SINGAPORE - Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan said on Saturday that he would put a stop to mudslinging by his party members, if any, after several of them had hit out at former Bukit Batok MP David Ong at the SDP's first rally last night.
This follows remarks by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said on Saturday that Dr Chee was being "hypocritical" about the matter.
After several speakers at the SDP rally on Friday night had criticised Mr Ong for an alleged affair, Dr Chee had taken the stage and said that it was not his style to "kick a man when he is down", Mr Lee pointed out.
"You get your guys to say all the bad things, and you come along and you look magisterial and benign and you say you must not hit somebody, having caused all your lieutenants to hit him as hard as they can. But unfortunately, it's in character," said Mr Lee.
Responding on Facebook in the evening, SDP Central Executive Committee member Paul Tambyah said: "We believe that you can criticise what a person says, or what a person does, but don't attack the person."
While it is fair to ask what happened to Mr Ong's plans for Bukit Batok, it is not right to question his character, he said in a video clip.
He also said that attacking Dr Chee's character is "uncalled for", adding that his party wants to debate the issues that matter to Bukit Batok residents.
Earlier, Dr Chee had said he wanted to read Mr Lee's remarks first before replying.
He added: "What we want to do is to be able to make sure that we keep this kind of situation off the table...I want to make sure, if it was done, we will make sure we put a stop to it."
When asked, he said he was aware of the various speakers' speeches before they were delivered. He added that he would ask the speakers "not to go on at this matter some more".
Dr Chee, who is his party's candidate in the by-election, was speaking to reporters after a cycling outreach event in Bukit Batok.
"Our message continues to be to stay positive, not get into the kind of mudslinging that we all expected from the PAP side," he said.
Dr Chee also responded to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who questioned his ability to be a full-time MP. She noted that he had not held a full-time job for years.
To this, he said: "It's all about priority - I can choose to be any one of them, sitting in their nice offices and earning the kind of salaries that they do."
"But you make life's choices. I chose to serve Singapore, I chose to make sure that we spend time talking about the issues," he added.
Referring to MPs who have another job, he said: "You just cannot sit in office and say, hey, I'm doing my legal work, I'm doing my medical work, whatever they are engaged in, and then when I'm free I come down and shake a few hands, and then write a few letters for them on their behalf."
He said that the SDP is his "curriculum vitae", and cited as an example of his work a series of policy papers in areas such as healthcare and housing that the party has come up with in the past few years.
He said he had to muster "human and financial" resources as a leader of the party to help bring together a project of such scale.
"Look at our organisation, you look at some of the things we've come up with...If we didn't dedicate our time to doing this, how do you think we were able to bring something like this up?" he added.
In doing so, the SDP had been doing "unpaid research" for the PAP that has been "taking our ideas", Dr Chee added.