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SDP in the Blue Corner




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Chee Soon Juan found himself between the rock and the hard place when he was dragged into the AHTC dispute last week. On one hand, it was a fellow opposition and on the other was a need to defend the reputation of his party. It was rather unfortunate that he was put in such a position – hard choices indeed.

Low made a statement in his defense in a matter between AHTC and WP Councillors, in which he said:

“At that time, the newly elected MPs in the Bukit Gombak and Nee Soon Central SMCs, Mr Ling How Doong and Mr Cheo Chai Chen from the Singapore Democratic Party (“SDP”), also faced similar challenges when they took over the running of their respective town councils. Based on feedback the 2nd defendant received from the ground, poor town council management was part of the reason why the SDP lost both seats at the next General Elections in 1997.”

Chee rebutted Low’s statement and put-up a blog on his website entitled, “SDP’s town councils not “poorly managed”; party does not wish to be dragged into the AHTC dispute.” Chee vigorously defended his position that SDP had indeed done a good job of managing their town council but unfortunately, they lost.

Several political observers have taken to Facebook to say that there were probably several contributing factors to SDP’s loss in 1997 and that town-council management may be one of them, of course, not forgetting that the fallout between SDP party leaders might have been another major contributing factor.

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Curiously, why did Low drag SDP, an innocent bystander, into this AHTC dispute? It doesn’t make any sense to a political onlooker.

But after discussing with several commentators and mulling over it, we have our take on this issue:

The way we see it

We feel Low is making and several valid and pertinent points here:

  1. Democracy is about electoral accountability and we should always let the electorate decide on what’s best for them and their preferred representative in parliament. There is really no need to over-regulate our politicians. Politicians should be given some leeway to experiment new models. They may fail or fall flat from time to time – but that’s the price of innovation and the price of failure needn’t be so punitive.
  2. PAP has economies of scale when it comes to town council management – they have systems, people and years of experience. So, they have an advantage over the other parties. Voters should know that the incumbent will put roadblocks in order to trip the incoming parties. That is expected and Low was making that point in his statement.
  3. Thirdly, the taking over of the town council is no mean feat. Low has given an account of how he approached Chiam See Tong when he first won the Hougang by-elections. In retrospect, outsourcing to a strategic partner is not a bad thing. It gives them the ability to train and deploy new teams and share resources between the various constituencies. If PAP can do it, why can’t WP? Seems like double standards here. What do you think?


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