‘Strange bedfellows’ in SDP team

Sunday Times
24 April 2011

‘Strange bedfellows’ in SDP team
Vivian takes on Chee’s party, hinting of a possible expose over YouTube video
By Judith Tan and Amresh Gunasingham

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday described the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) team running against him as ‘strange bedfellows’ who do not have a shared vision or ideology.

Dismissing accusations by SDP candidate Tan Jee Say that the People’s Action Party had ‘lost its moral compass’, he turned the spotlight back onto the SDP instead.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, he said: ‘It has been brought to my attention – in fact it is the SDP which is suppressing a certain YouTube video, which raises some very awkward questions about the agenda and motivations of the SDP and its candidates.’

He declined to give more details about the clip.

‘I suspect Mr Tan had not done appropriate due diligence of his teammates and his party,’ he said.

‘I am not going to go further into details but I think saying that and publishing that, the netizens will know what to do and they will discover this.’

The PAP team leader for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC made these pointed remarks while responding to Mr Tan’s criticisms of Singapore’s economic strategy.

Mr Tan, 57, the former principal private secretary to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, had argued that with policies such as the introduction of the integrated resorts, the PAP government had lost its moral compass.

The former civil servant will probably be fielded in the SDP’s ‘A’ team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. The others are psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan, 56, civil society activist Vincent Wijeysingha, 40, and teacher Michelle Lee, 35.

During the interview, Dr Balakrishnan was also asked if opposition politicians sitting on government-appointed bodies would be an issue.

Dr Ang is a member of the National Council on Problem Gambling – a council that gives advice and feedback to Dr Balakrishnan’s Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Said Dr Balakrishnan: ‘This is a statutory appointment where civil servants decide. I will let them decide the propriety of this appointment. I am waiting for advice on that but I don’t think it is an issue.’

During the hour-long interview, the minister described the SDP team as ‘a marriage of convenience’.

He described the SDP’s choice of the GRC as ‘a purely opportunistic pick’.

‘On the local level, they have no plans for this area and this GRC. At a national level, their policy proposals, for what they are worth, will be debated on,’ he said.

In hard-hitting language, he said of the SDP: ‘It has hurriedly recruited candidates with some very dangerous ideas, and even amongst themselves they haven’t sorted out their divergent interests and expectations. This will play out over the next few days.’

Ultimately, the issues that resonate on the ground in the GRC include the value of homes, staying employed and the future of the young, he said.

‘We have to address these needs and the residents would then be in the position to judge who can they trust to look after their future; whose plans are really being customised… to meet the needs of the residents in this area,’ he said.

He also questioned the efforts by the SDP, led by Dr Chee Soon Juan, to ‘furiously change’ its image and asked if there was something ‘fundamentally wrong with them at the core’.

At a constituency event earlier in the morning, Dr Balakrishnan told reporters: ‘I think they haven’t changed. I think they are trying to put on different clothes, different facades. I don’t think people will be taken in by this.’

During the interview, he also rebutted Mr Tan’s various proposals on Singapore’s economic strategy.

Mr Tan has argued that Singapore should restructure its economy and move away from manufacturing to focus more heavily on services, thereby reducing economic volatility and its dependence on foreign labour.

But the minister, citing the examples of the Asian financial crisis of 1998, the dot.com bust in 2001, the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003 and the global financial crisis two years ago, said Singapore’s ‘small, open, globalised economy’ meant that volatility is a ‘given’.

Further, manufacturing is linked to the services sector, ranging from logistics to finances.

‘If you are going to pluck out 22 per cent of the GDP, you take the risk of losing 500,000 jobs and all the other supporting service sectors would take a hit as a consequence of that,’ he said. ‘I think this is a recipe for job destruction, so the very real threat is indeed this proposal.’

He added that there is a need ‘to nail this so that people within and outside Singapore don’t get shaken and don’t believe that we have taken leave of our senses’.


What is SDP’s agenda?

‘He talks about moral compass and the SDP talks about new media… Well, it has been brought to my attention – in fact it is the SDP which is suppressing a certain YouTube video which raises some very awkward questions about the agenda and motivations of the SDP and its candidates. In fact, I suspect Mr Tan Jee Say has not done appropriate due diligence of his teammates and his party.

Now I am not going to go further into details but I think saying that and publishing that, the netizens will know what to do and they will discover this.’

DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, responding to Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Tan Jee Say’s accusations that the PAP had ‘lost its moral compass’ What is SDP’s agenda?

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