The opposition

Hot contest in store in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC

SDP and PAP supporters waving their party colours at the Assumption Pathway School during Nomination Day for the 2015 General Election.
SDP and PAP supporters waving their party colours at the Assumption Pathway School during Nomination Day for the 2015 General Election. ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

A swathe of white encircled a tiny splotch of red at Assumption Pathway School Nomination Centre yesterday, as the People's Action Party's (PAP's) supporters vastly outnumbered those from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

Still, there were hints that the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC contest could turn out to be one of the most heated rematches between the two parties in this election.

SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, fresh out of bankruptcy caused by a defamation lawsuit, will lead Dr Paul Tambyah, Ms Chong Wai Fung and Mr Sidek Mallek against the incumbent PAP team comprising Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Ms Sim Ann, Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Mr Christopher de Souza.

Addressing his supporters in Mandarin after his candidacy was confirmed, Dr Chee saidthat he was excited to be standing for election for the first time in 15 years. His party, he stressed, had worked out a whole slew of alternative policies for Singapore's future.

He later told reporters he had stayed true to his original call for stronger political rights. "I've been consistent in my message, telling Singaporeans that we need to be looking at some of these issues that have to do with our political rights because without the political rights, we cannot be talking about economic well-being," he said.

"Look at what the situation is right now. We've become the most expensive city in the world without minimum wage. Singaporeans' work-life balance is completely off kilter. That's all because we've not had an opposition, an effective opposition in Singapore, in Parliament, to voice out and to serve as a check and balance against PAP policies."

Dr Chee, who has always alleged he was a victim of character assassination by the PAP, has called for a clean, constructive electoral contest based on policies and ideas.

His opponents were quick to criticise SDP's policies. They also pointed out that the SDP team that contested Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in the 2011 General Election had been completely replaced.

Two members of the 2011 team, psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan and investment adviser Tan Jee Say, have started their own party called the Singaporeans First party. Another, civil society activist Vincent Wijeysingha, has also quit the party.

The PAP won 60.1 per cent of the vote in that contest.

Dr Balakrishnan, who is Minister for Environment and Water Resources, warned at a press conference in Bukit Panjang that the SDP's policies would put Singapore on the path to financial ruin.

"SDP will set us on the road to Greece," he said, referring to the debt-stricken country. "And it is the duty of my team to awaken Singaporeans to the dangers of such policy prescriptions."

Ms Sim, who is Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information, said older Singaporeans "should know quite a bit about Dr Chee the man and his deeds".

"This includes how Dr Chee let Mr Chiam See Tong - who once nurtured him - down, and kicked his mentor out of the party his mentor created."

She was referring to a dispute more than 20 years ago that led to the departure of Mr Chiam from the SDP. The SDP has maintained that Mr Chiam - a former long-time Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir SMC - was never forced out, but resigned as secretary-general of his own accord.

Asked about the SDP's call for a clean, constructive campaign, Dr Balakrishnan replied: "Voters are going to choose the direction of Singapore and going to choose the type of leadership that they want for Singapore. These are two important dimensions - the voters need to make an informed decision."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Hot contest in store in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC'. Print Edition | Subscribe