Wednesday, 28 January 2015

From Yao Chan Chiam to Chee

Matthias Yao Vs Dr Chee in a single member Constituency of MacPherson

In 1994, Yao was publicly challenged by the leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Dr Chee Soon Juan, to stand against him in a single member constituency at the next general election.

This happened following a series of letters which Yao and Chee wrote to The Straits Times. Chee had initially written to the newspaper to respond to criticisms that Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had made of his book Dare to Change, and Yao then responded in his capacity as the PAP's Second Organising Secretary.

This led to a two-month-long exchange of letters between the pair which were published in the paper, which ended with Chee issuing his challenge to Yao. At Yao's request, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong agreed to separate Yao's MacPherson ward from the rest of the Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency at the next general election so that Yao could take up Chee's challenge. At the 1997 general election, Yao defeated Chee by 12,546 votes (65.1%) to 6,713 (34.9%). Yao was subsequently re-elected as the MP for MacPherson at the 2001 and 2006 general elections.

Yao was publicly challenged by Chee  to stand against him in a single member constituency

After being placed as the acting SDP leader in 1993, Chee began expressing his views on the lack of democracy in Singapore to the media. He published his second political book, Dare To Change: An Alternative Vision for Singapore, in 1996.

At the 1997 general election, the SDP suffered significant electoral setbacks. Both Ling and Cheo were defeated in their bids for re-election, leaving the party with no MPs. Chee was defeated by the PAP's Matthias Yao (who he had publicly challenged to stand against him) in a high-profile contest in the MacPherson constituency. Only two opposition MPs were elected – with Chiam retaining his Potong Pasir seat as a Singapore People's Party candidate, and Hougang also being retained by Low Thia Khiang of the Worker's Party. The collective vote for opposition parties dropped from 40% to 35%.[citation needed] No SDP member has been elected to Parliament since then (and Chiam and Low were also the only opposition MPs returned to Parliament at the 2001 and 2006 general elections).

In 1999, Chee came to national attention when he gave a public speech in the financial district despite being denied a permit to speak publicly.

Chan Chun Sing rebuts Huffington Post for articles by Chee Soon Juan

Your website has given Dr Chee Soon Juan considerable but undeserved attention and space. You perhaps believe that he is a weighty political figure in Singapore. He is nothing of the kind.

Dr Chee has stood for elections thrice – and lost badly all three times, once receiving just 20 per cent of the vote.

The party he now leads, the Singapore Democratic Party, was once the leading opposition party in the country. But that was when it was led by Mr Chiam See Tong, a man everyone in Singapore, political friend and foe alike, regards as an honourable man.

Indeed, it was Mr Chiam who brought Dr Chee into the SDP in 1992. He mentored the younger man and promoted him. Dr Chee then proceeded to betray Mr Chiam, isolate him and force him out of the SDP, a party that he had founded in 1980 and had nurtured over 14 years. Since then the SDP hasn’t won a single seat in Parliament, though Mr Chiam himself went on to win elections repeatedly.

In 1993, Dr Chee was dismissed from the National University of Singapore for misappropriating research funds and for other serious misconduct, including surreptitiously recording conversations with university staff.

He has been sued for defamation not only by ruling party politicians, a fact that he likes to trumpet in the foreign media, but also by the doyen of the opposition in Singapore, Mr Chiam, a fact that he doesn’t mention because it is embarrassing.

And in 1996, Dr Chee and three of his associates were convicted of perjury by Parliament tor submitting false statements to a Special Parliamentary Committee. This is the equivalent of Congress convicting someone of perjury, a most serious offence.

It is because of these and other failings that Dr Chee is a political failure - not because he was persecuted, as he likes to pretend. His party is now one of the weakest political parties in Singapore principally because voters do not regard its leader as an honourable man.

Dr Chee was disqualified from contesting the last two General Elections because he was declared a bankrupt in 2006 for failing to pay damages for libel to former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. He was discharged from bankruptcy in 2012 after the former Prime Ministers agreed to accept a reduced sum in damages. Since then Dr Chee has been campaigning to redeem himself in the public eye in preparation for the next General Election.

As he has done in the past, he has looked to the foreign media for redemption, chiefly because foreign journalists don’t know him as well as Singaporeans and he believes he can beguile them into believing he is the Aung San Suu Kyi of Singapore politics. Dr Chee, however, claims he is forced to publish in the foreign media because he has been silenced in the Singapore media.

But this is false. There are several socio-political websites in Singapore, some with as wide a reach among Singaporeans as the Huffington Post has among Americans. They have run several articles by Dr Chee. The local press also has carried several of Dr Chee’s letters.

Dr Chee’s problem is not that he has not been heard by Singaporeans. His problem is that they have.

Chan Chun Sing
Minister for Social and Family Development, Singapore

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Chee Soon Juan responds to Chan Chun Sing

Mr Chan Chun Sing is certainly an accomplished man in Singapore. He has risen quickly through the ranks of the army and appointed a minister. I commend him on his remarkable achievement, there is much to be admired.

I have, unfortunately or otherwise, chosen a different path. It is, admittedly, not a conventional path and, certainly, not one that leads to power, privilege and a high salary. In this respect Mr Chan is right, I have not succeeded.

I have instead undertaken to speak up for the people of Singapore in what was, to put it mildly, a very difficult political terrain.

Nevertheless, I am proud of my achievements, as I am sure Mr Chan is of his. But I do want to sound him a note of caution: When we attain our goals in life, we should not look down and criticise others who have yet to achieve theirs.

Even if I have failed in Mr Chan's eyes, he must resist the urge to denigrate. Wasn't it Albert Einstein who once said: “You never fail until you stop trying”? I have not stopped trying and I don't think I will.

I do, however, find Mr Chan's comments troubling on two fronts:

The first is the PAP's out-dated practice of stigmatising failure. This is unfortunate. I want to tell my fellow Singaporeans, especially students, that we must not be afraid to fail. It is from our failures that we learn and become better persons and go on to achieve great things.

The second has to do with PAP's habit of engaging in the politics of name-calling and personal destruction. It is disappointing that the younger generation of ministers like Mr Chan has not set a new direction for the conduct of politics in Singapore instead on relying on that of a bygone era.

How does calling me a failure help to solve the problems that Singaporeans face? The more the PAP engages in mud-slinging and ignore the grave problems that confront our nation, the more dire will be the lot of our people.

For the sake of Singaporeans, let us go beyond such an un-constructive form of politics which Singaporeans detest and graduate to a more mature level of contestation of ideas which the people deserve.

To this end, I repeat my invitation to Mr Chan and his PAP colleagues to debate me and my SDP colleagues on issues such as CPF, healthcare, housing population, education, etc that Singaporeans care about.

Chee Soon Juan (Dr)
Singapore Democratic Party

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Not credible for minister to say I plotted against Chiam, says Chee - See more at:
Not credible for minister to say I plotted against Chiam, says Chee - See more at:
Not credible for minister to say I plotted against Chiam, says Chee - See more at:

Chee sacrifices S'pore to win points overseas: Chan Chun Sing

DR CHEE Soon Juan is disingenuous ("Not possible for poor S'poreans to live on $1,000 a month"; Dec 18).

Singaporean families earning $1,000 a month can indeed afford their own flats because of various housing grants. As a result, the lowest 20th percentile of households have an average net home equity of $200,000. That is an achievement no other nation in the world can boast of.

And that is not all. In recent years, we have enhanced our social safety nets. Lower-income households have benefited from, among other things, Workfare and various assistance schemes for medical, transport, utilities and education.

We will soon strengthen our social safety net further with the Silver Support Scheme to help Singaporeans with low Central Provident Fund balances.

Dr Chee claimed that he published in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) because he could not publish his article in Singapore. But he has been published here before in both mainstream and online media.

The truth is, Dr Chee has always preferred to play to foreign galleries. For instance, when then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong was conferred an honorary degree by Williams College in the United States,

Dr Chee turned up to protest and embarrass his own prime minister overseas.

He has continued to play to the foreign gallery in writing in its media.

For instance, when he writes in the right-leaning WSJ, he attacks our government-linked companies - never mind the many Singaporean jobs at stake if foreigners do not do business with our companies.

And when he writes in the left-leaning Huffington Post, he attacks the US-Singapore free trade agreement - never mind that this FTA allows our companies to compete in the US market and creates jobs for Singaporeans.

Dr Chee has always been ready to sacrifice Singaporeans and Singapore if he can win points overseas.

He is right now busy prettying himself in preparation for the next general election, trusting younger voters will not remember his past.

But older Singaporeans will remember that he was once dismissed from the National University of Singapore for misappropriating research funds and then staged a dramatic glucose-fortified "fast" in protest. They will also remember that he once heckled Mr Goh at a hawker centre.

Above all, they will remember that Dr Chee betrayed his own mentor, Mr Chiam See Tong. Mr Chiam had brought Dr Chee into the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), but Dr Chee plotted against Mr Chiam and pushed him out of the party he had founded.

The SDP under Mr Chiam was Singapore's strongest opposition party. The SDP under Dr Chee has become a shadow of its old self.

Chan Chun Sing
Minister for Social and Family Development

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Not credible for minister to say I plotted against Chiam, says CheeNot credible for minister to say I plotted against Chiam, says Chee

WHENEVER the elections draw near, the People’s Action Party (PAP) never fails to resurrect Mr Chiam See Tong’s departure from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and run the story that I had ousted him and usurped his post.

Predictably, the PAP has done it again, this time through Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing’s letter (“Chee sacrifices S’pore to win points overseas: Chan Chun Sing”; last Friday), saying that: “Dr Chee plotted against Mr Chiam and pushed him out of the party he had founded.”

I would like to set the record straight.

Mr Chiam resigned as secretary-general of the SDP. No one kicked him out. In fact, after he resigned, a few central executive committee (CEC) members and I visited him on a few occasions over a month to persuade him to come back.

Court documents show that Mr Chiam’s relationship with his CEC colleagues was already strained prior to my joining the SDP. Mr Ashleigh Seow, then a CEC member, testified in court: “Most people have had a difficult time with (Mr Chiam) at one time or another.”

But even when the CEC took the decision to expel Mr Chiam over his open criticism of the party at an event organised by the Singapore Press Club in 1993, we still wanted to reconcile with him.

A few members of the CEC visited Mr Chiam, faxed him a letter requesting a meeting, and telephoned him several times to see if there was any chance of reconciliation before his expulsion was announced.

Tellingly, Justice Warren Khoo, who presided over the trial, acknowledged that he could find no bias or malicious behaviour on the part of the CEC in taking the action against Mr Chiam.

Given the above, is it credible for Mr Chan to say that I “plotted against Mr Chiam and pushed him out of the party he had founded”?

The PAP has spared no effort to paint me as the villain in this episode and to get Singaporeans to turn against me. I write this letter not to criticise Mr Chiam but only to set the record straight and to head off the PAP if it resurrects the issue close to elections.

The SDP has repeatedly sought goodwill with Mr Chiam through the years and we will continue to do so.

The SDP has moved on and we have grown. We have been a constructive party, drawing up alternative policies for Singapore. We want to focus on the real issues that Singaporeans are interested in, such as the cost of living, Central Provident Fund, housing, population and health care.

We hope that, for the sake of our nation and her people, the PAP will do the same.

Chee Soon Juan (Dr)