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Straits Times Forum
2 Apr 10
Mrs Chiam See Tong’s comments in Monday’s report (‘Chiam’s SDP exit: Wife speaks up’) is regrettable. It is a fact, recorded even in court documents, that Mr Chiam See Tong resigned as Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general in 1993 when no central executive committee (CEC) members supported a motion he proposed. No one forced him out.
It is also a fact that the SDP did not announce his resignation for about a month, during which several CEC members, including me, had visited Mr Chiam repeatedly to persuade him to change his mind but to no avail.
Former SDP MP Cheo Chai Chen confirmed this when he told Shin Min Daily News that he and other members tried to persuade Mr Chiam several times but Mr Chiam ‘didn’t want to listen to what we had to say’. Even the present chairman of his Singapore People’s Party, Mr Sin Kek Tong, said he had reminded Mr Chiam to be watchful of his language and behaviour, but Mr Chiam ‘didn’t think he should listen to my suggestions’.
Mr Chiam insisted he would return as secretary-general only if we gave him sole power to appoint and dismiss CEC and cadre members. This was clearly undemocratic and, more important, against the party’s Constitution. It would have landed the SDP in legal trouble.
After it was decided that the CEC could not accede to his demands and his resignation became public, Mr Chiam spoke at a Singapore Press Club gathering where he attacked his own party. He did so although he, when he was still secretary-general, had made party leaders sign an oath not to criticise the SDP after they left office.
It was only after Mr Chiam’s serious attack in his press club speech that the CEC acted and voted overwhelmingly to expel him.
All these are facts recorded in court documents that happened nearly 20 years ago. Since then, the People’s Action Party has capitalised on this matter to hit out at the SDP and, in particular, me. My only wish is to record that it was not I who forced Mr Chiam out.
After Mr Chiam’s departure, I had a responsibility as assistant secretary-general to do one of two things: pick up the pieces and lead the SDP in a new direction or to let it flounder and die. I chose the former.
We bear Mr Chiam no ill will and wish him well. The SDP has moved on.
Dr Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party