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13 March 2004
Dear Dr Chee and SDP,
Although Singapore is currently in the midst of economic recovery, many Singaporeans are still uncertain about their employability status and job security. Truly, this is troubled time for our country as people find themselves agitated about our economic outlook.
However, this is also the time for the opposition camp in Singapore especially the SDP to propose a viable alternative or solution to our country’s economic woe. I’m also aware that among the three ‘main’ opposition groups, the SDP is the ONLY group that actually proposed an alternative during the last GE while the rest of the groups could only ‘complain’ on the current economic woe and demanded what the government would do to alleviate the currently situation. But bleak and gloomy as the economy may seem, it is also the time for the SDP and the rest of the opposition to ‘prove’ their mettle and provide solutions for the people in Singapore.
I’m not a political guru, but I do ‘learn’ a bit when I watch programs like the CNN and CNBC on their coverage on the current U.S. Democratic Party nomination of Mr John Kerry and the issues he chose to tackle with President George W. Bush.
I think the SDP could learn how Mr. Kerry challenges Mr. Bush. I really hope that the SDP can put together all their ‘Masters’ and ‘PhD’ talents available in the team to propose a solution for Singaporeans.
Next, I would humbly suggest that the SDP come up with a better management style within the party. What I meant is that there should be someone in the party who is a ‘subject’ specialist on a certain issue and let him or her be ‘in charge’ of that matter or field.
For instance, Ms. Chee Siok Chin who holds a B.A. in Education Studies should be the subject specialist for educational matters and concerns in Singapore and Dr Vincent Yeo who had previous experience in R&D and assisted the development of SMEs should be the specialist for entrepreneurial development especially for SMEs. I think these talents should be fully utilized in providing counter proposals or alternatives against government policies and not merely used for ‘advertising’ the party’s capability of acquiring ‘PhDs and Masters’ graduates during general elections.
By doing this, the party would practice to be a ‘mini-government’ and formulate alternative policies or solutions for our country and present it to the Singapore public. Like it or not the SDP should know by now that Singaporeans are a pragmatic lot and though issues such as freedom of speech, human rights and equality and others are important, bread-and-butter issues still take precedence; no different from Americans who are now searching for answers and would vote for the candidate who can provide them with jobs, education opportunities and social security etc.
I know this other solution seems a bit far-fetched but I thought it would help tremendously to engage the services of a PR company to ‘drum up’ the image of the SDP. This would allow the SDP to project a more professional image rather than the ‘hit-and-run’ opposition that we usually see from the sidelines.
In addition, personally I find the SDP kind of stayed low after the last GE. You guys have not been present in front of Centrepoint during the weekends lately right? Why is that so? I’ve also noticed that the Young Democrats website is still under ‘construction’ for time since I don’t know when.
I think these are some of the minor details that distinguish a ‘professional’ and committed party. To overlook these details would project a negative and unprofessional image of the SDP. If you can’t even maintain ‘information integrity’ even at your website, how are you going to prove to the educated Singapore people that you can perform better in the formulating of national policies?
Finally, I’ve been keeping tabs on the SDP since Dr Chee published his first manifesto and had acquired and read all his books. I think Dr Chee’s spirit and determination is admirable and that the SDP should continue to attempt to provide constructive alternative solutions for the country whether its in the field of legislation, economy, education or social.
Best wishes and luck for Dr Chee, his family and his party family.
We thank you for the encouraging words and the support you give for the cause of democracy in Singapore. We would like to address some of the concerns you raised in your email.
You rightly mention that the SDP has in the past proposed alternative ideas for Singapore. Dr Chee himself has written books in which he proposed policies for our education system, economy, social security system, etc. Some of them have been taken by the PAP (which has not had the courage to admit it).
We have then taken these policies, many concerning bread-and-butter issues, and put them before the voters during the last two elections in very simple, easy-to-understand language that appeals to the lay public. Alas this has not translated into greater support for a more democratic and pluralistic political system in Singapore.
We believe that this is not because of a lack of support for our policies and democracy in general but rather a result of the system itself (including the election process) which through intimidation and censorship does not allow Singaporeans to express their views and votes freely.
Without a system where there is a free media and fair election system, no amount of alternative policies and campaigning will change anything. Mr John Kerrys ideas for America would not last one second if President George Bush behaved like the PAP.
You have brought up good ideas in your letter, many of which the Singapore Democrats have thought about, and continue to explore. As mentioned, however, without a democratic system, none of them can be put to good use.
Your ideas about putting specialists to work within the party and even engaging PR companies to help the SDPs campaign are wonderful. The SDP has tried, and will continue to try, to persuade Singaporeans to join our ranks so that we can divvy up the various portfolios to take on the PAP and professionalize our research and communications teams. Unfortunately, few Singaporeans dare to come forward. On the PR-company idea, even a video that we produced to explain in a visual medium to voters our platform and policies was banned by the PAP.
We relate these obstacles to you not to discourage Singaporeans like you from joining in the struggle. On the contrary, we hope that it will stir your sense of justice and love for our nation to the extent that you will come on board and help us develop the areas of that you have identified. In short, we have a lot Singaporeans telling us what we need to do but very few who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help us to do it.
Democracy and opposition parties is not a spectator sport. Singaporeans must realize that opposition parties are an integral part of the people and are only as effective as the amount of blood, sweat and tears regular citizens are willing to put into them. Without your active involvement and participation, not just support during elections which the PAP can easily neutralize, a free and fair election system cannot exist.
We have said this many times before: the people who are currently serving the SDP have sacrificed much. We are stretched to the limit. We acknowledge that much more can be done and should be done. But without the hands and legs from those of you who care about freedom in Singapore, the noblest and most effective ideas will never become reality.
So please, come and get involved and put your good ideas to work.