On Wednesday morning (4 September), lawyer and opposition politician Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss announced on Facebook her resignation from the Singapore People’s Party (SPP). She said that she had handed in her resignation on Monday, 2 September after much thought and careful deliberation.
Following the announcement, TOC carried out an interview with her on the decision to resign from the party.
When asked about the timing of her resignation in light of the impending General Elections, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss said, “Once I decided to part ways with SPP, I believe the best time to resign should be sooner rather than later,” adding that she wants to remain true to what she says, straight in what she does and whom she engages with.
As to the upcoming elections, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss said whether she contests or not is not an important question in the big picture.
“What is important for Singaporeans is having capable opposition candidates backed by an able team behind them being able to come forward to give Singaporeans a real choice and to give the PAP a good fight, at the next elections,” she explained.
In her political career, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss started out as a member of the Reform Party from 2010 to 2011 before joining the National Solidarity Party (NSP). She was Vice President of NSP from 2011 to 2013 and later served as Secretary-General of the party until 2015.
In 2011, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss stood in the general elections in the Mountbatten Singale Member Constituency (SMC) against People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Lim Biow Chuan. She garnered 41.35% of the votes that year, losing by a relatively small margin.
In the 2015 general elections, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss again contested in Mountbatten SMC, this time as an SPP candidate. However, she lost again, and by a much bigger margin, garnering only 28.16% of the votes. The loss, she says, was “bruising”.
“Indeed, I felt sad and discouraged. But then I realise that my defeat at the polls is just the secondary plot, the subplot,” she adds.
Mrs Chong-Aruldoss emphasised that the crux of the story is the fight for a citizen’s right to free and fair elections. She maintains that her participation in GE2015 as an opposition candidate gave voters a real choice and served Singaporeans by keeping democracy functioning.
She asserted, “I believe it has helped to keep him [MP Lim Biow Chuan] on his toes so that he would remember to always work hard for his constituents, or risk being voted out of office. Without political competition, complacency could set in, affecting how residents would be served.”
True to her convictions of serving the people, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss has been walking the grounds at Mountbatten SMC together with other members of the SPP since early 2018. In a Facebook post published in June 2019, Mrs CA said she has visited every HDB home at Kampong Arang at least twice, every home at Old Airport Road at least once, landed home at Seaview Park and Tanjong Katong, and mailed out her contact details to over 4,000 condominium homes.
Being a practising lawyer and mother of four, you have to admire the effort and energy Mrs Chong-Aruldoss has put into this often thankless job of politics.
And given all the effort she has already put into reaching out to residents of the Mountbatten SMC, one has to wonder if she now considers it time-wasted after resigning from the SPP.
To this, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss insisted it isn’t a waste at all.
“I believe that my intensive outreach efforts at Mountbatten has contributed to raising their political awareness and consciousness to a level more than ever before,” she said.
“The battle for greater political diversity is not just about preparing for General Elections. It is a process which involves spending time to hear the heartbeat of Singaporeans, to understand their concerns and to explain the dangers of political hegemony and the benefits of greater political diversity.”
For now, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss said she’s done her part and is “passing the baton” to whoever comes next. In fact, she says she’s looking forward to the incumbent being challenged by a capable and credible electoral candidate from a strong and hardworking opposition party.
As for the question of whether she will consider helping out a candidate from another opposition party that might contest in the Mountbatten SMC in the upcoming election, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss says, “I would certainly be more than willing to give my unstinting support in whatever way I can.”
For now, though, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss says she’s looking forward to taking a break and spending time with her family, even to do some self-reflection.
She elaborated, “Before there can ever be any change in the political status quo, there must first be a sufficient degree of political consciousness and awareness of politics by the electorate. The role of opposition politicians is to encourage Singaporeans to consider more deeply the implications of a one-party rule and how the lack of political diversity in Government affects their lives and their future.“
Mrs Chong-Aruldoss noted further, “A depoliticised electorate serves to entrench the incumbent, whereas a politicised electorate helps to keep the political leadership in check. The stronger the hegemony of the ruling party, the more critical is the role of opposition politicians.”
Emphasising that she is far from done fighting for more political balance in Singapore, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss says she remains passionate about “upholding the cause of the citizenry and defending the political space for non-PAP voices”.
“There are many ways of serving in politics and I hope to continue serving my country and my countrymen in one way or another if there is an opportunity to do so.”