Yawning Bread Photo Essay - May 2006

Rally at Woodlands Stadium





The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), under Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin, is beginning to carve out a message for itself that differentiates it from other opposition parties. 

Its primary message is that the "system" in Singapore is essentially rotten, because it has been completely manipulated by the People's Action Party (PAP) to serve its own hegemonic interests. The SDP's view is that it is becoming impossible to work within the system to change it, and therefore we may have to resort to civil disobedience for a more effective counter to the stranglehold that the PAP has over Singaporeans.

Many people dismiss the SDP's focus on issues of political freedom as removed from the daily concerns of the average Singaporean. But the party argues that the lack of political freedom gives the people no way to influence other matters, including bread and butter ones, and no way to guard against abuse and the future risk of corruption. Are we so confident that the old saying "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" will never in a hundred years apply here? Thus, far from being irrelevant, the issue of political freedom is fundamental to Singapore's future and all other concerns.

Clearly, this message strikes a chord with some Singaporeans, particularly the younger generation, better educated and able to see beyond their stomachs, though they must be a distinct minority.

Unfortunately the electoral system makes it very hard for the SDP to translate their support into parliamentary seats, for this group of voters is dispersed throughout Singapore. If we had proportional representation, then it's quite probable that the SDP would be able to make inroads into Parliament in order to reflect this group of voters' political aspirations, but getting to proportional representation is well nigh impossible given the vice-like grip that the PAP has.

Does that mean this group of voters must remain disenfranchised?

Yet the SDP has to start somewhere. For this general election, it has chosen to stand in Sembawang Group Representation Constituency, a large, 6-member ward. 



Chee Soon Juan is not eligible to stand for election as he was declared a bankrupt recently.

He was made a bankrupt because he was unable to pay S$500,000 in libel  damages to Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

The defamation suit arose from remarks made during the last general election, in 2001, in which Chee alleged that Lee and Goh's relations with the Suharto government of Indonesia had not been above-board. The court found in favour of the plaintiffs.

Besides the question of whether you agree with the court's judgment, there is the separate question of whether, even if the remarks were libellous, were damages of such a high amount appropriate to the injury?

Did people generally believe Chee's allegations? Because if people did not, where was the severe injury that would merit such a large amount?


Yawning Bread