SDP members appeal to PAP and media to stop character assassination of Dr Chee Soon Juan

PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Thousands flocked to Bukit Gombak Stadium on Sunday night to attend the second Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) rally.

Eight SDP members spoke before Bukit Batok by-election candidate Dr Chee Soon Juan took to the stage. Bukit Batok residents will go to the polls on May 7.

SDP spoke repeatedly about contesting party People's Action Party's (PAP) "character assassination" in this by-election. They raised issue with PAP's Ms Grace Fu, who had earlier said that Dr Chee had not held a full-time job in a long time.

SDP also appealed to the media to "report with integrity" and "to stop pandering to one side".

Some initiatives to assist Bukit Batok residents were also announced in between the speeches.

Here are some points that were raised at Sunday night's rally:

1. SDP members stand up for Dr Chee

The first half of the rally saw SDP members standing up for Dr Chee and about his choice to remain in Singapore to serve the people, despite his qualifications and opportunities outside politics.

Mr John Tan brought up Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's earlier remarks on what Dr Chee's potentials were.

""All he (PM Lee) knows is public knowledge of the man. He doesn't even have time to sit down to have coffee with Dr Chee.

"Mr Lee may have a lot of people working for him, but are mostly paid or at least receive some kind of benefits.

"Look around here, my colleagues in red. They are working for free.

"That, Mr Lee, is Dr Chee's potential. Dr Chee's ability is such that it can draw you here. Not like other parties, they need chicken rice to entice people to come to their rally."

During his speech, Dr Paul Tambyah said: "Criticise the speech, policies, values - but do not attack the man."

When Dr Chee took to the stage, he too addressed the remarks made by Ms Fu and Mr Lee: "I find it really in bad taste when Ms Grace Fu and Mr Lee Hsien Loong try to tell you that because I don't make a lot of money like them, then I'm not working and therefore cannot take care of Bukit Batok.

"The truth is that I have been working every single day to not just keep the SDP together but build it up, and to think and propose and write about ideas for Singapore. I just have not asked to be paid or paid a lot."

2. SDP criticises the media

While on stage, SDP speakers appealed to the media to "report with their heart".

Throughout the rally, SDP raised issue with a report in Lianhe Wanbao in April which they claim the headline was erroneous. SDP said they had requested for the headline to be changed and the online version was updated.

Ms Jaslyn Go questioned: "If the article was correct, would Lianhe Wanbao have agreed to change the headline?

"The media must take responsibility and be fair to the voters. The media has to stop pandering to only one side and be made use of for character assassination."

Dr Chee also outrightly said that he was disappointed with the outcome of the interview. He even joked about a photo that was used by the media. He said his opponent Mr Murali Pillai was shown smiling, while he was seen with a "black face".

He said to talk about policies and compare both parties' initiatives would be better than talking about each other's characters.

3. SDP announces four new initiatives

Four inititiatives were announced in between speeches, if SDP gets elected into Parliament. They are:

- Heart for Bukit Batok programme: This is meant for low income and needy residents. Bukit Batok residents can adopt a low income and needy family in the community to volunteer their time and assistance to them,

- Pathfinder programme: SDP will manage and setup a trust fund for the elderly who are poor. If elected, Dr Chee said he will use his MP allowance to assist 10 low income families.

The programme will also help nurture students, build their confidence, and have someone help see them through their education years with subsidised private tuition,

- Dollars and Sense: This is for residents who need assistance with financial problems. SDP has a team of experts who can meet individuals or small groups for advice on financial management, and

- Legal Lifeline: This provides the first step of assistance to low income residents who are in need of legal advice. SDP said seven lawyers have so far volunteered.

Dr Chee held a book signing session after the rally. A long queue formed with supporters waiting to get their books signed by the SDP candidate.

SDP said its next rally will most like be on Tuesday (May 3) but the location is not confirmed. Details will be revealed later.

klim@sph.com.sg