Singapore GE2020: PAP calls out SDP's Chee Soon Juan for misleading Singaporeans over 10m population figure

It says falsehood over a key plank of party's campaign calls its integrity into question

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, seen here at a walkabout at Bukit Batok MRT station yesterday, was called on by the PAP to clarify his stance. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, seen here at a walkabout at Bukit Batok MRT station yesterday, was called on by the PAP to clarify his stance. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The People's Action Party (PAP) yesterday called out opposition politician Chee Soon Juan for attempting to mislead Singaporeans by claiming that the Government planned to increase the country's population to 10 million, and further twisting facts when his falsehood was caught out.

Pointing out that this was a key election plank of Dr Chee's Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the PAP said in a statement last night that the falsehood "calls into question the integrity of the whole party".

Dr Chee had claimed in a live debate on Wednesday that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had "toyed with the idea" of raising the Republic's population to 10 million.

In a Facebook post yesterday, DPM Heng's response was emphatic. He said that he had not said the country should plan to raise its population to 10 million, or mentioned the number.

The SDP, which is asking voters to reject a population of 10 million, responded by claiming victory on that count.

The PAP noted that Dr Chee had repeated his false statement three times in the live TV debate. Each time, he was corrected by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who was representing the PAP.

Dr Balakrishnan had also referred Dr Chee to the National Population and Talent Division's statement that the Government had no plans to raise the population to 10 million.

Despite this, Dr Chee doubled down on this falsehood, publishing a Facebook post linking to a Straits Times report of a dialogue that DPM Heng had with Nanyang Technological University students in March last year.

Yesterday, ST clarified that "Mr Heng did not say Singapore should plan for 10 million people - nor did he mention the figure" at the event.

DPM Heng himself refuted Dr Chee's false statement, and said in a Facebook post yesterday: "Let me be clear: The Government has never proposed or targeted for Singapore to increase the population to 10 million. And if we look at today's situation, our population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030."

Joining in later yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan also called on Dr Chee to clarify his stance, now that the 10 million figure touted in the party's manifesto had turned out to be a falsehood.

 
 
 
 

The SDP, however, said in a press release later yesterday: "Now that Dr Chee has successfully extracted an assurance from the PAP that it has no intention of increasing the population to 6.9 or 10 million, we invite the PAP to tell Singaporeans what its target population is."

In a nod to its campaign slogan 4Y 1N - which hinges on getting people to say "no" to a 10 million population - the SDP added: "The idea of a 10 million population is not an SDP invention or imagination."

This prompted the PAP to say that having been proven wrong, the honourable thing to do would have been to "admit that SDP's election campaign was based on a falsehood, withdraw it, and apologise to Singaporeans for misleading them".

"Instead, Dr Chee further twists the facts. He now claims the SDP has 'achieved victory' by extracting a promise from the PAP that it had no intention to increase the population to 10 million.

"Dr Chee first conjures a bogey out of thin air to befuddle, frighten and divide Singaporeans," said the PAP. It added that when it was pointed out no bogey existed and no one had "toyed" with the idea, "he waves his arms triumphantly in the air, proclaiming, 'see, I slayed the bogey'".

Pointing out that Dr Chee has "staged this drama many times before", the PAP statement said that the "new Dr Chee - of which there have been many - is still the old Dr Chee".

"This latest falsehood, however, is not just a matter of Dr Chee's personal dishonesty. The '1 No' is a key plank in the SDP's election campaign. Its falsehood renders the campaign pointless, and calls into question the integrity of the whole party."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2020, with the headline 'PAP calls out SDP's Chee for misleading Singaporeans over 10m figure'. Subscribe