Chee Soon Juan to contest Bukit Batok by-election

Dr Chee announcing his intention to contest the upcoming Bukit Batok by-election yesterday. He said that the SDP's goal would be to surpass the current performance levels of PAP-run town councils.
Dr Chee announcing his intention to contest the upcoming Bukit Batok by-election yesterday. He said that the SDP's goal would be to surpass the current performance levels of PAP-run town councils.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SDP chief says his priority, if he is elected, would be to ensure town council is well run

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan will contest the upcoming Bukit Batok by-election.

He was introduced as the party's candidate by SDP member Sadasivam Veriyah, who contested the seat in last year's general election, at a walkabout yesterday morning.

Dr Chee, 53, and his party members have been making their rounds of the single seat over the past week since former MP David Ong stepped down over an alleged affair with a volunteer. Mr Ong, 54, resigned as MP and a People's Action Party (PAP) member on March 12.

The date for the by-election has not been announced, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said it will be called "in due course".

 

The SDP announcement comes a day before the PAP is set to name its candidate later today.

Dr Chee is making his fifth bid to enter Parliament, after having had to sit out the 2006 and 2011 general elections as he was an undischarged bankrupt.

At GE2015, he led the SDP team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, which won 33.4 per cent of votes.

He said yesterday that should he be fortunate enough to be elected this time, his priority would be "to ensure the efficient and productive management of the town council".

"The SDP's goal is to surpass current levels of performance of PAP- run town councils," he said.

He added that the SDP will not engage a managing agent, but will "employ qualified and experienced professionals" to run it.

He promised to retain the bulk of the existing staff from the current Jurong-Clementi Town Council's Bukit Batok office for a smooth handover should he win.

He also said he intends to hold regular townhall meetings to ask residents about their concerns and issues to raise in Parliament.

"I will be a competent, constructive and compassionate MP, one Bukit Batok voters will be proud of," he told reporters at a media conference near a coffee shop in Bukit Batok West Avenue 8.

Asked to explain why he was the party's choice, Dr Chee would only say SDP had internal discussions and details could not be disclosed.

But he said Bukit Batok "is no new territory" for SDP. It contested the seat in 1988 and 1991, before it was drawn into a GRC, and again when it became a single-member constituency last year.

In GE2015, SDP's Mr Sadasivam Veriyah won 26.4 per cent of votes, while PAP's Mr David Ong got 73 per cent and independent candidate Samir Salim Neji got 0.6 per cent.

Mr Samir has said he will not contest the by-election, which is likely to see a straight race between Dr Chee and the PAP candidate.

The Workers' Party said last week it would not contest the seat.

Yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party chief Benjamin Pwee, People's Power Party chief Goh Meng Seng and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam all said they were glad Dr Chee was standing, and hoped for a straight fight.

Asked about his chances in the coming contest, Dr Chee said he was up against an "undemocratic system" where it was "tremendously difficult" for his party to get its message out in the media.

"We don't talk about our chances. We come down, we work, we persuade, we convince and try to see how we can overcome the obstacles despite all these barriers."

Residents like driver Teo Lai Choon, 59, who has lived in the area for over 30 years, said he was not surprised at the SDP's choice of candidate. "More people know Dr Chee. I am not sure about their chances of winning, but I think they will improve from last year's result," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'Chee Soon Juan to contest Bukit Batok by-election'. Print Edition | Subscribe