BB BE: Near stabbing, some scarring

May 02, 2016 10.00AM |

by Bertha Henson

HYPOCRISY is the word of the day. Who are you calling a hypocrite? Who’s the hypocrite now? If I’m a hypocrite, then what about you?

That about sums up last night’s (May 1) Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) rally in Bukit Batok.

It’s a classic case of wanting to call people names but telling people you don’t want to do so because you think it’s not nice. So characters were almost assassinated because the knife had only pierced the skin; it didn’t go in fully. We don’t know if it left scars.

The SDP went hammer and tongs (oops! Wrong party) at the People’s Action Party (PAP) for disparaging Dr Chee Soon Juan’s lack of a full-time job and his apparent unrepentant attitude towards his past.

The knife appeared when SDP speakers, including Dr Chee and Dr Paul Tambyah, made references to the Lee Wei Ling saga in which she had accused her brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, of being a “dishonourable son” who wanted to capitalise on their late father’s memory despite Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes. (I am summarising but you can read about the saga here.)

Dr Tambyah said: “We could have used Dr Lee’s published allegations to expose the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister’s statements and character, but we will not. That is not who we are, that’s not how we promise to run this campaign and it will not help the people of Bukit Batok.”

Dr Chee said: “I had ample opportunity to attack him on this but I did not. It would have been very potent because it’s not a political opponent saying it, it’s your own flesh and blood making these statements about this.”

It has echoes about what Dr Chee said at SDP’s first rally on Friday about former Member of Parliament David Ong, who quit his post in Bukit Batok because of “personal indiscretions”. Dr Chee told of how people had advised him to capitalise on the issue because it was a PAP “weak point”, but he decided not to because “you never kick a man when he’s down”. “There’s no honour in that,” he said.

In fact, that was the spark for the whole hypocrisy issue. PM Lee weighed in the next day to point out that other SDP speakers had levelled into Mr Ong even as Dr Chee tried to take a “magisterial” position. PM Lee also referred to a Lianhe Wanbao interview which had reported him as being unrepentant about his “crazy” history.

He said he would be worried if voters elect a person “who is able to just gloss over bad things which have been done, and which he has not come to terms with or acknowledged, and he’s now presenting himself as a new man – reinvented – and yet, unchanged, and unregretful and unrepentant”.

The SDP blasted his statements as well as those made at the PAP rally on Friday night as typical of the PAP’s style of campaigning. Mandarin speakers said that Wanbao had misrepresented Dr Chee in its headline, which was later amended to say that he was proud of his past – not that he did “not regret his crazy history”.

The MSM came in for its usual share of bashing with Dr Chee declaring that the media would be all over him if his own sister had done what Dr Lee did: “If it were my sister saying such things about me, what do you think would have happened?”

One FB commentator put the SDP’s position like this: “My moral high horse is higher than yours because I acknowledge the opening for me to shoot you but I refuse to shoot you like how you shot me but then I must let everyone know that I didn’t shoot you when I could have.”

SDP speakers suggested that the PAP was resorting to “mudslinging” because it was worried that Dr Chee might enter Parliament because of the by-election effect. They said that if elected, PAP’s Murali Pillai would be just another PAP MP in Parliament, of which there are already 82 against the Opposition’s 6. He wouldn’t be able to take on the G or go against the party line – while Dr Chee can and will.

It is a seductive line, which turns the spotlight away from the PAP’s position that Dr Chee does not have the wherewithal to run a town council.

On Friday, PAP’s Grace Fu had asked voters to consider if his lack of a full-time job would make him a good choice to manage a huge estate, as compared to PAP’s Murali Pillai, a lawyer who manages a large team and had links to the ward.

The Minister for Culture, Community Development and Youth was roundly castigated last night with speakers declaring that she was denigrating full-time mothers and people who write newspaper columns and books for a living, which is what Dr Chee does.

There was also a sideshow about race which both PM Lee and Ms Fu had referred to. Racist remarks had been circulating about Mr Murali and the implication was the SDP was either endorsing them or at least not restraining its supporters.

Dr Chee dared the PAP to find evidence of racism in the SDP and told the PAP to look at its own record of racist remarks. Among the examples he cited: former PAP MP Choo Wee Khiang’s racist statement about Indians made in Parliament 1992 and a Young PAP member — who has since quit the party — who had compared Malay kindergarten students to terrorist trainees.

So how is this campaign going to shape up over the next few days? Is the PAP going to focus on the “character” issue?

On Saturday night, PM Lee said: “Character goes to the heart of the fitness of a candidate, whether to be an MP, or indeed to hold any public office.”

Last night, Dr Chee said he agreed with the PM on this.

One problem though: Just what is “character”?


Featured Image by Najeer Yusof.

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