SDP's Chee Soon Juan

Bukit Batok by-election: SDP's Chee Soon Juan aims to visit every flat

When asked how residents have taken to him, Dr Chee says they are generally polite but have complained about rising prices and how former MP David Ong initially did not provide a proper explanation of why he left.
When asked how residents have taken to him, Dr Chee says they are generally polite but have complained about rising prices and how former MP David Ong initially did not provide a proper explanation of why he left.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Even as they wait for the Bukit Batok by-election date to be announced, two hopefuls have been out meeting and greeting residents almost daily. The Straits Times caught up with the PAP's Murali Pillai and SDP's Chee Soon Juan to ask what they have been up to in the past weeks

Decked in red party T-shirts, Dr Chee Soon Juan and his team of volunteers have been down in Bukit Batok almost daily for the past month.

The 53-year-old secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said his team has knocked on every door in the single-seat constituency as they gear up for a by-election.

And they are going for a second round, he told The Straits Times, as not all residents were home when they went round.

The SDP was the quickest of the opposition parties to stake a claim in the ward, organising a walkabout in the constituency just a day after the PAP announced that Mr David Ong had resigned as MP.

"We are in it to win. We want to make sure that we put in maximum work," Dr Chee said in an interview at his party's Ang Mo Kio headquarters last week.

Dr Chee believes it is a plus that this is a by-election. But he still needs to get out and convince residents. This includes talking about how the SDP can manage the town should it win.

He is aware of the task ahead. At the 2015 General Election, the SDP's Mr Sadasivam Veriyah won just 26 per cent of the vote. In nearby Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, the four-man SDP team that Dr Chee led won 33 per cent of the vote.

But SDP volunteers recall that at the 1991 General Election, their candidate, Mr Kwan Yue Keng, won over 48 per cent of the vote in the Bukit Batok single seat.

Dr Chee believes it is a plus that this is a by-election. But he still needs to get out and convince residents. This includes talking about how the SDP can manage the town should it win.

"A lot depends on our own fight, our own strategy rather than it being a by-election," he added.

Dr Chee's first political contest was in the 1992 Marine Parade by-election. His team got 24 per cent of the vote in a four-way race.

He sat out the 2006 and 2011 elections as he was an undischarged bankrupt, but stood in September last year.

 

His team relies heavily on technology, live-streaming press conferences and posting videos online. They also use the slogan "Now is the time" and tell residents Dr Chee will be a more useful voice to have in Parliament than another PAP MP.

Dr Chee cited retrenchment concerns and cost of living as the two most pressing issues for residents. He told them that he will raise these issues if he is elected.

He said the SDP will launch programmes to help residents raise their quality of life, and pledged to surpass PAP-run town councils in terms of transparency. He announced a transition team to take over estate matters and form a new town council should he win.

Asked how residents have taken to him, Dr Chee paused, then said that they are generally polite.

But they have complained about rising prices and how Mr Ong initially did not provide a proper explanation to them of why he had resigned.

And what does Dr Chee's family have to say about his latest bid?

"My children said, 'Oh no! Again? Didn't you just have one?'" he said. "But they take it in their stride. I tell them it is always an opportunity to make that difference, even if it is incrementally."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'He aims to visit every flat SDP's Chee Soon Juan'. Print Edition | Subscribe