Interview with SDP's Chee Soon Juan

'We'll run a constructive and positive campaign'

Dr Chee Soon Juan meeting a member of the public during his walkabout at Bukit Timah Market on Sunday. He says SDP aims to appeal to Singaporeans that it is important to have a competent opposition.
Dr Chee Soon Juan meeting a member of the public during his walkabout at Bukit Timah Market on Sunday. He says SDP aims to appeal to Singaporeans that it is important to have a competent opposition.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Party chief says of all the polls he has taken part in, SDP is 'most prepared' for this one

The flags and red balloons are ready. An army of tiny teddy bears, declaring "I Love SDP" on their T-shirts, is raring to go.

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) plans to run a "constructive" and "positive" campaign in this general election, says its secretary-general Chee Soon Juan.

"We are not going to call names. We are not going to say PAP is bad, opposition is good," he told The Straits Times in an exclusive interview. "We want to see change and you will see that from us. We're going to be constructive, we're going to be positive."

The SDP will champion a series of alternative plans on issues like housing, retirement savings and healthcare that it had laid out systematically in the run-up to the elections.

"We want to appeal to (Singaporeans) that it is important to have not just an opposition - because you can have opposition there all the time throwing stones, being obstructive and so on - but having a competent opposition, a constructive opposition, a compassionate opposition," he said, in reference to his party's motto.

This year will be the first time that Dr Chee is taking part in well over a decade. He was disqualified from the 2006 and 2011 general elections, on account of his bankruptcy after being sued for defamation by former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

In 2012, his bankruptcy status was annulled after both men agreed to his offer of $30,000 as settlement.

"What's past is the past," he said. "What's important is our country's future. I don't hold grudges against the PAP," he said.

The 53-year-old former psychology lecturer, who has been with the party since 1992, has spent his years on the political backbench fine-tuning the party's campaign operations. He declared: "Of all the elections I have been in, this is the one that we've been most prepared."

SDP launched its election campaign in January and followed that up the following month by presenting a paper entitled "A New Economic Vision" to reduce income inequality and increase innovation.

One of the paper's recommendations is to let retirees who want to receive their Central Provident Fund savings in instalments to opt into that arrangement, rather than for it to be mandatory as it is now.

Another is to implement a minimum wage starting from $7 an hour, and then setting up a wage commission that would review the sum periodically.

To lower the cost of housing, it proposes removing land cost from prices of Housing Board flats under a scheme which would bar these flats from being resold on the open market.

The party is fielding 11 candidates this year, in Holland-Bukit Timah and Marsiling-Yew Tee Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), as well as Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok and Yuhua Single-Member Constituencies (SMCs).

In the 2011 polls, it contested in Sembawang and Holland-Bukit Timah GRCs, as well as Bukit Panjang and Yuhua, winning 36.8 per cent of votes across all the wards.

SDP caught public attention in 2011 by fielding investment adviser and former senior civil servant Tan Jee Say as well as retired army colonel Ang Yong Guan. Both have since left to start the Singaporeans First party.

This time round, one of the SDP's most high-profile candidates is Dr Paul Tambyah, a full professor at the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline ''We'll run a constructive and positive campaign''. Print Edition | Subscribe