SDP a party of thinkers – and doers

Singapore Democrats

Dr Chee Soon Juan addressed about 350 members and volunteers at the SDP’s thank-you dinner on 14 May 11. He noted that the SDP had become a party of professionals and thinkers.

He also called on everyone to be do-ers and build on the foundation that has been laid, that is, to establish a democratic polity, an egalitarian economy and a compassionate society. Below is the text of the speech as well as the video.

Dear friends and fellow Singaporeans,

In 1995 at our Ordinary Party Conference, I brought up the story of the Three Little Pigs. I’m sure you are familiar with that fable and so I won’t repeat it here.

Tonight, as then, I wish to highlight on the moral of that story again. Simple as it is, the lesson of that fable is profound. Tragically it is also one that we, as adults, often forget.

The story of the Three Little Pigs teaches us the wisdom of investing time to build a foundation for the important things we wish to achieve in life. I have found that teaching a valuable guide in my work in the SDP.

And what is that foundation? At the very core of a democratic system is an age-old notion called Freedom: the freedom to assemble, the freedom to speak and the freedom to replace our government.

I make no apology for placing great emphasis on these freedoms and making them the core of the Singapore Democratic Party’s fight for the hearts and minds of the people.

I have heard, and continue to hear, Singaporeans say that human rights and political freedoms will not win votes in elections. Perhaps. But I also remind them that it is because these rights and freedoms were so brutally taken away from us that we are in the situation that we are today, a situation where political power is entrenched in the hands of a select few.

With that monopoly of power, we are unable to rectify the many ills of our society be they social, economic, or political.

All our concerns about abolishing the GST for basic goods, or narrowing the income disparity, or making the GIC transparent and accountable come to nought because we cannot speak up freely and fearlessly.

I have said it many times before and I say it again: Our economic rights and political freedoms remain firmly as two sides of the same, single coin.

As the third little pig built his house with bricks rather than with straw and sticks, so has the SDP built our house on the firm foundation of the bricks of democratic freedom and human rights.

Our work must be one of dedicated patience. While it is distracting to see others celebrate, let us not yield to temptation. Let us speed up our work if we must, let us put in even more energy, and let us explain to people why we are doing what we do. But let us not detract from the necessity to build a strong house on an unyielding foundation.

I have been told many times that the SDP is ahead of its time and that our Party is one for the future. I am heartened. Building a foundation for the future takes time as Singaporeans need time to realise that what we are doing is important for our nation.

Years ago, I sat with my wife in a little dingy, attic along Balestier Road typing away and writing my books. Then we moved to a little bigger, but no less dingy attic – and with the addition of a few kids – this time along Serangoon Road and continued typing away.

I was typing the SDP’s vision, our platform, our alternative policies. I was typing who and what we were as Singapore Democrats.

Everyone said I was not connecting with the people. I knew that. But I also knew that if I did not do it, I could not lay the cornerstone of this Party and gain the trust and confidence of men and women who value truth and compassion and, more importantly, men and women who can lead the SDP and, in time to come, this country.

I look at all of you who have turned up this evening and I saw the commitment and enthusiasm with which you dedicated yourselves to our campaign, and I know that I have not been wrong. The time that I spent in that dingy attic is slowly, but assuredly, bearing fruit.

We need to build on that foundation and I call on all of you help erect the house of democracy, a house where the poor and the weak take shelter, and where the rich and the strong make bigger and more beautiful.

I have been told from various quarters that the SDP is a party of ideas, a party of thinkers. And like attracting like being the case, we now have in our midst a whole host of professionals, entrepreneurs and creative-achievers. Talk to each other later on, and you will see what I mean.

And because of this I have also been told repeatedly that we are a party of the future and a party for the future.

But as thoughtful as we are, we must also be a Party of do-ers. We must not commit the cardinal sin of talking more than we do. For if we are serious about change, then let us start working.

Let us get to the ground and let us convince the people of Sembawang, Holland, Bukit Timah, Bukit Panjang, Yuhua and Tanjong Pagar that we are worthy of their support, worthy to be their political leaders, and worthy to be their public servants.

There is no shortcut. We need to work and work hard. We need to invest our time on the ground. We need to expend our energy. That’s the only way that we are going to get things done and earn our support.

I invite you, our friends, to continue this journey together with the aim of producing SDP parliamentarians.

Something extraordinary happened in May 2011. I’m not quite sure what it is. Establishment figures whom would not have dared to be seen on the same said of the island with us joined us; medical doctors, senior lawyers, high level managers and professionals volunteered with us; celebrities openly cheered for us; and even businesses opened their doors to us. I’m not quite sure what triggered it but whatever it is I don’t want to lose it. I’m sure you don’t either.

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 And so my fellow Democrats don’t let this fire die. It’s been kindled. Let us make it burn even brighter.

Let us build on the momentum that we have created and use it to make this great and noble idea of democracy a reality for our nation. Let us strive and strive mightily and open a new chapter and a new dimension for our people.

I cannot promise you that ours will be a road that will be smooth. I cannot guarantee that ours will be a path that is straight. But I can assure you that ours will be a journey where we will find meaning and honour; a journey that we will cherish; a journey where, at the end, we will be able to say: “I have served my nation and served it well.” And we will be happy.

I want to echo the gratitude expressed earlier by Vincent and Jeff. Your assistance is invaluable and your enthusiasm, which I am happy to note, remains extremely infectious.

On behalf of the members of the Singapore Democratic Party I want to express the heartfelt gratitude for your help, for your support and most of all for your friendship.

Thank you very much.

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