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S'pore's Opposition Parties

SDP 30th anniversary commemorative magazine packs a punch with style and substance

Post updated March 2nd: I published this blog post last night. Hours after what i said in para.3, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan, and Ms Chee Siok Chin have been imprisoned again. Teoh Tian Jing, a member of the Young Democrats and a co-defendant was also found guilty. His sentence is withheld pending an appeal. For more on this, see Ruling will go down as one that ignored common sense: Tian Jing.

Photo: SDP

I attended the dinner last Saturday at Copthorne Hotel. One of the first thing i noticed was the non-traditional style of such dinners. It was a standing-affair which was a good idea ‘cos it prompted the guests to walkabout, mingle and talk freely with each other. Of course, a few chairs were placed against the wall for those who wanted or needed to use it.

The photo montage presentation of the early days of SDP through to the present, to the accompaniment of the Black Eyed Peas’ I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night; the singing of the National Anthem and recital of the National Pledge, led by Dr Chee Soon Juan’s 10yr old daughter, An-Lyn; the Young Democrats; the Fashion Walk; the unveiling of the commemorative magazine, etc, etc. It was a memorable night! [See Dazzle with the Democrats: A night to remember for article and photos]

The whole atmosphere surrounding the dinner would have made one forget, at least for the evening, that this is a political party whose members, along with their supporters, have been (and are still being) persecuted and vilified by the PAP government and their handmaidens, especially the local press, for years. I was also thinking about their family members who undoubtedly face the strain of this persecution and vilification together with their loved ones.

The highlight of the dinner was the unveiling of the 30th anniversary commemorative magazine. All guests received a complimentary copy.

SDP Chairman Gandhi Ambalam (right) and Secretary-General Dr Chee Soon Juan (left) unveiling the commemorative magazine at SDP's 30th anniversary dinner last Saturday, 27 Feb 2010. Photo: SDP

The Sunday Times in their report on the event did not mention the highlight of the night but did mention the 1996 episode when Mr Chiam See Tong left the Party. [Read Martyn See’s post about the reports on the dinner by Sunday Times and Lianhe Zaobao]

SDP marks its 30th year
By Kor Kian Beng
Feb 28, 2010

The opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) marked its 30th anniversary with a gala dinner yesterday, which was attended by members of the opposition scene and activists.

The two-hour event kicked off with SDP chief Chee Soon Juan’s 10-year-old daughter, An Lyn, leading the 170-strong crowd in singing the National Anthem and reciting the National Pledge.

Its chairman, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, gave an opening address before several members of its youth wing, Young Democrats, took the SDP pledge to signal their commitment to its beliefs on democracy and human rights.

They included its president, Mr Priveen Suraj, 22, a law student at a private institution; honorary secretary Jarrod Luo, 26, a science graduate who runs his own business; and member Teoh Tian Jing, 25, a property agent.

Two veteran SDP members, Mr Michael Hwang, 79, and Mr Albert Lim, 80, received awards from the party for their service dating back to the 1980s.

Among the people at the event, held at Concorde Hotel in Orchard Road, were former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian, blogger Alex Au and veteran lawyer Peter Cuthbert Low.

Absent, however, were the two opposition MPs: Hougang’s Mr Low Thia Khiang of the Workers’ Party and Potong Pasir’s Mr Chiam See Tong, who founded the SDP in 1980.

Dr Chee joined the party in 1992. In 1996, Mr Chiam left the SDP for Singapore People’s Party, following a public spat with him and party leaders.

In the 2006 election, the SDP contested in the six-man Sembawang GRC and single-seat Bukit Panjang. It got 23.3 per cent of votes cast in Sembawang and 22.81 per cent in Bukit Panjang ward.

Dr Chee, an undischarged bankrupt, cannot stand for election.

Speaking yesterday, he said the dinner was made possible by a ‘mini-explosion’ in the party’s membership between 2005 and this year.

He did not give any figures on the membership growth over the years.

He said the party was able to attract new members as it insisted on doing what is right, not what is popular.

He urged members to persevere in their pro-democracy efforts, saying ‘democracy cannot be wished for but has to be fought for’.

Dr Chee also spoke about the push to boost productivity growth, blaming the poor level of productivity on the political scene which, he said, crippled creative minds and innovative spirits.

Alluding to criticisms of his political style, he said: ‘I’ve been told I’m not much of a politician. I take that as a compliment because politicians believe in doing what’s good for themselves. I believe in doing what’s good for the people.’

Mr Priveen said it was this belief that prompted him to join the SDP shortly after the general election in May 2006.

He told The Sunday Times: ‘The party’s ideologies in protecting and defending human rights and promoting democracy in Singapore was a key factor.

‘Singapore is a role model for many countries and we need to have a more democratic system.’

Mr Chiam co-founded the Party with Mr Fok Tai Loy in 1980. Mr Fok passed away in 1984. The circumstances surrounding the departure of Mr Chiam from the Party is addressed in a chapter in the magazine. But the 80-page magazine is much more than that.

In his welcome message to readers of the magazine, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Chairman of SDP, writes..

This publication – our pride and joy – commemorates 30 years that the Singapore Democratic Party has been around in Singapore’s politics….This magazine brings to life all that we stand for and have worked towards all these years. The following pages show in vivid colour our members and friends who continue to work for that ideal that we all so cherish. In the pages ahead we trace our short history, present our colourful present, and provide a glimpse into an exciting future.

See The SDP’s commemorative magazine – a landmark publication for details on how and where you can get your hands on a copy.

Mar 22, 2010 update: That magazine

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