SINGAPORE: Every Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate pulls his own weight, the party's secretary-general Chee Soon Juan said on Tuesday (Jun 30) during a virtual press conference after Nomination Day.
He was responding to questions from the media on how decisions were made to field SDP candidates in unexpected wards. Party chairman Paul Tambyah, for instance, was fielded in Bukit Panjang SMC. He had been expected to lead the team for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
"Every one, 11 of us, have that weight to be fielded as a candidate, and to be then elected as an MP, and we made a very conscious move to make sure that we streamlined our number and made sure that we emphasised on quality and not quantity," Dr Chee said.
"We wouldn't be fielding these 11 if we weren't confident that we can get us elected."
Candidates have been making their rounds in all the constituencies the SDP is contesting in - Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, Yuhua SMC, Bukit Batok SMC and Bukit Panjang SMC - Dr Chee added.
He said that the SDP is conscious that the party's ground campaign is "taken care of". This includes being ready when boundaries for constituencies are redrawn, he said.
"When things are made clear, then we start to think of where to place candidates to maximise our chances of getting elected," he added.
CANDIDATES FIELDED IN UNEXPECTED CONSTITUENCIES
Apart from Dr Tambyah, Mr Benjamin Pwee's candidacy in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC was also unexpected as he had been seen on walkabouts in Yuhua SMC.
Dr James Gomez, on the other hand, was fielded in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC despite being frequently spotted in Marsiling-Yew Tee.
When asked about being fielded in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Dr Gomez, a political scientist, said that he has lived in the constituency for 20 years and continues to do so.
He added that the situation of candidates moving to a different constituency is "consistent with the practice that we have seen from all political parties, including the People's Action Party (PAP)".
"To me that's a non-issue because it's the party that's important, that has been working the ground with the support base," he said. "This is no different, whether it's in Marsiling-Yew Tee or Holland-Bukit Timah or any other constituency that we have been expressing our interest."
Mr Pwee, a business development strategist, said that at the end of the day, members walk the ground as a party.
"I don't walk the ground as Ben Pwee. I walk the ground as SDP," he said, adding that information from the ground is shared with the party.
"It's not like 'oh, Ben is no more in Yuhua therefore SDP is not focusing on Yuhua'," he said.
Dr Tambyah, the president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, did not speak at the virtual press conference.
TAN JEE SAY SAYS "NOT A SUDDEN DECISION" TO JOIN SDP
Former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say, founder of now-dissolved opposition party Singaporeans First (SingFirst), was also a surprise candidate.
He said in a Facebook post on Monday that he had reached out to Dr Chee on rejoining the party. SDP then confirmed that he made an application, without saying if he was accepted as a member.
Mr Tan will join Dr Gomez, marketing communications professional Min Cheong and businessman Alfred Tan in contesting Holland-Bukit Timah against the PAP.
In response to questions on whether his decision to return to SDP was sudden and whether it ruffled any feathers, Mr Tan said reception has been "quite warm", adding that he does not think anyone felt "left out or that it is so sudden".
Mr Tan started his political career with the SDP in 2011, contesting Holland-Bukit Timah GRC that year under its banner.
He said that he had to resign from the SDP to run in the Presidential Election in 2011. He later returned to the SDP but left again to form SingFirst in 2014.
On Tuesday, Mr Tan said that SDP members "always asked me to go back".
"Whenever I meet them outside, hawker centres, food courts, shopping malls or in the streets, they're always asking me to come back," he said.
"It's a credit to themselves, that I (am) finally coming back you know, it's like the return of the prodigal son, so (as) to speak."
When asked whether his candidacy would be an advantage or disadvantage in garnering support, Mr Tan said that he is known to the residents of the constituency.
Even though the news is "a bit surprisingly late to come out", "I'm known to a lot of people in Singapore", he said.
"It wouldn't be a disadvantage. It's just a matter of going back. It's like going back to your roots, the values that you champion for Singaporeans."
SDP KICKS OFF ONLINE RALLIES
Later in the day, the SDP kicked off online rallies on its Facebook page, through pre-recorded videos and a live rally by Dr Chee.
Dr Chee, who used infographics to illustrate his points, reiterated his party’s “Four Yes, One No” campaign.
Its vision includes the suspension of Goods and Services Tax (GST) to zero per cent until the end of next year, which will "give Singaporeans greater spending power", said Dr Chee. "(This) will help businesses, which will in turn help to stave off retrenchments after 2021."
Other candidates spoke in batches of three in three videos, with most of them echoing Dr Chee's points.
"I feel the impact of the GST on everything I buy like rice, vegetables and oil. I work with the marginalised communities and contrary to beliefs, their lives did not get better with increasing GST," said Mr Robin Low, SDP’s candidate in Yuhua SMC.
Members criticised the Government for calling a General Election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
SDP chairman Paul Tambyah also spoke out against the format of the constituency political broadcasts, which would require parties to submit their speeches 48 hours in advance.
“That gives us no chance to respond to the PAP statements in a timely manner and allows all kinds of allegations that they make to go unanswered,” he said.
On a more personal note, Dr Tambyah said: “My mother is one of Singapore's pioneer social workers, a tireless advocate for the rights of the disabled. She always told us since we were very young, that the truth will come out in the end. And that is a large part of the reason I am standing in this election.”
Candidate for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Min Cheong also had personal stories to share, speaking about her father who she said helped to build Singapore’s air force from the “ground up”.
“I’ve told close friends how much my dad’s anecdotes have influenced my socio-political views, how deep my connections to this country have become and how much more enchanted with our real historical national narrative I am as a result,” she said.
Singapore is a "team of every single Singaporean who has empowered themselves to make Singapore what it is now and will continue to fight the good fight together", she added.
“(The SDP recognises that) you are important, that you are an important valuable part of the Singapore story, that your needs should be addressed, that your hopes and dreams form the soul of this nation."