SINGAPORE - Opposition politician Chee Soon Juan has responded to recent criticism from the government, saying on Friday that he chose a different path and is proud of what he has done.
Dr Chee, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general, was responding to a letter on Thursday by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing to the United States-based Huffington Post news website.
In that letter, Mr Chan described Dr Chee as a "political failure" because of his own failings, not because of any persecutions by the authorities here. The letter was a response to two commentaries by Dr Chee that the Huffington Post published last November and December.
Dr Chee argued in the articles that Singaporeans had not all benefited equally from the country's free trade agreement with the US, and criticised the system of media controls in Singapore.
In his reply posted on the SDP's website and Facebook page on Friday, Dr Chee commended Mr Chan for his achievements and said that he chose a different path from the minister.
"It is, admittedly, not a conventional path and, certainly, not one that leads to power, privilege and a high salary. In this respect Mr Chan is right, I have not succeeded," Dr Chee said.
"I have instead undertaken to speak up for the people of Singapore in what was, to put it mildly, a very difficult political terrain. Nevertheless, I am proud of my achievements, as I am sure Mr Chan is of his," he added.
Dr Chee said that he found Mr Chan's letter troubling on two fronts.
First, that it stigmatised failure, and second, that it engaged in name-calling and mud-slinging.
Urging Singaporeans not to be afraid to fail, Dr Chee said: "It is from our failures that we learn and become better persons and go on to achieve great things."
He also criticised what he described as the People's Action Party's (PAP) "habit of engaging in the politics of name-calling and personal destruction".
"How does calling me a failure help to solve the problems that Singaporeans face?" he said.
Instead, he invited Mr Chan to debate with him on issues such as the Central Provident Fund, healthcare, housing, population and education.
"For the sake of Singaporeans, let us go beyond such an unconstructive form of politics which Singaporeans detest and graduate to a more mature level of contestation of ideas which the people deserve," said Dr Chee.