'Politics is and should be part of life': Actress Neo Swee Lin

Veteran actress Neo Swee Lin, known for her role as Ah Ma in TV series Phua Chu Kang, made a surprise appearance at the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) rally yesterday.

In an emotionally-charged speech at a field near Bukit Batok Industrial Park A, Neo, 53, said that she was neither an SDP member nor a politician.

She said she was first introduced to politics when she played former political detainee Teo Soh Lung in a 2011 play, Cooling-Off Day.

She said in English: "(Teo) is my hero. She reminded me that politics is and should be part of our life."

Neo's speech, peppered with jokes and jibes - including one at Mediacorp actress Rui En's recent mishap with a motorcycle - was warmly received by the crowd, which almost covered the entire field.

Neo also poked fun at herself while addressing the comment made by Ms Grace Fu, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, on the unemployment status of SDP chief Chee Soon Juan.

The freelance actress said that she was often asked if she was still an actress by passers-by who recognised her on the street.

She said: "You don't see me on TV any more, but it doesn't mean I'm not acting. I've not held many full-time jobs in my life. But trust me, I've been working."

Neo, the only speaker last night who was not an SDP member, also read out an open letter, expressing sadness at the state of the campaign, which the letter described as "marred primarily by the vilification" of Dr Chee.

"As an artist, I was so ashamed when I saw that my own Minister of Culture attacked Dr Chee personally. Then my own Prime Minister did the same," said Neo.

The letter was penned by a group that included academics, lawyers and artists.

Ms Fu had said Dr Chee had not "held a steady job for many years", while PM Lee Hsien Loong had called Dr Chee "hypocritical" for allowing his party members to make fun of former Bukit Batok MP David Ong's alleged extra-marital affair and had urged the public to refrain from mounting personal attacks on Mr Ong.

Neo and her husband, actor Lim Kay Siu, 56, are known supporters of SDP. Lim was also spotted among the SDP members last night.

Neo, who first met Dr Chee during the 2011 General Election, said she was surprised to find that he was "a nice man and a gentleman".

She said: "I'm moved by his passion and impressed by his dedication. I'm here today because I believe he will stand up for the people who have no one to represent them.

"And through the hardship he had to endure, I think he has become a wise statesman."

This article was first published on April 4, 2016.
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