Other opposition party rallies - SDP

Chee makes surprise pledge to work with PAP

THEY CAME TO WOO THE CROWD: Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan (above) bowing to those who came to listen to him; Singapore People's Party candidate Ravi Philemon reaching out to voters; SingFirst's Tan Jee Say hyping up his audience; and
THEY CAME TO WOO THE CROWD: Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan (above) bowing to those who came to listen to him; Singapore People's Party candidate Ravi Philemon reaching out to voters; SingFirst's Tan Jee Say hyping up his audience; and a supporter flying the flag of the National Solidarity Party. ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, DESMOND WEE, LIM SIN THAI, JAMIE KOH
THEY CAME TO WOO THE CROWD: Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan (bowing to those who came to listen to him; Singapore People's Party candidate Ravi Philemon (above)  reaching out to voters; SingFirst's Tan Jee Say hyping up his audience; a
THEY CAME TO WOO THE CROWD: Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan (bowing to those who came to listen to him; Singapore People's Party candidate Ravi Philemon (above) reaching out to voters; SingFirst's Tan Jee Say hyping up his audience; and a supporter flying the flag of the National Solidarity Party. ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, DESMOND WEE, LIM SIN THAI, JAMIE KOH
THEY CAME TO WOO THE CROWD: Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan (bowing to those who came to listen to him; Singapore People's Party candidate Ravi Philemon  reaching out to voters; SingFirst's Tan Jee Say (above) hyping up his audience; a
THEY CAME TO WOO THE CROWD: Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan (bowing to those who came to listen to him; Singapore People's Party candidate Ravi Philemon reaching out to voters; SingFirst's Tan Jee Say (above) hyping up his audience; and a supporter flying the flag of the National Solidarity Party. ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, DESMOND WEE, LIM SIN THAI, JAMIE KOH
THEY CAME TO WOO THE CROWD: Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan  bowing to those who came to listen to him; Singapore People's Party candidate Ravi Philemon reaching out to voters; SingFirst's Tan Jee Say  hyping up his audience; and a sup
THEY CAME TO WOO THE CROWD: Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan bowing to those who came to listen to him; Singapore People's Party candidate Ravi Philemon reaching out to voters; SingFirst's Tan Jee Say hyping up his audience; and a supporter flying the flag (above) of the National Solidarity Party. ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, DESMOND WEE, LIM SIN THAI, JAMIE KOH

But he adds that finding common ground does not mean agreeing with everything all the time

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan yesterday pledged to find common ground and work with the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), in a surprising departure from the opposition party's more confrontational past.

Even Dr Chee seemed to appreciate the shock value of his remarks, prefacing them by saying: "What I'm about to say may register significantly on the Richter scale."

"The PAP is not all bad. Some of the MPs genuinely work and care for the people. But by the same token, neither is the opposition the useless destructive force that the PAP paints us out to be," he said at the SDP rally in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

He added, however, that this did not mean having to agree on everything all the time because that would make Singapore "like Nazi Germany".

Dr Chee, who was sued for defamation by former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, is contesting his first election in 14 years after being cleared of bankruptcy in 2012.

"The PAP and opposition must find common ground and work for the good of this country. We will cooperate and support the ruling party on issues that benefit the people," he said. "But where we see PAP policies taking Singapore down the wrong path, we will be steadfast in our principles and push the PAP hard."

Dr Chee, 53, is standing as a candidate in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC alongside medical professor Paul Tambyah, 50; compliance auditor Sidek Mallek, 55; and healthcare administrator Chong Wai Fung, 45.

He was the final speaker to take the stage at the SDP's third rally, which took on a pop concert-like atmosphere last night, even as many used their speeches to attack the Government's immigration policy.

Light sticks were distributed to the crowd and, towards the end, the rally speakers led them in chants of "SDP! SDP!"

On immigration, Dr Chee stressed that the PAP had got it wrong. Not only has the policy strained infrastructure, he said, but it has also diluted the Singaporean identity and caused acute stress among locals.

He questioned the Government's lack of planning for the influx of foreigners before "the floodgates were opened". He added that not having a plan to assimilate them into Singapore society - as evident from enclaves - has also "led to trouble".

He cited, as an example, the Little India riot on Dec 8, 2013, which was Singapore's worst case of violence in over 40 years. It left 49 Home Team officers injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged.

Dr Chee, citing the findings of a subsequent Committee of Inquiry into the riot, said: "The lack of planning by the Government was so bad that even the police were not trained to handle the unrest."

But he stressed that the SDP is not xenophobic, calling instead for a regulated immigration policy that takes into account the quality of foreign workers, and moderates the speed they come into the country.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'SDP Chee makes surprise pledge to work with PAP'. Print Edition | Subscribe