The year 2010 will go down in history as the SDP’s defining moment, not just because it marked our 30 years in Singapore’s politics but it signaled a time of tremendous change for our party – a renaissance of sorts, if we may be so bold.
But rather than just tell you about it, we’ll take you through the past twelve months and let you judge for yourselves if you have witnessed a new party emerge ready to assume its rightful place in Singapore’s political scene.
It started soberly enough when the secretary-general challenged Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong that Singapore practiced the rule of law after the CJ had defended the system here in a speech to the New York City Bar Association.
As if to undermine its own case, the Judiciary continued to convict SDP leaders for activities like walking down Orchard Road in a protest and for distributing flyers demonstrating our opposition to the Government. Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin served several jail terms throughout the year starting in January.
One of the biggest events for the year must surely be our 30th anniversary dinner. Dazzle with the Democrats was one celebration where we poured our heart and soul into and, according to many who were present, one that will go down as a historical benchmark in the annals of Singapore’s political opposition.
It didn’t end there. We also published a landmark commemorative magazine that to this day continue to get glowing feedback. “I never thought the opposition can come up with something so attractive” is the common refrain that we hear.
In March, we launched our online alternative economic programme at a public forum where we focused on the minimum wage and how to improve economic productivity.
Our worst fears about Sheng Siong came true. The company had raised the rent of its tenants by 30 percent after it bought over the market over.
We tried to engage Bukit Panjang MP Dr Teo Ho Pin to get him to intervene on behalf of the people but he refused, citing some mumbo-jumbo about the free market.
April was dominated by a series of articles we published documenting Mr Chiam See Tong’s departure from the SDP. This was in response to an unprovoked attack by Mrs Lina Chiam who had continued to propagate the untruth that Dr Chee had ousted Mr Chiam from the party. This was the first time that Dr Chee had written extensively about episode to set the record straight once and for all.
Dr Chee also invited NUS political scientistBilveer Singh for a meeting to correct the falsehood published in his book that Dr Chee had usurped Mr Chiam’s position in the SDP. Dr Singh avoided returning Dr Chee’s numerous emails and calls.
In May, the Singapore Democrats facilitated a meeting of the opposition parties with visiting officials from the Liberal International and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats. We repeated our call for greater opposition coorperation but none of the parties took up the offer.
Throughout the year, we continued our campaign of walkabouts and house visiits at the Bukit Panjang SMC and Bishan-Toa Payog GRC. We wrote a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office, calling on the Governent to leave Bukit Panjang as a single-seat constituency so that we can contest Dr Teo Ho Pin there.
The Young Democrats helped to organise a youth workshopin Singapore with the Young Liberals and emocrats in Asia (YLDA) to train youth leaders in management skils.
In June, the heavens opened up and the rains lashed the PAP’s hubris that floods in Singapore are a rare occurence because of the great infrastructure put in place. Each downpour brought new embarassment for the Government as areas all over the isalnd became flooded. The Democrats called for accountability from the Environment Minister.
In July we continued with our community care service and visited an old folks’ home in the Western part of Singapore. That same month, Assistant Secretary-General John Tan attended President Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration after his landlside victory in the Philippines’ polls.
That same month, the party found a new home as we moved to a new office to step up preparation for GE. The new premises was organised to help sharpen our organisation for the elections.
In August, we published a 3-part series in which we kept on course with our promise to build a party that is Competent. Constructive. Compassionate.
For much of October the Democrats spoke up repeatedly on the incompetence of Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan with his inept handling of the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. The budget was blown out of the water and for which we received almost zero attention from the international community.
Dr Chee Soon Juan continued with the record-breaking video series with his response to PM Lee Hsien Loong’s ND Rally speech. He took Mr Lee to task over the Government’s immigration policy of indiscriminately letting foreigners into Singapore en masse.
The party continued with its message to warn Singaporeans of the PAP’s intention of forcing our population up to 6.5 million.
September was a momentous time for us as we achieved another political first in Singapore by staging our pre-election rally at Hong Lim Park. Mr Vincent Cheng, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha and Mr Tan Kin Lian attracted much attention as speakers.
The SDP also held a dry run for the general elections. Exercise Lightning Block was held in conjunction with the pre-election rally to test the capability of the party to take on the organisational tests during the elections.
October saw the pasing away of Mrs Kwa Geok Choo. Dr Chee wrote a letter to Mr Lee Kuan Yew that went viral on the Internet. In it, he commiserated with the MM and at the same time called for him to stop his autocratic ways.
That same month Danny the Democracy Bear burst onto the poltical scene and attracted much attention both on the ground as well as in the media.
We held a second pre-election rally in November which we called It’s About You. The rally demonstrated the strength and depth of the party’s organising ability. We also launched our alternative economic plan which we also titled It’s About You.
November continued to be a busy month as we announced our intention to contest in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. We had been working in the area for the past year and had been assessing the situation in the constituency for quite a while.
Dr Vincent Wijeysingha introduced himself with a powerful piece titled I will not be threatened while Dr Chee repeated his calls to the Judiciary to protect the freedoms of speech and assembly of Singaporeans during his appeals in the High Court.
And that, dear friends, sums up 2010 for the Singapore Democrats. We hope it was as thrilling a year for you as it was for us. Our biggest gratification was that we had many people telling us that we had shown what an opposition is capable of. It was an indication that the SDP was not just in opposition but also a party capable of effective administration.
2010 will go down as a defining year for the SDP. To all our friends and supporters, we thank you for your faith in us and your support all these years. Now for 2011…