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Last week the SDP’s secretary-general wrote to his PAP counterpart, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, inviting the ruling party to an online debate (see here).
This came after an exchange between Dr Chee Soon Juan and Foreign Minister George Yeo in Facebook. Mr Yeo had suggested to Dr Chee that he write to the PAP if the SDP wanted a structured debate on key national issues on the Internet.
PAP’s Executive Director Mr Lau Ping Sum replied on the Prime Minister’s behalf and declined to the debate, citing that the Internet is “but one channel” for debate. He cited other avenues such as Parliament, mass media and public dialogues.
Of course, Mr Lee conveniently forgets that the Government controls the mass media and that public dialogues are not the forums where political parties can go toe-to-toe on the issues and where both sides can ask pointed questions and rebut answers.
Parliament is such a venue. But, the reply points out, the SDP did not get elected.
What it doesn’t say is that during the elections, the Prime Minister and his father sued the Singapore Democrats and went to the extent of obtaining a court injunction to stop us from discussing the National Kidney Foundation scandal and the Government’s role in it, which we had indicated was going to be the key issue for our campaign.
The PAP also does not say that Dr Chee Soon Juan was prevented from campaigning for his party candidates and was even barred from going on stage to speak at his own party rallies.
The mass media, of course, did its best to portray the Singapore Democrats in the worst light possible.
This is why the SDP is asking for an online debate where the mass media cannot manipulate the information. This allows for the strengths and weaknesses of either side to be seen without censorship and readers can then judge for themselves who they want to support.
The fact that Mr Lee shies away from this medium tells Singaporeans that the only way the ruling party can beat the SDP is by controlling and censoring information about the Singaore Democrats.
This is not a sign of a confident ruling party. It is not even the sign of a ruling party, only one of a paranoid and out-dated autocracy.
The PAP concludes that there will be “ample opportunities for the SDP to debate the PAP again.” But when there was a chance for Mr Lee Hsien Loong to answer questions from Dr Chee and Ms Chee Siok Chin during his lawsuit hearing last year, the PAP secretary-general chose to remain silent (see here).
So much for ample opportunities.
Mr Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party
Dear Mr Chee
SG PAP has asked me to reply on his behalf.
The PAP engages Singaporeans on the whole range of issues that affect their lives through a multiplicity of channels including Parliament, the mass media and public dialogues. Cyberspace, though important, is but one channel.
In Parliament, the PAP engages members of the Opposition which by the decision of Singapore voters at the last GE does not include the SDP.
However, at the next GE, there will be ample opportunities for the SDP to debate the PAP again.
Lau Ping Sum