A passing drizzle greeted — according to organisers — an estimate of two thousand people who attended the festival-like Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) pre-election rally at Hong Lim Park on Sat (19 Oct).
Staying true to the rally’s theme called “Shake It Up!“, speeches by party leaders and members on issues such as rising living costs and the need for greater opposition representation in Parliament were interspersed with live performances and merchandise booths as well as a play area for children.
Nine speakers took the stage during the rally with approximately two hours of speeches in total, while the live performances ran for one and a half hours.
Party chief Chee Soon Juan reiterated his criticism of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP)’s alleged pattern of breaking its election campaign promises in a 20-minute speech.
Showing a clip of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech in the 2015 election rally, in which Mr Lee assured that elderly Singaporeans “deserve peace of mind in their golden years” and “to live out their years with dignity”, Dr Chee pointed out that the number of suicides among elderly Singaporeans reached “a record high” since 1991 in 2017, with 129 senior citizens aged 60 and above having taken their lives, as reported by the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) a year ago.
Dr Chee also raised the issues of the impending Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike, as well as an increase in fees such as those paid to town councils, education fees such as university fees and kindergarten fees and transport fares.
Citing Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli’s announcement of the 30 per cent water price hike “just months” after the 2015 GE, Dr Chee pointed out that the previous Environment Minister said that no price adjustment for water is needed.
“When he was Environment Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan said in August 2015 … that there is no need for an adjustment of the water price,” said Dr Chee.
“Trust is not what you say, it’s what you do,” he said repeatedly in his speech.
Party chairman Paul Tambyah highlighted that the “Shake It Up!” rally was not the first SDP pre-election rally, as the party has held one prior to the 2011 general election, similar to the one on Sat but with “a smaller crowd”.
He added that SDP had also planned to hold such a rally in 2015, but was not able to, as PM Lee had decided to “hold a snap election” after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, the founding prime minister of Singapore and also “the longest-serving Prime Minister” of three decades.
Dr Tambyah went on to say that SDP does not know when the election will be held as Singapore does not “have an independent election commission”.
“Many people ask us, ‘When is the election going to be [held]? In reality, we have no idea when the election is going to be … because we do not have an independent election commission,” said Dr Tambyah.
“The decisions on the constituencies are made by the highly qualified members of the election boundaries review committee, who in their day jobs report to the MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) minister, the MND (Ministry of National Development) minister, the Prime Minister and the Law Minister,” he pointed out.
Drawing attention to the political affiliation of the members of the Election Boundaries Review Committee, Dr Tambyah said: “All of them are PAP Central Executive Committee members. Surely, that is not fair.”
Leaders of other opposition parties such as Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock and Workers’ Party chairperson Sylvia Lim were also seen showing their support to SDP in a compilation video that was aired throughout the rally on Sat.
A special light-up feature marked the end of the rally on Sat evening, during which attendees were invited to raise torchlights and umbrellas to form the “SDP” initials in red, as seen in the following photograph taken from Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering next to Hong Lim Park:
Describing Sat’s pre-election rally as SDP’s “full-dress rehearsal” for the next GE, which must be held by Apr 2021, Dr Tambyah told reporters that the rally was an important part of the party’s preparation.
While it is unknown so far as to when the next GE will be held, he said that the SDP is prepared “whenever it is called”, with a lineup of GE candidates already in store.
The pre-election rally on Sat was also part of SDP’s initiative to raise funds for its GE campaign. Members of the public who are keen to contribute to SDP’s efforts may do so via a slew of options such as via credit card, PayNow, bank transfer and cheque. Alternatively, a monthly pledge may also be made via GIRO.