26 April 2011
PAP and SDP square off over ‘smear tactics’
PAP team asks if SDP intends to pursue gay cause, and Chee says no
By Tessa Wong & Aaron Low
THE opposing teams at Holland-Bukit Timah GRC squared off publicly yesterday over an online video which the People’s Action Party (PAP) said raised questions whether the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had a secret gay agenda.
First, the PAP team led by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan asked in a statement whether SDP candidate Vincent Wijeysingha, who was filmed participating in a gay rights forum, intends to pursue the cause in Parliament.
This was countered in the evening by SDP chief Chee Soon Juan who in an online video said neither the party nor any of its candidates is pursuing such an agenda.
In a statement entitled ‘What is his agenda?’ released yesterday, the PAP team said that a video has been posted on the Internet showing Dr Wijeysingha participating in what it called ‘a forum which discussed the promotion of the gay cause in Singapore’.
The team added that the sexual orientation of Dr Wijeysingha is not the issue.
But it noted: ‘The video raises the question on whether Wijeysingha will now pursue this cause in the political arena and what is the SDP’s position on the matter.’
In his denial, Dr Chee said: ‘Let me state categorically we are not pursuing the gay agenda and none of our MPs will.
‘Our candidates have been selected because of their ability to serve you, the people of Singapore, as your representatives in Parliament,’ he added.
‘They have stepped forward because they love this country and they know that Singaporeans yearn for an alternative voice in Parliament. That is their only agenda.’
Dr Chee also called on Dr Balakrishnan, who is Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, to stop engaging in what he called ‘smear tactics’.
‘We are better than that,’ said Dr Chee. ‘We can disagree on policies without having to resort to personal attacks. Let us lead Singapore to a higher level of politics.’
The exchange comes two days after Dr Balakrishnan first mentioned the video in an interview with The Straits 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.’
When asked to elaborate the next day, he would only say: ‘I would like the issue to play out first. I am also waiting for (SDP’s) manifesto to be revealed and then let things emerge.’
But yesterday, the Today newspaper went ahead to speculate that the video in question was a six-minute clip featuring lawyer M. Ravi.
It was taken during a public forum held last November by Mr Ravi on his constitutional challenge to the S377A clause of Singapore’s Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men.
Mr Ravi is seen addressing a small room of participants, calling Dr Wijeysingha ‘Singapore’s first gay MP’.
The PAP team alleged yesterday that the forum ‘also touched on sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years of age’.
It added that Dr Wijeysingha had said in the video that ‘I think the gay community has to rally ourselves’, and that people interested in gay issues could come together to ‘further rights issues in relation to gays and lesbians’.
It continued: ‘We believe that candidates should be upfront about their political agenda and motives, so that voters are able to make an informed choice.’
The statement was signed off by Dr Balakrishnan and his teammates, Mr Christopher De Souza, Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Ms Sim Ann.
Dr Wijeysingha, a 41-year-old civil society activist, is contesting Holland-Bukit Timah GRC along with Mr Tan Jee Say, Dr Ang Yong Guan and Ms Michelle Lee.
All four were called to the SDP’s headquarters last night for an emergency meeting following the release of the PAP’s statement.
At 11pm, the party posted the video response by Dr Chee on its website.
In the clip, Dr Chee said he was proud of his candidates, whom he called ‘people of integrity and capability’.
He added: ‘When we speak up we do so for all Singaporeans, not just a segment of Singaporeans.
‘At the very core of our country’s pledge is that we do not discriminate against anyone, be it on the basis of the colour of their skin, the faiths in the hearts, whether they are young or old or what their sexual orientation is.’
Accusing Dr Balakrishnan of not having ‘the courage to say what he really wanted to say at first’, and of ‘beating around the bush’, he said the party is disappointed at how the issue was raised.
He ended the video with a request to Dr Balakrishnan to ‘reciprocate’ by making public the accounts of the Youth Olympic Games.
He also reiterated the party’s invitation to a public debate.
Both Dr Wijeysingha and Ms Lee declined to comment last night.
Dr Ang told The Straits Times that he had come to know about the video ‘one to two days ago’, after he was introduced as an SDP candidate last Friday.
He said a friend had sent him a link to the video.
Dr Ang, who is a Christian, said he would be ‘comfortable’ standing on the same ticket as a gay person.
‘To me, very frankly, a person’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter. What’s important is his vision, his ability, his personality. So what if Vincent may be gay? It’s immaterial to me.’
He added: ‘I’m a Christian, but my personal view is that I will respect a person’s sexual orientation. It’s not for me to impose my values on them.’
Mr Tan echoed Dr Ang’s comments, saying Dr Wijeysingha’s sexual orientation is ‘immaterial’.
He said: ‘It’s not an issue. Even Lee Kuan Yew says it’s not an issue.’
The video below is the video referred to in the Straits Times article, but was not part of the article. Included here for reference only: