PAP should “stop playing politics when our lives and our health are at stake”, urged Singapore Democratic Chief (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan on Monday (30 March).
In the over 9-minutes video posted on the party chief’s Facebook page, Dr Chee said that PAP has “taken its eye of the ball” in dealing with this global pandemic which has resulted in a “massive second wave” of infections in Singapore, adding that the subject has been weighing on his mind and he had been putting off talking about this and hope that he didn’t have to bring it up.
“But the situation has gotten to a point where we cannot avoid it any longer,” lamented Dr Chee.
Dr Chee is joining the ranks of other opposition leaders who have strongly urged the government to hold off on calling for elections until after the nation has come out on the other side of this global pandemic.
PAP dropped the ball
The politician emphasised that the SDP had decided, when the outbreak first arrived in Singapore, that they needed to bring people together to help the PAP-government’s efforts in tackling the spread of the disease.
He noted that the party had “held off” its criticism, called for citizens to cooperate with the authorities and even cancelled the party’s 40th anniversary celebration which was scheduled for 8 February at the Raffles Town Club.
Dr Chee stressed on the cancellation, “It was still relatively early stages of the spread. But even then, we decided not to proceed with the event just to be on the safe side. And for a time, the nation’s effort paid off.”
Reports of new infections slowed to a “crawl” with only one or two cases a day and even one day in February with zero new cases. However, Dr Chee said that the government got complacent when it didn’t implement extra measures to “finish off” the disease which we had “on the ropes” then.
Dr Chee went on to highlight Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s message on Facebook (2 March) where he had encouraged Singaporeans to visit local attractions, sharing that Jewel Changi airport had waived its entrance fees for the canopy park till the end of March. The PM also encouraged staycations at local hotels for those who were worried about travel restrictions. Mr Lee said in his message, “Above all, let us go about our lives as normally as possible.”
Responding to that, Dr Chee showed how there were netizens who were encouraged by PM Lee’s message. One person noted that the PM’s advice was “excellent” while another stated that it was “nice” to see people flocking back to shops and eateries which were “very crowded”.
PAP started playing politics
The SDP chief then pointed out that what is worse in this situation is that the ruling PAP “started playing politics” when they released the election boundaries report and said that it would call for an election in the midst of the outbreak.
Dr Chee went on to highlight a couple of PAP events that took place recently which clearly did not observe the social distancing measures that experts have been encouraging as an effective measure to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19.
First was the PAP Women’s Wing’s function on 7 March which gathered together many people in an enclosed space and where the party started to talk about introducing their candidates for the next general election, said Dr Chee.
The other event on the same day was Bukit Batok MP Mr Murali Pillai who gathered with elderly people for dinner where Dr Chee pointed out “no one practiced social distancing”. The SDP chief also noted that the elderly are “the most vulnerable age group” in terms of this infection.
Most notable, however, is that these events took place after the cluster of infections happened at SAFRA Jurong.
Dr Chee explained, “Then the unthinkable happened. Cases started to come back and towards the second half of the month, the number of new infections exploded with a vengeance, registering 40, 50 cases in a day with a record of 73 cases as at the recording of this video.”
“And many of these cases were unlinked, locally transmitted cases. Not just imported cases,” he added.
Government has been reactive, not proactive
On top of that, Dr Chee also noted the government’s decision to allow Malaysian workers to come into Singapore and continue working without a quarantine despite the neighbouring country’s decision to close its border and impose a nationwide lockdown.
“Now don’t get me wrong, I have many Malaysian friends and even relatives who work here. But you’re talking about a very dangerous situation. You’re talking about 300,000 Malaysians working in Singapore. How many of them were infected and living and working among us? How many of the latest infections were from these workers?”
Dr Chee noted that the PAP had said that Singapore’s factories, offices and services depend heavily on these workers. He countered, “But which is more important? Making money or protecting our health?”
The party chief added, “In Hokkien we say [want money, don’t want life].”
He also highlighted the government’s decision to let in an already-ill Indonesian man into the country to seek treatment who subsequently infected a 62-year old Singaporean before succumbing to the virus.
“On top of this, foreigners from other countries with work passes continue to be allowed into the country. It was only on 23 March that restrictions were tightened to ban short-term visitors,” Dr Chee stressed.
Also, another move that Dr Chee highlighted was the government’s decision to allow returning travellers not to be quarantined but merely issued Stay at Home Notices instead, meaning that these people could have easily transmitted the virus to family and friends.
Dr Chee criticised these moves as “more reactive than proactive” adding that the measures are “piecemeal and ad hoc”.
He questioned, “Tuition centres are closed down but schools remain open? And workplaces are ordered to practice social distancing and a 10-person limit on gatherings imposed but MRT trains are jam packed with people having travel to work?”
Dr Chee asserted, “Now these inconsistencies are causing confusion and uncertainty among the public, making it even more difficult for the country to get a firm grip on the crisis.”
However, he also still encouraged people to cooperate with authorities, at the very least for the sake of front line workers who are working hard to keep the public safe at great personal risk.
“The PAP cares more about its own interest and its power than the well-being of the people” – Dr Chee
Dr Chee went on to address the concerns of a possible election, saying, “As I said, we didn’t want to turn the situation into a political matter. Now it is the PAP that is politicising the crisis by insisting on calling for an election in the midst of the outbreak.”
He questioned the PAP ministers’ statement that they are giving 100 percent in their efforts of containing the virus while still being out campaigning.
He asked, If they are giving 100%, then how are they finding time to go out campaigning and preparing for elections?”
He also took a swipe at PM Lee’s move of giving out what looks like hand sanitisers at his constituency without clearly practising social distancing measures.
“And because they took their eye off the ball, started dividing their attention between handling the outbreak and taking care of themselves in an election, things started to go wrong with the second wave which is already showing to be many times larger than the first,” slammed Dr Chee.
He described the PAP’s move of saying it will call for elections during this time as “cocky” and criticised them for “opportunistically capitalising on the public’s goodwill”.
He said, “I can only hope that the PAP has learned its lesson and will not drop the ball a second time by calling for the GE before the pandemic is over.”
“But knowing the PAP, I am not hopeful,” he added.
Dr Chee continued, “If it goes ahead with the elections in the midst of this crisis, it will make one thing plain: The PAP cares more about its own interest and its power than the well-being of the people.”
The SDP chief wound down the video by noting that has provided dates and times of the events he described to allow viewers to “verify” his statements, adding that he doesn’t want to “spew hateful rhetoric”.
He elaborated, “I don’t want you to hate the PAP, but to be pragmatic, that while we have the PAP as government, you must also keep it in check with an effective opposition in Parliament.”
He then urged the public to tell the PM Lee that “he is taking unacceptable risks by calling for a GE before the crisis is over.”
Dr Chee also took a moment to highlight that this (Facebook videos) is the only means he has to communicate with others given that “the PAP controls the newspapers and TV stations”.
He concluded by urging Singaporeans to take care of themselves and cooperate with the guidelines in order to “beat this virus”.