“I hope that this is the birth of Dr Chee as a new man, as a new person, seen not from the light of the newspapers and the Government but from the light of people who really know him,” Mr Fong Hoe Fang, a publisher, who edited the book.
Mr Fong explained the book's title: Dr Chee started off as a a teacher at the National University of Singapore (NUS) before he entered politics in 1992. He then talked about the need for democracy and how to go about wresting back our political freedoms from the PAP, requiring him to give thought to his actions and claims. And thinkers, Mr Fong said, are also rebels as history shows.
The “why” in the title is a question to Singaporeans to think more deeply and go beyond the caricatures that the PAP has erected about Dr Chee.
Ms Jaslyn Go, SDP's Treasurer, recounted how she had, like many others, at first believed much of the media's portrayal of Dr Chee as a gangster and mad man. “But when I met him personally, I was shocked. I found that he was nothing of what I read in the mainstream media,” she said. “This is why we decided to get together to write this book.”
(Photo: From left - Jaslyn Go, Paul Tambyah, Wong Souk Yee, Tan Lip Hong, Leong Yan Hoi, Fong Hoe Fang)
Professor Paul Tambyah pointed out that Dr Chee was active in civil society and pushing for change when it was not popular. When change comes, he said, “the one person who can stand up and say with hand on his heart that he was there is Dr Chee.”
“I was very curious about what species is this who, against all odds, did what he did in those days. The rest is history,” Dr Wong Souk Yee, NUS lecturer and ex-ISA detainee, said as she recounted how Dr Chee first started out in politics in 1992.
Dr Tan Lip Hong, who co-authored the chapter A Man of Destiny, A Party of Heft with Dr Leong Yan Hoi, touched on the establishment of Speaker's Corner and Dr Chee's role in it: “It was a milestone...he's changed a lot of minds and he's been very persistent and is a die-hard, and that has opened up the political space for all of us.”
“Chee was a man after my heart,” Dr Leong said as he related how the SDP leader had emphasised that democracy should be the bedrock of all modern societies.
Dr Chee also addressed the audience where he repeated his call to the PAP to stop the old politics of personal attacks and debate the SDP on ideas and policies which Singaporeans care about.
He said that while the PAP decried “Western-style” democracy, it copied all the bad practices of Western politicians such as those in the US where political opponents make a sport out of running each other down on a personal basis.
He said he looked forward to leading the SDP in the upcoming GE and challenged the PAP to compete on the strength of the parties' visions and ideas for Singapore.