GE2015: SDP's Chee Soon Juan says 'crowd kept him going' at first rally speech in 15 years

Dr Chee (right) speaking to The Straits Times at Ghim Moh market with teammate Paul Tambyah.
Dr Chee (right) speaking to The Straits Times at Ghim Moh market with teammate Paul Tambyah.ST PHOTO: IDAYU SUPARTO

SINGAPORE - Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan said the crowd kept him going and made a difference towards his first election rally speech in 15 years that saw him speaking in seven languages: Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Malay, Tamil and English.

Speaking to The Straits Times at a Ghim Moh market walkabout on Friday morning, Dr Chee said he was encouraged by the turnout and response of the crowd on Thursday night at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, where the party held its first rally of the general election.

"It really got me going," Dr Chee, 53, said of the rally for the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC seat that the party is also contesting in the election.

"Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of response from the crowd and it makes a difference. That was very encouraging," said Dr Chee.

Medical professor Paul Tambyah, Dr Chee's teammate in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, joked: "Thats what happens when you bottle someone up."

"It was just an introduction," Dr Chee laughed. He said he hoped the messages he made at the rally would make sense to people and that they would want to hear more of it. "Yesterday was just the first night… I think from here on out, it's going to build up," he added.

Dr Chee, who is leading a four-member team in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, is contesting an election for the first time since 2001 after being banned over bankruptcy.

The party is also fielding candidates in three single member constituencies (SMCs) - Bukit Batok SMC, Bukit Panjang SMC and Yuhua SMC.

Along with eight other SDP members, Dr Chee spoke about the high costs of living in Singapore, stressing that there was a need for Singaporeans to have an alternative voice in Parliament.

Over the next few rallies until the Sept 11 polls, the party plans to continue to focus on the cost of living issue and expand on other areas of their policy proposals - including having a minimum wage and increasing social spending, said Dr Chee and Prof Tambyah.

"We're going to focus on different aspects on each rally, but in the backdrop it's all about the cost of living and how Singaporeans can sustain their livelihood," Dr Chee said.

Asked about whether the party's message would appeal to voters of the GRC, which has the highest share of private housing, Dr Chee said, "A lot of people keep thinking the landed property areas - they don't care... But just look around you. Look at Paul (Prof Tambyah). It's people that are in the upper income group that sometimes show concern about things like income inequality, so its not true that richer Singaporeans don't care," he said.

Prof Tambyah added: "I can tell you that they feel the same. Those people who live in the private properties and the private condos, they realise that their children will never be able to live the same standard of living that they live."

The two candidates were joined at the two-hour walkabout by two other teammates - healthcare administrator Chong Wai Fung, 45, and compliance auditor Sidek Mallek, 55.

The walkabout that began at 7.30am saw the party distributing its newspapers and fliers, and stressing its campaign messages about the cost of living to residents having breakfast at the market.

The party will have another chance to appeal to voters at tonight's rally for Bukit Panjang SMC that will take place at the field in front of Block 136 Petir Road.

idayus@sph.com.sg