Chee Soon Juan
Lianhe Zaobao reporter Ms Yew Tun Lian recently conducted an interview with me in which she described my answers to her questions as evasive. I was alerted to her recent Facebook posting in which she continues to insist that she had not misrepresented me.
I had fielded several questions in the hour-long interview with her during which I was asked about the SDP’s development, the schism with Mr Chiam See Tong, and the upcoming elections.
While I readily answered these questions, I was less willing to talk about my personal affairs such as the kind of flat that I lived in as well as my personal income.
I hesitated when Ms Yew asked me those questions not because I had something to hide but because they were intrusive (in her own words “rude”). But she chose to put the worst possible spin on my response, that is, that I was evasive. For obvious reasons, the Straits Times ran a report on this part of that interview, highlighting Ms Yew’s point.
In the context of her report, the implication was that I was being funded by a foreign agent to work against Singapore. This is not surprising because her colleagues at the Singapore Press Holdings have time and again used this line against me.
I work hard – very hard – for the little money that I earn through my writing. I chose, a long time ago, to marry my writing with my political work. It is impossible to carry on a full-time job as a neuropsychologist and do what I am currently doing in politics.
Yes, I could have had a successful career if I had concentrated on building up my practice. But I decided against it because there was something more urgent that called to me.
It was a difficult decision to make, but my wife gave me her support, and I took that fateful step of immersing myself in political work.
To be certain, it has been a struggle financially. We live in a three-room flat. We don’t go overseas for costly holidays, and we don’t buy each other expensive gifts. We eat simple meals and don’t dine in fine restaurants. I don’t play golf or indulge in expensive hobbies, my only recreation is my morning jogs.
But I don’t feel deprived. On the contrary, I thank God everyday that he has blessed me with such a wonderful wife and three lovely children who mean the world to me. I feel like the richest man on earth.
I hestitated to tell Ms Yew these details because they were personal. The fact that she works for my political opponents who never felt any compunction in ruining my life and career makes it even harder to talk to her about such personal matters.
It is certainly not that I was evading her questions because I am being paid by a foreigner to ruin Singapore. Think about it: Who would want to pay me to ruin what?
And if I am indeed on the payroll of some foreign agent, I would have been living much more handsomely than I am now. As it is, I have been made a bankrupt, I cannot travel overseas, I keep going in and out of prison, and I am barred from standing for elections.
But don’t get me wrong. I do not complain and I am not the slightest bit bitter. I do what I do with my eyes open and with the gratitude – gratitude because I am able to cast aside my fears and speak truth to power, and gratitude because I have the honour of working with some very courageous men and women in the SDP.
I willingly live the kind of life that I do because I believe that Singapore and Singaporeans are worth fighting for.
I don’t need anyone, foreign or local, to tell me what to do. This is why I find Ms Yew’s insinuation that I am bankrolled by some foreign force so beyond the pale.
But I have come to expect this from the state-controlled press through the years. It is nothing new. My opponents have called me a gangster, a psychopath and now a traitor.
These words don’t bother me, because I know who I am and what I believe in. And I believe in Singapore. I believe in a free and just Singapore that is yet to come.
I will not submit nor will I run away. I will stay, because I love my country and I will fight because I want to empower my fellow Singaporeans so that, one day, we can walk tall again and be full citizens of a truly democratic country.