SINGAPORE - Character is something that has to be demonstrated and earned, not just talked about, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan said on Monday (May 2), following a weekend where the issue of character has dominated exchanges between the SDP and the People's Action Party (PAP).
Speaking to reporters after a cycling outreach event in Bukit Batok, where he is facing PAP's Murali Pillai in the May 7 by-election, Dr Chee said he agreed that the character of a candidate is something voters are concerned with. But voters can discern this for themselves, he added.
"If you want to talk about character, then show yourself to have character," he said. "When there is character, you don't have to go and tell other people 'that guy has poor character'. Ironically, it reflects on that person."
Dr Chee's remarks came after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, a member of the PAP's central executive committee, hit out at the SDP's argument that the character of election candidates should be off limits.
Mr Heng had said on Sunday (May 1) that SDP's argument that a person is not defined by his or her actions or words - made by SDP CEC member Paul Tambyah - was "one of the most astounding statements ever made in the history of Singapore politics".
Mr Heng's comments came a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, PAP's secretary-general, raised questions about the character of SDP chief Chee Soon Juan.
The PAP did not hold a rally on Sunday, but SDP did, and Dr Chee called on PAP to "stop the gutter politics" and focus on policy issues.
Dr Chee added that there is no need to "run down" a person or talk bad about him behind his back.
"Character is when you show other people what you can do for them, not how badly you talk about them," he said. "I keep saying, let's not get into this thing where you show everybody how holy you are, how unblemished you are. People see this in you, (so) be humble."
He also reiterated his charge that there is "absolutely no way" that a Member of Parliament can hold a full-time job and still discharge his responsibilities fully.
"The more I come out and talk to people and meet people, the more that you find that it's so ridiculous for MPs to be part time," he said. "Absolutely no way, no way, that you can do the job on a part-time basis."
Dr Chee said he intends to focus on three areas for the rest of the campaign, which will end on Thursday (May 5). Cooling-off day is on Friday (May 6), and Bukit Batok residents will vote on Saturday (May 7).
Besides pledging to be a full-time MP if he wins, Dr Chee said the SDP will make sure that it takes good care of the town council, while ensuring that it executes its social programmes at the municipal level.
"At the Parliamentary level, we've been laying out - and we'll continue to lay out - over the last two rallies some of the national issues that we're very concerned about: primarily our cost of living and (proposed) retrenchment insurance scheme," he said.
"We'll be talking about education of our children, these are some of the things we'll be talking about," he added.
SDP will also hold a rally tomorrow night (May 3).