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In Parts One and Two, I laid out the facts that clearly demonstrated that neither I nor any of the CEC members had ousted Mr Chiam from the SDP in 1993. Despite this, Mr Chiam still charged that I had usurped his position. I countered that I was thrust into his position.
Mr Chiam retorted: “He has not been thrust into my position. He has usurped my position!” He also challenged me to resign my post. (Chiam challenges Chee: QUIT, The New Paper, 2 Jul 93).
In this 4th and final part, I explain why I became secretary-general and how I am taking the SDP forward.
A constitutional responsibility
The following facts are not in dispute:
One, Mr Chiam resigned as secretary-general.
Two, the CEC delayed the announcement of his resignation and tried on several occasions to persuade him back.
Three, Mr Chiam was expelled only after he gave a talk at the SPC and attacked his own party.
Four, the CEC still tried to reconcile with him after voting to expel him.
And yet Mrs Lina Chiam, despite the facts and my repeated denials, continues to insist that I had wanted to kick Mr Chiam out. She told the Straits Times only last week: “If he (Dr Chee) had really wanted to keep Mr Chiam, he could have politely declined the position of the secretary-general.”
Again, let’s examine the facts. I was elected by party members as the assistant secretary-general in 1993 while Mr Chiam was still the secretary-general. After he resigned his post, I had to manage the party in his absence because under the party’s constitution:
The Assistant Secretary-General shall assist the Secretary-General in the discharge of his duties, powers and responsibilities and in the absence of the Secretary-General
shall act in his place. (emphasis added)
Mr Chiam was not just absent, he had resigned and refused to return! As his elected assistant, I had to takeover his work and duties. If I didn’t, the party administration would come to a standstill. What is all this talk about usurpation?
Even then I had refused to assume the position of the secretary-general and remained as the acting secretary-general. Records at the Registry of Societies will verify this.
It was only in 1995 during the party elections that members elected me secretary-general. If I had coveted the position so badly, why did I wait for two years to be elected secretary-general?
The hot seat
Should I not have taken up the position of secretary-general? It would definitely have been the safer thing to do because whoever assumed the post was going to be accused of usurping Mr Chiam. It was a position I would gladly have given up to someone else.
But it would also have been the height of irresponsibility on my part. I knew that the party was hurt and hurt badly from the fallout with Mr Chiam and the attacks from the PAP. In times of difficulty leaders step up, not shy away.
For that I have come under intense and unfair criticism from Mr Chiam. But I have absolutely no regrets.
The SDP today
Because I persisted we have, today, a group of leaders that are dedicated to the cause of standing up for Singaporeans. I can say without reservation that having served with nine sets of CEC members, this present group is the best yet in terms of their courage and competence.
As a result we have been able to establish the first opposition youth wing in Singapore. The Young Democrats have through the years become a dynamic force, its members constantly looking to develop themselves to become future leaders of the party and country. The CEC is exceedingly proud of them.
Today, we have a party that has developed this website which has become a valuable source of information on politics and political issues for Singaporeans.
Today, we have an alternative economic programme. With an abiding sense of humility, I daresay that this is the first time that the opposition has presented a direct challenge to the PAP on the economic front.
Today, we have been able to celebrate our 30th anniversary in a manner befitting a growing and dynamic political party. We demonstrated that the opposition can match, and even surpass, the PAP in competence and creativity, taking into consideration the vast difference in our resources.
Today, we have been able to establish an extensive network with democrats all over the world where we support each other in our quest to make the entire globe democratic, free, and just.
Most important, today, we have this:
No one is indispensable
But whatever I do and however much I contribute as secretary-general, I will abide by the collective view of my colleagues. I confess that I am accountable to them. I am subject to the same rules that they are, the sames rules that governed the party when I first joined it.
No one in the party, no matter how popular he or she might be, is indispensable and no one is above the constitution.
As secretary-general, I hope to encourage and motivate my fellow members, not scold and threaten them. I hope to inspire them so that they can realise their full potential and self-actualise, not control them. I hope to earn their respect, not demand it from them.
Looking back, I am glad that I did not shy away from taking the lead in the SDP. I am proud that my fellow CEC members in 1993 did not take the easy way out and sacrifice our principles just to keep Mr Chiam – even though the PAP, through its media, made sure we paid, and continue to pay, heavily for it.
But I am convinced that we made the right decision. For a party that does not practice democracy internally has no moral authority to criticise the PAP for not being democratic in its governance of Singapore. Principles cannot be adhered to only when it is expedient.
Without a strong democratic foundation upon which our work is erected, the SDP house will come tumbling down everytime ill-winds blow from the PAP.
The SDP has come a long way and, more important, we have a bright and exciting future ahead. But that future can only be bright and exciting if we hold steadfast to the principles of democracy, both for our party and for our nation.
To this end I am, and will always be, a proud and unrepentant Singapore Democrat.
Part 1: The truth about Chaim See Tong’s departure (5 April 2010)
Part 2: Chiam’s expulsion – what really happened? (6 April 2010)
Part 3: Goh Chok Tong – Without Chiam, harder to destroy Chee (7 April 2010)
Why does Mrs Chiam persist in attacking the SDP? (11 April 2010)