Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan urged Singaporeans not to be afraid to "rock the boat" during uncertain times so that they can send a loud and clear message to the People's Action Party (PAP) at the coming election.
Said Dr Chee: "Singaporeans must understand that the boat is sinking. If you don't start paddling, if you just remain still so that you don't rock the boat, it is going to sink. It is already happening, even before Covid-19 hit, and it is going to continue and just worsen the situation."
Dr Chee, the SDP's secretary-general, made the remarks during an online session yesterday on Zoom, during which he fielded questions from about a dozen journalists. The session was also live-streamed on Facebook.
Dr Chee said Singapore has just come out of a very restrictive circuit breaker. The Government has spent some $93 billion to help boost the economy, and help businesses and struggling Singaporeans, and "we have to paddle very hard right now to make sure we get to shore".
The hour-long session, chaired by SDP chairman Paul Tambyah, expanded on the party's "4 Yeses, 1 No" campaign message.
Dr Chee said the reason SDP organised the meeting was to talk about issues that affect Singaporeans "front and centre".
The party is calling for a suspension of the goods and services tax (GST) until the end of next year, for retrenched workers to be paid 50 per cent of their last drawn salary for 18 months, and a $500 monthly retirement income for lower-income seniors aged over 65.
It is also against growing the population to 10 million, and wants the Government to "put people first".
Dr Chee yesterday also criticised the raft of Budget measures, which he said goes largely towards supporting corporations and businesses. He also claimed that a large number of them are government-linked companies.
Dr Tambyah said the last four Budgets mainly support employers, in hopes that the benefits will trickle down to employees, and asked how much of the financial support goes towards helping ordinary Singaporeans.
The Government this year passed the Unity, Resilience, Solidarity and Fortitude Budgets, totalling $92.9 billion, to tackle the economic impact of the pandemic.
Of that, $72 billion was earmarked for saving jobs and keeping businesses going. The rest of the money will fund public health and social support measures.
As part of these measures, the Jobs Support Scheme provides wage support to help employers retain local workers.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, in his round-up speech on the Fortitude Budget earlier this month, said the Government will spend $23.5 billion on supporting 1.9 million jobs over 10 months, close to two-thirds of which are in small and medium-sized enterprises.
At yesterday's virtual meeting, the SDP leaders were asked a range of questions, such as how effective would the party be if it was voted into Parliament.
Responding to questions on opposition party unity, Dr Chee and Dr Tambyah said it does not look like there will be a three-cornered fight in the constituencies the SDP will be contesting.
These are: Yuhua, Bukit Panjang and Bukit Batok SMCs, and Holland-Bukit Timah and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRCs.
The SDP also confirmed that it will be fielding 11 candidates across these five constituencies. These are the same constituencies it contested in the 2015 election.
It may be difficult but not impossible for the opposition to change things, said Dr Tambyah.
For instance, after the 2011 polls, changes were seen, he added.
Said Dr Tambyah: "2011 was a watershed election and the voters in Singapore sent a message to the PAP that came through loud and clear. And that was the first time for many of us, my generation and younger, where we could actually see the PAP listening to people and making substantive changes in terms of education, the MRT and healthcare."