SDP marks 35th year with appeal for voter support

Members of the SDP Central Executive Committee at last night's anniversary event: (from left) Assistant treasurer Jaslyn Go, assistant secretary-general Christopher Ang, vice-chairman John Tan, chairman Jeffrey George, secretary-general Chee Soon Jua
Members of the SDP Central Executive Committee at last night's anniversary event: (from left) Assistant treasurer Jaslyn Go, assistant secretary-general Christopher Ang, vice-chairman John Tan, chairman Jeffrey George, secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, treasurer Chong Wai Fung, Ms Chee Siok Chin, Mr Bryan Lim, and Mr Jufri Salim.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan last night called for voters to elect his party's candidates to Parliament after an 18-year absence, saying Singapore needed an opposition that was competent, constructive and compassionate - one like the SDP.

"We want to give voters a reason to vote for the SDP, not just against the PAP," he said at the party's 35th anniversary dinner last night.

Dr Chee highlighted two reasons why it was crucial to have SDP candidates in Parliament.

One, it was the only party that has consistently said that political freedom and economic progress are two sides of the same coin.

Two, it was also the only party to have come up with alternative policies for Singapore.

"Without advancement in our political rights, problems regarding our economic and social well-being cannot be addressed," Dr Chee told more than 200 members and supporters who attended the dinner. "We are also the only party to have drawn up a bold new vision for this nation and crafted alternative policies to take the country closer to that vision," he said.

"There is nothing worse than asking voters to vote for change when they don't know what that change is or might look like."

The SDP, which launched its campaign in January, has said that it would champion issues relating to the cost of living, the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Minimum Sum, as well as the country's growing population.

The next general election will also be the first that Dr Chee is set to contest since 2001. He was unable to run in 2006 and 2011 as he was declared bankrupt after failing to pay $500,000 in damages for defaming then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong during the 2001 General Election. He was cleared of bankruptcy in 2012.

Determined to make his comeback this time round, Dr Chee said he would be fielding his best candidates in the two group representation constituencies the SDP will contest - Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC. But he remained tight-lipped on where he himself would stand. The SDP will also be fielding candidates in three single-member constituencies - Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok and Yuhua. In the 2011 elections, the SDP polled 36.8 per cent of the votes across the two GRCs and two SMCs it contested - Sembawang GRC and Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, as well as Bukit Panjang and Yuhua. This time round, Dr Chee said the party is still waiting to see which PAP candidates are going to be fielded in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, before finalising his candidates for the constituency. The party will only disclose its line-up nearer to Nomination Day, he added.

Meanwhile, a likely SDP candidate, medical professor Paul Tambyah, told The Sunday Times that he would prefer to be fielded "somewhere nearer to home".

Prof Tambyah, who lives on the National University of Singapore campus in Clementi, said: "In the history of opposition politics in Singapore, nobody wins on the first time. With social media, we have a chance of rewriting that history."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'SDP marks 35th year with appeal for voter support'. Print Edition | Subscribe