SINGAPORE: The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) held what it called a pre-election rally at Hong Lim Park on Saturday (Oct 19), raising issues ranging from the cost of living to the impending GST hike and the need for more diverse voices in Parliament.
A main theme among the nine party members who spoke was how the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has not kept promises it made in the 2015 General Election.
"I will demonstrate to you and leave you in absolutely no doubt how the PAP says one thing before the elections and does another after the elections," said SDP leader Chee Soon Juan, before going on to present examples.
Playing a short clip of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a 2015 election rally, Dr Chee said Mr Lee had promised that the elderly poor will live in peace and dignity.
The promise has not been kept, Dr Chee said. Among the numbers he cited were figures by the Samaritans of Singapore which showed that suicide rates among the elderly in 2017 were at an all-time high.
He also pointed to the increase in the cost of several items, including water.
On the issue of foreign workers, Dr Chee raised what he said was a contradiction in comments made by the Government.
"Mr Lee assured the nation that we must carefully manage the inflow of foreign workers and ensure that they complement, rather than displace Singaporeans workers," said the SDP secretary-general.
"If the Government had carefully managed the inflow of foreign workers as Mr Lee had assured us in 2003, why did Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam contradict him by pointing out that dependence of foreign PMETs (professionals, managers, executive and technicians) has become unsustainable?"
As the final speaker at the five-hour event, Dr Chee said several times during his speech: "Trust is not what you say, it's what you do."
Newer SDP faces such as marketing and communications professional Min Cheong also took to the stage.
She brought up the issue of the influx of foreign PMETs amid an uncertain economic outlook and tight labour market.
"Our position isn't that we want an economy that is overprotected in favour of Singaporeans or a society that is insular and intolerant," she told the audience.
Nothing is wrong with introducing non-locals into a talent pool, especially given the highly intense interconnected global economy, which Singapore is a part of and benefits from, she added.
"But we do need to ensure that our workforce policies do not inadvertently disadvantage Singaporeans, and also don't give rise to the impression that foreigners are edging Singaporeans out of roles," she said.
NEED FOR OPPOSITION IN PARLIAMENT
The party's chairman Paul Tambyah focused his speech on what he said was the lack of an independent Election Commission.
"The decisions on the constituencies are made by the highly qualified members of the election boundaries review committee, who in their day jobs report to the MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) minister, the MND (Ministry of National Development) minister, the Prime Minister and the Law Minister," he said.
"All of them are PAP Central Executive Committee members. Surely this is not fair," he added.
Dr Tambyah also called for "independent diverse voices" in Parliament, because it is where ministers are "held accountable" to the people of Singapore.
Entrepreneur Alfred Tan also spoke about the need for more opposition in Parliament.
"Do we hear robust debate over here?" he asked.
"If your representative (in Parliament) is of the same party as the Government, and even though he may voice a concern on your behalf, your elected MP will still be voting along party lines," he said.
"You need more alternative voice in Parliament, so that your concerns can be heard, Bills robustly debated, and ministries asked to account for bad decisions."
According to SDP, about 2,000 people attended the event, which also featured a band performance, a bouncy castle and a light-up display.
The next General Election must be held by April 2021.