The Singapore Democratic Party is not mentioned in a report in today’s edition of Today. According to an article by the SDP, the reporter had contacted the Party with questions regarding the next General Election.
For a minute or two, I allowed myself to wonder maybe it could be for another Today report somewhere down the road. Or maybe SDP’s reply came too late to be included in the report.
Like I said, it was only for a minute or two.
The real reason is more likely due to the local news media blackout against the SDP and what the Party has to say. And even if there are reports about SDP and its activities, one will be left with the impression that the Party is equivalent to violent anarchists, paedophiles, terrorists and other unsavoury and criminal types.
During my time with the Think Centre and after, I often heard this – or variations of it but with similar message – from local reporters: we write the reports but what eventually is published is up to the editors. And i kept saying to myself whenever somebody said that to me, but it’s your byline (writer’s name) that is published along with the report and you got the cheek to give such a cop-out reason!
The local news media in Singapore is something like Fox News in America which calls itself fair and balanced but Fox isn’t News but a 24/7 political operation. The only difference is the availabilty of other sources of news in both mainstream media and online. In Singapore, everything is pro-govt: Straits Times, Channel News Asia, local radio stations, etc. Is it any wonder that even a journalism professor in Singapore was quoted as saying If you want to do journalism, don’t do it in Singapore.
Of course, the other political oppositions parties do suffer this sort of “news coverage” in varying degrees from the local news media. But its obvious the SDP is singled out for “special treatment”.
Here’s the Today report followed by the SDP article.
SINGAPORE – He had previously declared that the Singapore People’s Party (SPP) has a team in place to contest a Group Representation Constituency in the next General Election, due by Feb 2012.
Now, MediaCorp has learnt that the grand old man of Opposition politics, Mr Chiam See Tong will, indeed, lead the GRC team himself – giving up what is currently a 25-year unbroken hold in Potong Pasir.
SPP chairman Sin Kek Tong told this reporter yesterday about the party’s decision, but gave precious little information on which GRC Mr Chiam, 73, will contest – or if his successor for the single-member constituency has been chosen.
For his part, Mr Sin, 63, has set his sight on the single-seat ward of Choa Chu Kang, currently held by Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong.
“The National Solidarity Party, Workers’ Party (WP) and Reform Party have had casual talks about the coming elections, and there’s an understanding that I should be at Choa Chu Kang,” said Mr Sin.
“I’ve been there for the last few years, in fact, working to see how I can best serve the people there.”
Even as the Opposition’s plans for the next elections begin to take shape, Mr Sin is concerned that it is getting harder to find potential candidates.
While the ruling People’s Action Party announced on Sunday that it has identified some candidates, Mr Sin said opposition parties have it tougher “because people don’t want to be part of the underdog”.
“Unlike the PAP, we don’t have a big pool to choose from … so the procedure for us is to find candidates who want to fight for a cause,” he said.
That said, the SPP has zeroed in on several hopefuls, whom Mr Sin described as “young professionals with good qualifications”.
Over at the Workers’ Party, chairman Sylvia Lim said they have been recruiting new members since the last election in 2006.
While some may be “potential candidates”, Ms Lim added that “we want to work with our new members more, and will decide when the election is upon us”.
The promise of more single member constituencies and smaller GRCs will lower the entry barriers for the Opposition, but Ms Lim said it would be “simplistic” to say there will be more Opposition candidates just because of these changes.
“For the WP, we would still want to do our selection and not just field people because we can,” she added.
When contacted, Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam said it was “not fair” for the media to make comparisons between the Opposition and the ruling party.
The 18-month-old party formed by his father, the late J B Jeyaretnam, nonetheless, has “high quality candidates” in its fold, he said.
He added: “I’ll be standing in the elections, but we rather not talk about the GRCs and single constituencies now because constituencies might disappear after the electoral boundaries are re-drawn.”
Still, he fancies the Reform Party’s chances.
“In the last six months since I took over the party, I’ve been meeting people at the walkabouts and I’m pleased with the responses so far,” he said.
As the opposition parties prepare for the GE, the news that Mr Chiam will not make another bid for Potong Pasir has stirred mixed emotions among residents.
“He’s an icon in Singapore politics and with him gone, I’m sure the ruling party will do all they can to win back Potong Pasir again,” said Mr Aidil, who has lived in the estate for 18 years.
“I’m sure he’s moving because he wants to use his clout to help the Opposition win other areas,” said another resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan.
“Whatever the case, it will sure make the next election an interesting race to watch.”
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, the PAP adviser to the Potong Pasir grassroots organisations, could not be reached for a comment at press time.
SDP’s response to queries from Today
Singapore Democrats, 3 Nov 2009
Mr Zul Othman of the Today newspaper has emailed the Singapore Democrats to do a follow-up story to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s annnouncement that PAP has identified potential candidates for the next GE. Below is the SDP’s response. Mr Zul’s questions follow.
Government should release new boundaries first
The Singapore Democrats will be fielding a team of candidates of both new and familiar faces in the next general elections. The names and gender of the candidates will be announced at the appropriate juncture on this website.
The number of candidates available to the opposition has always been a casualty of the climate of fear in Singapore. Given the autocratic nature of the political system Singaporeans have been fearful of joining the opposition.
So the question of the increased number of NCMP seats or single-seats is not as relevant as the fear factor inasfar as the ability of the opposition to attract candidates is concerned.
As to where and how many seats the SDP will be fielding, and whether in GRCs and/or SMCs, these questions will depend on the re-drawn boundaries and the number of GRCs and SMCs available in the next GE.
As such the SDP calls on the Government to release the electoral map without further delay. In the past the PAP has done this at the last minute. In one of the recent elections, the new boundaries were made known the day before elections was called.
This is a shameful practice which no confident ruling party would do and which no democratic system would accept. The PAP needs to stop all these shenanigans and reveal the boundaries immediately.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party
Questions from Mr Zul Othman:
1) PAP has identified potential candidates – what about the SDP?
2) Do you have fresh faces? How many?
3) Will they be contesting more seats than in the last GE, as PM said?
4) And if so, is it because of more potential candidates or, as PM suggested, the lure of more NCMP seats, single member wards and smaller GRCs?
5) Will the SDP be targeting more single member wards or the GRCs?
6) Any potential candidates you’d care to name? Would it be alright for us to contact them?
7) Will the SDP be fielding more women this time around?
8 ) How far down the recruitment chain are you?