The Singapore Democrats spent an engaging Friday evening at a Political Dialogue organised by the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), the alumni association of the NUS.
The event brought together the various political parties to discuss the topic “Fresh Challenges & The New Political Playing Field”. The speakers included Dr Chee Soon Juan, Nominated MP Mr Calvin Cheng, PAP’s Mr Christopher De Souza, Reform Party’s Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Mrs Lina Chiam from the Singapore People’s Party and Ms Sylvia Lim of the Workers’ Party (WP).
The closed door forum was attended by more than 400 people. It was open only to NUSS members and invited guests. In attendance from the SDP were Ms Chee Siok Chin, Mr Jufrie Mahmood, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha and Mr Jarrod Luo.
NMP Calvin Cheng talked about the need for parties to pay attention to the young voters at the next elections. He pointed out that youths made up an interesting and significant demographic in the electorate and that they have different needs from the generation of their parents and grandparents. And what about the “New Political Playing Field”? There isn’t any, he pointed out tersely.
Mr Christopher De Souza talked about the various infrastructural projects that the Government had completed such as the Aerospace centre and the KPE highway. He also touched on how the economy had rebounded from the crisis in 2008.
RP’s Kenneth Jeyaretnam described the political system in Singapore as “dysfunctional” and showed how the opposition has a disproportionately low percentage of the seats in Parliament compared to the percentage of votes it garnered.
Dr Chee Soon Juan’s shared the SDP’s vision with the visibly enraptured audience. He presented the party’s alternative economic ideas laid out in our economic manifesto It’s About You. He emphasized that the Singapore Democrats had a realistic economic plan to take Singapore forward. The full transcript of Dr Chee’s speech would be made available soon.
Mrs Lina Chiam gave her maiden public address, mainly recounting her experiences of following her husband, Mr Chiam See Tong, in the political arena.
WP’s Ms Sylvia Lim asked the audience to ponder over what is at stake in the coming general elections and called on the people to think about how they wanted Singapore to be like in the years ahead.
During the Q&A that followed a member of the audience, Mr Andrew Teo, asked Mr de Souza – twice – whether the Government would lift the ban on Dr Chee’s participation in the coming general elections.
On both occasions the PAP representative talked about something else and avoided answering Mr Teo’s question.
However Mr de Souza, an MP at the Bukit Timah-Holland GRC, talked about how the PAP Government was gracious to implement the Non-constituency MP scheme to allow opposition candidates who lost at the polls to be in Parliament.
Dr Chee shot back and said that the opposition did not need such kindness. “Just make the system free and fair, and we’ll beat you fair and square,” the SDP secretary-general added.
“All you have to do,” he told the PAP MP, “is to free the media, set up an independent elections commission, announce the electoral boundaries in a timely fashion, and allow the opposition to freely communicate with the voters. You don’t need to do anything else.”
A questioner asked about the minimum wage proposal and whether it was feasible in Singapore. Mr de Souza noted that if minimum wage was given to locals only and not foreign workers, there would be even greater incentive for employers to take on migrant workers.
Dr Chee pointed out that minimum wage must not be implemented in isolation but together with the SDP’s other proposal of a Singaporeans First Policy where employers are given incentives to employ Singaporeans first and where foreign workers are allowed to work in Singapore only when businesses genuinely demonstrate that local talent is unavailable.
RP’s Mr Jeyaretnam said that his party also supported the minimum wage policy.
A 17-year-old student asked how she could get to know the opposition parties better. Dr Chee pointed out that information was available on the Internet and referred her to this website which, he pointed out, was updated daily and has regular videos posted. Information of the party’s leaders, youth wing and its position on various issues are laid out clearly.
The PAP, RP and WP also pointed to their websites.