By Benjamin Cheah
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced today its four new members during the party’s 40th anniversary celebration. The new members are Mr Frankie Low, Mr Malik, Mr Firdaus and Mr Chia Ser Lin.
Mr Firdaus, formerly from the National Solidarity Party’s Malay wing, joined the DPP a few months ago. Businessman and architect Mr Low, which TISG interviewed on the 27th, had crossed over from the Reform Party. The other two candidates are currently not in Singapore.
DPP Secretary-General Mr Benjamin Pwee said this announcement was designed to give the members exposure to the press. The four members had already taken part in walkabouts, and had been sitting in on Central Executive Committee meetings.
Mr Pwee revealed that two more members would be announced “two or three months down the road”. Assuming that the next General Elections would be held in 2016, he said it would take a year for new members to be eligible to run for the CEC. By early to mid 2015, the full party line-up, including a “fighting fit” CEC, would be ready.
Reaching the Malay Vote
Speaking about the party’s current direction, Mr Pwee touched on reaching out to Malay vote. “We are working hard to reach into the Malay Muslim community, and we have been talking to community leaders.”
By the “early half of next year”, the DPP would reveal its Singapore Malay policy and reveal a new Malay member, described as “the leader of a Malay NGO”. This reveal will be timed to coincide with “a Malay Muslim celebration”.
Elaborating on the Malay focus, DPP Chairman Mr Hamim pointed out that Malays make up the second largest ethnic group in Singapore. “In terms of the political landscape, we need to get this segment of voters to get us into Parliament.”
Mr Hamim said the party will be exploring the Malay community’s concerns, such as low-income families and drugs. Stressing that these are national issues, Mr Hamim said the party needed to have more “professionals” participating in the next elections to help Singaporeans with these concerns.
Collaborating with other parties
Mr Pwee is a long-time proponent of collaboration among the different political parties, and is currently holding talks with PKMS to help “rebrand” the Singapore Democratic Alliance. He said that the DPP entered into negotiations to join the SDA in December 2012. The Punggol East By-Elections shelved the discussions, but a few months later PKMS invited the DPP to continue the discussion.
Mr Pwee said, “We have seriously considered and have been willing to step into SDA, but we want to be sure that there is a clean slate of leadership that can rebrand SDA into a credible alliance.”
Mr Pwee believed the DPP had successfully shaken off the ‘Slipper Man’ controversy, caused when Mr Tan Lead Shake showed up on Nomination Day in the 1997 elections in slippers. Similarly, Mr Pwee hoped the SDA could become a viable political alliance.
“I’m hoping [the opposition] can come forward as a united front and have joint candidates in the right places and share resources. It cannot be a marriage of convenience: we can win the election but we may not last the term.”
Expressing his hopes for greater opposition collaboration, he said the older generation of opposition politicians is passing on the baton to the next generation, which is hopeful of working towards greater collaboration. “At first I think [collaboration] will be in fits and starts, but I’m hopeful.”
Mr Pwee said the DPP has spoken to PKMS on five occasions and have set timelines for goals, but the outcome hinges on commitment and consensus from all parties, including the SDA.
Current ideas for collaboration include friendly sporting events and joint policy discussion groups. Mr Pwee also hinted that the DPP was in “very close collaborative talks” with the National Solidarity Party.
“We must not be afraid”
The celebration was held in conjunction with Mr Hamim’s housewarming party. The DPP had extended invitations to every political party. Among the guests was NSP Secretary-General Mrs Jeanette Chong-Aruldoss.
Mrs Aruldoss said, “I am open to establishing friendships with other political parties. I would certainly like to build relationships with people like Ben [Pwee], SDP and other parties.” She added that having multiple political parties and greater political competition benefited voters by presenting them with more choices.
At this stage, Mrs Aruldoss said the party was just “building bridges”. However, she thought that sharing ideas through joint policy discussions was beneficial.
“The more perspectives we have, the stronger the discussion. Singapore has to develop politically. We must not be afraid of differences of opinion. We must learn how to exchange and share,” she said.
The NSP had plans for the future, but Mrs Aruldoss kept her cards close to her chest. “It is easy to talk, but it’s better if you see what’s being done.”