The SDP repeated its call for opposition unity in order to bring about democratic change in Singapore. Dr Chee Soon Juan made the call during a session with opposition leaders and civil society actors on Saturday.
The discussion took place at a seminar co-organised by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) and Liberal International (LI) last Saturday. Foremost in the minds of the participants was how to get the opposition to work out a common strategy to fight the PAP in the forthcoming general elections.
Chaired by LI President Hans van Baalen, Member of the European Parliament and spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Committee of the EU, the discussion was attended by leaders of the Singapore People’s Party (SPP), the Reform Party (RP), the newly formed the United Singapore Democrats (USD) and the SDP.
Also in attendance were bloggers and activists such as anti-death penalty lawyer Mr M Ravi, migrant workers counselor Mr Jolovan Wham, former RP chairman Mr Ng Teck Siong, Singaporeans for Democracy representative Mr Chong Kai Xiong, and activists Messrs Chia Ti Lik, Donaldson Tan, and Bentley Tan.
During his presentation, Dr Chee reiterated the SDP’s position that a broad coalition of pro-democracy groups from the political and civil society spheres was needed to bring about political reform.
He also cited that political parties needed to reach across party lines when the PAP targets oppositionists. He cited the case of Workers’ Party candidate, Dr James Gomez, who was questioned by the police in the aftermath of the 2006 elections.
The SDP had then spoken up and called on the PAP to stop the harassment even though Dr Gomez was not a member of the Singapore Democrats.
Dr Chee also cited that in the past, the SDP had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Malay-based PKMS for greater cooperation. In 2008 and 2009, the SDP also held forums to encourage opposition parties to work closer together.
LI President Mr van Baalen noted that this was an important first step in the push fro democracy and urged Singapore’s opposition parties to work together.
“In Nicaragua the opposition parties were also at odds with each other but they put aside their differences for the sake of fighting for a democratic system,” he told the audience. “The effective way is also for Singapore to do the same.”
Dr Chee then proposed that opposition parties come together to discuss the basis for greater cooperation. RP Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam and SPP Chairman Mr Sin Kek Tong agreed.
The CALD-LI delegation is making a swing through Southeast Asia to meet with political party leaders. The organisations’ objectives are to advocate for democracy in Asia and throughout the world.
Mr van Baalen pointed out: “The rule of the people, which is the basis of human rights, is a universal value, not just a Western one.”
He added that the delegation was in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur before coming to Singapore where it met with government and opposition officials. It will also meet with officials of the Indonesian government following the Singapore leg.
“The Singapore Government is the only one in this tour who refused to meet with us. This is unfortunate,”
Mr van Baalen said.