Hi, everybody! Welcome to my blog.
The last time I took part in a general election was in 2001. That was a long time ago. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to taking part in the hustings again after an absence of almost 15 years. I’m excited about the prospect of getting into Parliament and raising issues that have long burdened Singaporeans. I want to push for fresh alternatives – like the ones that my party colleagues and I have worked on over the past few years. I want to kindle intelligent and substantive debate on the future of our nation.
But before all this can happen, there is still the matter of winning the electoral contest. To this end, there is much that needs to be done, not least of which is to ensure that the PAP’s tactic of character-assassination and mud-slinging – a tactic at which it is eminently adept – is neutralised, if not altogether defeated.
Through the last quarter of a century, I have been on the receiving end of PAP’s vitriol. It started off with Mr Lee Kuan Yew calling me all manner of epithets such as “gangster” and “congenital liar”. The second prime minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong, openly mused about having me “annihilated”. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong jumped in, dismissing me as a “liar” and “deceitful” person. All three sued me for defamation.
The torch of verbal abuse seemed to have been passed on to the younger generation of PAP leaders. Earlier this year, Minister Chan Chun Sing launched into a diatribe, labelling me a “political failure” in response to articles I wrote in CNN, The Wall Street Journal Asia, and Huffington Post.
As the years passed, the viciousness intensified, culminating in the late Mr Lee calling me a “near-psychopath” in what seemed like an unhinged outburst during our court hearing in 2008.
Of course the rants would not have gone very far if not for their sustained amplification by the traditional media. Ms Chua Lee Hoong, former editor of The Straits Times, for example, dutifully echoed Mr Lee’s sentiments about my mental state and added her own diagnosis – apparently I am also suffering from “antisocial personality disorder.”
Other reporters got in on the act, too. A Ms Irene Ng from The New Paper had once asked me for an interview to which I obliged. In the write-up, she said that I was as “fishy as the tuna fish sandwich” that she had for lunch. Ms Ng is now the PAP MP in Tampines GRC.
The newspaper would not let up even when I was not the candidate. In the last general election, Mr Melvin Singh gave readers the impression in his report ‘Is he SDP’s Loose Cannon?’ that I had attempted to conduct an illegal march. If Mr Singh had done even a cursory observation of my actions that night, he would have seen that I had gone into the crowd for the purpose of mingling with the audience, not to conduct any kind of protest.
Unethical but effective
I have highlighted only a few examples of the deeply unethical practice of our traditional media against me through the years, there are many more. I do this not as payback but to provide Singaporeans a clearer picture of how the state demolition machinery operates, especially when elections draw near.
The PAP and the media do what they do for two uncomplicated reasons: One, it knows that ad hominem attacks are effective in painting opposition candidates as dangerous elements and therefore unworthy of support. Two, it distracts the electorate from focusing on PAP policies, many of which voters are unhappy with.
The barrage of attacks on me over the last quarter-of-a-century has taken a toll. There are many Singaporeans who still believe the PAP’s propaganda.
But now, at least, there is the social media which has enabled me to relate my side of the story and to fight back. Fighting back, however, does not mean returning like for like. Using smear tactics by whichever side of the political divide to ruin our opponents is detrimental to Singapore’s future; it turns people off politics and discourages capable citizens from stepping forward as candidates.
Instead, I will fight back by continuing to focus on the problems that Singaporeans are concerned with. I will fight back by offering voters alternatives and to give you a reason to vote for the SDP, not just against the PAP. I will fight back by standing firm no matter what they throw at me.
I urge opposition supporters not to engage in verbal abuse of PAP candidates. The truth is that not everyone in the ruling party are out only for wealth and power, there are those who genuinely care about Singapore. Similarly, not all reporters are intent on journalistic malice to kneecap the opposition. There are many who are trying their best to remain true to their profession by reporting events fairly.
So in the interest of conducting a robust but positive campaign in the coming general election, let us focus on the issues. My colleagues and I in the SDP promise to, in football parlance, play the ball not the man.
Singapore is in a new era in our political development. Let us leave behind the old politics of personal hatred, vindictiveness and destruction. Let us, instead, rise to the challenge of making our public discourse worthy of our nation.
28 July 2015