SDP walks ground in five constituencies, unveils young faces

SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan doing a walkabout in Yuhua on Aug 4, 2019. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has announced five constituencies that it plans to contest at the next General Election, but its chief Chee Soon Juan believes a crucial battleground lies in winning the youth vote.

Apart from its outreach to older voters, he said SDP feels it is equally important to connect to the younger generation, and intends to exploit its "very able and competent" team of Young Democrats to do so.

"And for that, sometimes it is easier for us to do it online through social media. This is where I think it's going to be an important battleground... and that's winning the hearts and minds of the younger generation," Dr Chee told the media on Sunday (Aug 4) during a walkabout, where it unveiled several young faces.

They are community associate Fadly Azad, 32, and marketing and communications professional Min Cheong, 34. Both are members of the Young Democrats, which has around 40 members.

Ms Cheong said she had joined SDP initially as a volunteer in 2011 but has now "stepped up" because the party's compassionate policy proposals resonated with her.

She feels younger Singaporeans are concerned with job opportunities, cost of living, housing affordability and climate change.

"We hope we would be able to address those issues and work together with the people to come up with solutions that can address those concerns," said Ms Cheong.

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Mr Fadly, who first volunteered with SDP in 2016, said in Malay that SDP has "tried many methods to engage younger people", including having talk shows dealing with bread-and-butter issues.

Another young face spotted at the walkabout held at a hawker centre located Block 347 in the Yuhua single-seat ward was civil activist Jolovan Wham, 39.

Mr Wham told the media that he stepped up his involvement in the SDP after stepping down as executive director of migrant worker rights group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).

When asked if the young faces were potential candidates, Dr Chee would only say he is considering fielding young candidates.

SDP's Central Executive Committee member Damanhuri Abas, 49, said the party would be deploying its junior members to strategically engage younger Singaporeans online and face-to-face.

Last Friday, the SDP stated its intention to contest in five constituencies at the next GE, which is due by April 2021.

These are the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC), Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, Yuhua Single-Member Constituency (SMC), Bukit Batok SMC, and Bukit Panjang SMC, which the opposition party had also contested at the 2015 GE, and lost.

Besides the walkabout at Yuhua, the SDP also conducted similar events at the other four constituencies on Sunday.

Asked whether exposing SDP's cards early in the game and walking the ground it had previously lost would be a waste of effort, Dr Chee said: "For one thing, you've got to realise that in our situation it takes time for the message to permeate - and for people to begin to know some of these issues they have to deal with in the coming years."

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Also, SDP chairman Dr Paul Tambyah said it is important to stay focused and inspired.

Dr Tambyah told ST: "He (Dr Chee) has been doing this for 20 over years... They keep knocking him down, he keeps bouncing back up. And that's part of the reason why many people are attracted to the SDP."

Dr Chee also reiterated his call for the opposition parties to come together for the next GE, voicing Progress Singapore Party chief Tan Cheng Bock's idea of an informal alliance.

Dr Chee: "This is the situation we are faced: as long as the opposition remains disparate and remains as a motley bunch, we are not going to win the confidence of voters."

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