Campus Observer. This is the name a group of students have given their online newspaper. The Singapore Democrats understand that this is an independent initiative borne out of the interest of students wanting to see news normally ignored by the mainstream press given more airing.
When SDP leaders visited NUS last week, student reporters were on hand to conduct interviews and report on the episode. This is the story they filed:
Several leaders of the Singapore Democratic Party visited NUS Thursday as part of their strategy to raise awareness about political and national issues among tertiary students.
Led by Chee Soon Juan, the secretary-general of the oppositional political party and a former NUS psychology lecturer, the group distributed flyers and chatted with students in the middle section of The Deck canteen at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Those present included SDP assistant secretary-general John Tan, vice chairman Francis Young and party member Chee Siok Chin, who is also the sister of Chee Soon Juan.
However, they were momentarily interrupted by university officials who reportedly told them to stop their activities.
Chee Soon Juan said the official cited the university’s request as a "need to protect its students.”
In response, Chee said, "Are you here to run a world class university, or a kindergarten?”
The presence of university officials and campus security officers, however, did not dissuade some students from showing their interest in interacting with the SDP members.
Several of them approached the SDP members to chat, while others asked for autographs and photo opportunities.
First-year student Wong Zhan Hui was one such student.
Wong said, "I’m surprised that NUS didn’t really kick him (Chee) out.”
Chee, a neuropsychologist, joined the SDP in 1992 and contested the Marine Parade by-elections while still a psychology lecturer at NUS.
In 1993, Chee had his position at NUS terminated for misappropriating research funds. In protest against the termination of his contract, he went on a hunger strike claiming the charges were fabricated.
Chee said the SDP’s aim for the recent spate of university visits was to create awareness among students on national issues.
In the past two weeks, SDP members had also visited Nanyang Technological University, NUS Faculty of Law and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
The latest unannounced visit at The Deck lasted approximately an hour and attracted a crowd of about 50 students.
Wong said, "The crowd was quite small. I do not know whether they have reached enough people.”
The impromptu visit did attract the attention of two campus security guards who were spotted observing the SDP members even after the group had stopped interacting with students.
When asked if they were given instructions to monitor the party, one of the security guards said, "No, no, we are just investigating the canteen.”
They walked away immediately after comment.
This was the SDP’s second visit to the NUS Kent Ridge campus since April this year.
(16 Sept 2008)