well-oiled machinery to take things forward.”
“You have reports about six in 10 of Singaporeans having difficulty finding jobs. And we’re not just talking about jobs. We’re talking about meaningful jobs, jobs that have some kind of career development … And this is what younger Singaporeans are very concerned about,” said Dr Chee.
Dr Chee noted that SDP is able to push such a “message” with the efforts of “a very able cadre” of its “young members”.
“I keep repeating this point: We don’t pay them anything. There are no perks … They spend their own money, [their] Sundays … Mondays to Fridays, going on house visits, walking with us. And it’s all driven by their sheer passion of wanting to bring up some of these issues,” he said.
“They are going to be the ones that will inherit this society … They should be the ones that will take the lead.”
SDP Central Executive Committee (CEC) member and GE2015 candidate for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Damanhuri bin Abas told reporters on Sun that fielding Young Democrats in the party’s outreach efforts is not only a “strategic move”, but “an indication of change that is happening on the ground”, given that many young Singaporeans who joined the SDP have done so on their own volition.
“The young are actually coming forward. They are no longer afraid, and they want to be heard,” he added.
“Singaporeans are mature enough to police ourselves”, but “discrimination should not be swept under the carpet”: SDP chairman Paul Ananth Tambyah, on the Preetipls saga, freedom of speech, and racial discrimination against minorities
When asked on how the SDP would have reacted to the Preetipls fiasco, party chairman Paul Ananth Tambyah told reporters: “The party has always been very clear about this. We believe in freedom of expression. We think that Singaporeans are mature enough to police ourselves, and I think that is actually what has happened over a period of time.”
“But we also do believe that you cannot brush issues like discrimination under the carpet … We have always stood for a more just and equal Singapore.
“As you know, the SDP party is probably the only party which has “a Malay policy“, which is argued that a lot of discriminatory policies need to be done away with … And this has been our stand for many, many years. Dr Chee has gotten into trouble for speaking about it at Hong Lim Park almost 20 years ago,” said Dr Tambyah.
“So it’s not something new. This is something that has been around for a very long time. And I think SDP has been consistent about this for many, many years,” he added.
The SDP’s policies for the Malay community include — but are not limited to — ending discrimination in the Singapore Armed Forces, making the Yayasan MENDAKI non-partisan, and lowering education and healthcare costs for lower-income Singaporeans in general, which will benefit what the SDP has branded a “disproportionate number” of Malay families who fall under the income category.