The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) held their third rally on 5 September for the much anticipated 2015 General Election. Held between 7 pm to 10 pm, the rally was held adjacent to Commonwealth MRT station for Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representative Constituency (GRC). Eight rallies were scheduled yesterday after the contesting parties received their permits from the police.
Scores of people turned up for the rally. The SDP volunteers sold party merchandise like books, flags and light sticks and election literature during the rally to ardent supporters.
Despite the large crowd and interval cheering and honking for each speaker, the crowd was well behaved and orderly. There was a party fervor from members of the public throughout the rally. There was a cluster of people on the Commonwealth MRT overhead bridge.
The SDP is one of seven parties contesting the 2015 General Elections. Founded in 1980, the party is currently led by secretary-general Dr Chee Soon Juan, who is contesting for the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
From the very start, the SDP has placed the high cost of living and the need for a minimum wage on the top of its manifesto.
One of the SDP candidates, Chong Wai Fung, an administer for a nursing home, angles her speech on the plight of low income Singaporeans, especially those sleeping on benches and collecting card boxes. She elaborates that is it difficult to quantify how many poor people there are because the government does not want to define a poverty line.
She also shares the party’s proposal on setting up a wage equity commission to recognise the minimum wage for workers to cope with the rising cost of living. The commission will include representatives from trade unions and social work organizations.
As many as five out of eight candidates spoke on the thorny issue of immigration. They blamed the government for not managing the influx of immigrants
The SDP candidate John Tan said: “We are not against foreigner who can contribute to our foreign pool. But we are against the indiscriminate opening of that employment floodgate to foreigners at the expense of Singaporeans.”
Another candidate, Sidek Mallek commences his speech in Malay, followed by English. He touches on multiple issues such as the need for a minimum wage and influx of foreign workers. He makes a punchline, “foreign labour should supplement our workforce, not to displace it.”
The second last speaker, Professor Paul Ananth Tambyah enthralls the crowd by sharing his journey in the SDP and bringing up virtuous issues such as the local healthcare system. A medical doctor by profession, he narrates personal stories of patients struggling to pay the high healthcare costs.
Professor Paul: “We have some of the best doctors, nurses and allied health professionals in the world. We have excellent facilities and we have access to really good drugs. But unfortunately, our healthcare financing system is based on some questionable moral assumptions.”
He echoes his support for Dr Chee and debunks the narrative that Dr Chee is a ‘radicalised man’.
“When I first met Dr Chee in person, I was stunned to discover that he was nothing like the picture that was painted by the mainstream media. He was just an ordinary guy with a deep passion for Singapore and for Singaporeans,” he said.
By 9 pm, the crowd was earnestly waiting for the Dr Chee to deliver another impassion speech after his historic speech the previous evening. He received an applauding welcome when he steps onto the stage.
Dr Chee touches on hot button issues such as the impact of the foreign inflow on train breakdowns, the Little India riot where the police were not equipped to handle the unrest and stress levels for Singaporeans who face competition for university places.
He also reiterates the SDP’s stance on immigrants: “I want to be very clear about this. The SDP understands that Singapore needs new immigrants. The question is how do we manage the flow of immigrants into this country. The way that the PAP has handled the matter thus far has been disappointing.”
Here are some of his quotes during the rally:
Dr Chee: “What I am about to say may register significantly on the Richter scale. The PAP is not all bad. Some of the MPs genuinely work and care for the people.”
Dr Chee: “The problem is not with the foreigners in Singapore,” he added. “We do not conduct ourselves in an ugly xenophobic manner where we take it out on foreign workers who are here to earn a living for their families, like you and I. if we are going to get angry, then get angry with PAP policies not our guest workers.”
Dr Chee: “But by the same token, neither is the opposition the useless, destructive force that the PAP paints us out to be. We have good ideas that will help to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. The PAP and the opposition can, no must, find common ground and work for the good of this country.”
Dr Chee: “It is difficult being rejected, but there are times in one’s life when we must choose between doing the popular thing and doing the right thing. I would rather be honest and not get into Parliament, than to lie to you and be in Parliament for all the wrong reasons.”