SINGAPORE - Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan does not believe the wealthy will always vote for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) or that the rich cares little for people around them like the elderly and poor.
"The wealthy segment of our society cares - and cares deeply - about what is happening around them. I believe that compassion is innate in all of us," he told a packed crowd at UOB Plaza on Monday afternoon at the first lunchtime rally for this general election.
He said this in response to people who have asked him why he is standing as a candidate in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, which includes private housing estates in areas like Sixth Avenue and Namly Road. They told him: "It's where all the rich people are. They are so rich and contented that they will vote for the PAP."
Dr Chee stressed that the SDP is not against wealth, but is opposed to wealth inequality. This is because "the widening income gap harms the common good, erodes cohesiveness, and corrodes the values that fosters social cohesiveness".
Calling inequality in Singapore "striking and ugly", he sought to draw parallels with some countries in South America which have seen wide income inequalities. "You find that society breaks down, the crime rate goes up, education suffers. We have got to guard against that."
The SDP pipped PAP to the first rally in the Central Business District. Seven other SDP candidates also spoke, including Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine professor Paul Tambyah, who defended SDP's alternative policy proposals.
Dr Chee also spoke about how he had been on the receiving end of kindness from several well-to-do Singaporeans. He recounted how, when he was selling his book Democratically Speaking in Raffles Place in 2012, a stranger handed him a box of cupcakes. And in it was a red packet with a $10,000 note in there.
He also thanked filmmaker Tay Bee Pin for producing the 18-minute short film Behind The Man, about Dr Chee and his family living in their three-room Toa Payoh flat.
He addressed his critics who accused him of engaging a public relations company to fashion his public image, saying: "Please, please don't insult or rubbish the sacrifices some of these people make.
"My life has been an open book for ridicule and attacks from PAP and its supporters. I hope you don't ridicule me and my wife, taking our home as a little sanctuary where, when we close the door, it's just us and our children in a little corner of the world where the PAP can't get in."