SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) on Thursday night (July 2) said the election campaign of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is pointless now that a key plank of its campaign has been proven false.
The "No to 10 million population", which is part of the SDP's Four Yes, One No campaign slogan for the general election, is based on a false claim that the Government plans to raise the country's population to 10 million, the PAP noted.
The ruling party said the honourable thing for SDP chief Chee Soon Juan to do would have been to admit that his party's campaign was based on a falsehood, withdraw it, and apologise to Singaporeans for misleading them.
"But that would have been out of character," the PAP said.
"Instead, Dr Chee further twists the facts. He now claims the SDP has 'achieved victory' by extracting a promise from the PAP that it had no intention to increase the population to 10 million," it added.
The PAP statement came hours after the SDP said that Dr Chee had "successfully extracted an assurance from the PAP that it has no intention of increasing the population to 6.9 or 10 million".
The SDP had claimed the PAP wished to jack up the population to 10 million by bringing in more foreigners, a charge Dr Chee repeated three times during a televised debate on Channel 5 on Wednesday.
Dr Chee claimed that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had in an interview "toy(ed) with the idea of bringing our population up to 10 million", the PAP noted.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, representing the PAP, refuted him each time, referring Dr Chee to a statement the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) issued earlier in the day.
The NPTD also stated categorically that the Government "has not proposed, planned nor targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million".
Dr Balakrishnan also stated for the record that Singapore "will never have 10 million".
And Dr Balakrishnan asked Dr Chee not to repeat the false statement.
"But Dr Chee doubled down on this falsehood. After the debate, he published it again, this time in a Facebook post linking to a Straits Times report of a dialogue that DPM Heng had with NTU students in March last year," the PAP said.
Mr Heng himself refuted Dr Chee's false statement in a Facebook post earlier on Thursday, and released the video clip of what he had said at Nanyang Technological University.
Mr Heng referred to former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who had publicly said Singapore should go for a higher population number. Mr Heng also said the population number is not just about the physical space but also the social space, and sense of togetherness.
The PAP said: "Dr Chee first conjures a bogey out of thin air to befuddle, frighten and divide Singaporeans. When it is pointed out to him the bogey doesn't exist, he claims someone else had 'toyed' with the idea first.
"And when it is shown conclusively that someone else had done no such thing, he waves his arms triumphantly in the air, proclaiming, 'see, I slayed the bogey'."
Added the PAP: "Dr Chee has staged this drama many times before, going back to 1996 when he refused to apologise for his use of wrong data on healthcare subsides at a Parliamentary Select Committee.
"'Reputation is temporary; character is permanent,' Dr Chee said in 2015. One cannot agree more.
"A leopard does not change its spots. The new Dr Chee - of which there have been many - is still the old Dr Chee," it added.
What was actually said
March 29, 2019
A Straits Times report, headlined "Heng Swee Keat on keeping Singapore open: We don't want a world where people build walls", on a dialogue that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had with Nanyang Technological University students, reads: "On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government's 2013 Population White Paper, Mr Heng said the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be.
The social space is as important. Singapore's population density is not excessive, he said, noting that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.
"He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term."
Mr Heng neither said Singapore should plan for 10 million people - nor mentioned the figure.
July 1, 2020
The National Population and Talent Division, under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), issues a clarification saying recent statements on various online platforms that the Government proposes or plans to increase the population in Singapore to 10 million are untrue.
It adds that an update on the population outlook, provided in Parliament in March 2018, said given recent trends, the total population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030, and this outlook remains valid today.
In a televised general election debate, Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan says Mr Heng "toys with the idea of bringing our population up to 10 million", and asks Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan if he would categorically tell Singaporeans that his party has no intention of raising the population to 10 million by continuing to bring in foreigners.
Dr Balakrishnan replies that the PMO has just issued a statement advising people like Dr Chee not to indulge in falsehoods, saying: "The Government doesn't have a target for the population."
Shortly after the debate ends, Dr Chee puts up a Facebook post with a link to the March 29, 2019, ST article.
He writes: "Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said at the debate that my claim that Mr Heng Swee Keat was toying with the idea of a 10m population was a falsehood. Here's what ST reported on 29 Mar 2019..."
Mr Heng makes a Facebook post noting that he did not say Singapore should plan to increase its population to 10 million, or mention the figure.
"Let me be clear: The Government has never proposed or targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million. And if we look at today's situation, our population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030," he writes.
Mr Heng also posts a video of his response on the subject at the forum, which shows him saying: "On the population issue, the 6.9 million number that was put out earlier on.
In fact, I met Mr Liu Thai Ker, our former chief planner, he had publicly said - it has been reported in the papers - that we should go for an even higher number and this little red dot can accommodate many more people.
"Now whether this little red dot can accommodate many more people, actually, is not strictly just a physical constraint. We cannot be thinking of 50 million people on this little red dot because it will just be so dense and unpleasant.
"But if you look at our population density as a city, it is not excessive. There are many cities which, if you look at the liveable space, it is actually a lot, a lot more crowded. But the population number is not just about physical space, it is also about the social space, it is about the sense of togetherness."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.