On 30 October 2004, the Straits Times published two letters attacking the SDP. One was written by Mr Ang Gim Huat and the other by Mr Jeffrey Ng Chuen Chia. Dr Chee wrote a reply to each of the letters rebutting the points raised by the two gentlemen and laying out the SDP's position. Mr Kong Soon Wah, the ST Forum Editor, then replied and asked Dr Chee to condense the two replies into one and to shorten the letter. Dr Chee duly did so and re-submitted the reply.
As suspected, it wasn't so much the length but the content of the SDP's reply, or at least part thereof, that the ST did not want the public to see. It turns out that Mr Kong, now not having any excuse to not publish Dr Chees reply, wanted a paragraph removed.
The ST editor wrote:
We will print your letter of Nov 4 with the exception of this paragraph: "...It must be remembered that wage levels do not just measure wealth, it goes a long way to ease the financial burdens of everyday life in this country. With record levels of low birth rates, bankruptcies, divorces, mental breakdowns, and even suicides all driven by the disparity between the high cost of living and low levels of wages in Singapore is it not time to take the SDPs proposals seriously?'' (See the SDPs letter in full below).
Dr Chee then asked for the reasons why the ST wanted the above paragraph removed. Was it defamatory? If so, how? Untrue? If yes, please point out what is false. As with normal establishment practice, however, Mr Kong refused to reply to this query (remember how the Registrar of the Supreme Court refused to answer Dr Chees question about why the SDP leaders affidavit was taken from him when he tried to file it?).
This is a yet more evidence (as if anymore is needed) that the local media is being used to prevent the SDP from getting its message across. Already the ST has refused to give the Democrats our right of reply on several previous occasions. Singaporeans must note the following:
One, the ST and PAP supporters love to say that the SDP don't address issues that matter to Singaporeans. When we do, the ST ensures that the public doesn't get to read them as in this instance when the newspaper wants to remove a paragraph that is perhaps the most crucial one in Dr Chee's reply. How much more important can issues about everyday problems like mental breakdowns, divorces and suicides arising from financial stress inflicted upon the people by the PAP Government get?
Two, the PAP can get away by controlling what citizens get to read and hear about the SDP for now, anyway. This is only way the PAP can get the better of the SDP. But isn't it frightful that the PAP cannot win a fair and open debate, and has to resort to such lame tactics?
The PAP and its supporters will continue to disparage the Singapore Democrats by propagating half-truths and outright lies about the party in the media, and then denying us the means of replying and communicating with Singaporeans. No doubt this is very effective in ensuring that the people remain uninformed and misinformed. The question is: How long can such deception and trickery continue?
SDP's reply to the 2 letters published in the Straits Times Forum:
In his letter Mr Ang Gim Huat said that the Singapore Democrats have failed to focus on major issues and criticizes only small and meaningless matters? (ST, Oct 30, 2004)
These issues were central to the SDP's campaign message in the 2001 elections. It takes someone very bold (or very partisan) to suggest that these are small and meaningless matters.
- Is he referring to the SDP's on-going campaign to fight for:
- - minimum wage to pay workers fair wages for their work,
- - retrenchment entitlements to protect workers if and when they are retrenched,
- - the Singaporeans First Policy where foreign workers will only be employed if no locals are available for the job?
It is also important to note that the writer did not dispute the figures about the widening disparity between the super-rich and the middle-class/working-poor segments in Singapore. He simply asks what the SDP proposes to reduce the gap.
I believe the measures cited above are a crucial first step in helping to reduce poverty and hardship levels in Singapore. It must be remembered that wage levels do not just measure wealth; it goes a long way to ease the financial burdens of everyday life in this country. With record levels of low birth rates, bankruptcies, divorces, mental breakdowns, and even suicides all driven by the disparity between the high cost of living and low levels of wages in Singapore is it not time to take the SDPs proposals seriously?
With reference to another letter by Mr Jeffrey Ng Chuen Chia, the writer needs to pay closer attention to facts (ST, Oct 30, 2004).
I did not choose to represent myself in the present defamation suits. I had applied for Queens Counsels (QCs) to represent me but was denied repeatedly by the courts.
Mr Ng then says that the onus is on me to familiarize myself with the procedure of submitting court documents. Having submitted court documents on several past occasions, I assure the writer that I am thoroughly familiar with the procedure. It is the registry that has decided to change the procedure when it came to my filing my affidavit.
Whether I choose to file my document on the first or the last day is immaterial. If the registry had allowed me to file my affidavit like the many times I have done before, there would have been no fuss today. Mr Ngs indignation seems to be misdirected.
Mr Ng also points out that the courts have been kind to me. If what has happened with me and other oppositionists that have been taken to court by the PAP is anything to go by, then I plead to be saved from all this kindness.
And about the China-Taiwan issue, I would like to remind Mr Ng that I was not the one to visit Taiwan and irk China, and I was not the one who then went to the United Nations to meddle in Taiwan's affairs. I am, however, pointing out that when we meddle in other peoples affairs, we should not accuse others of meddling in ours. Otherwise, its called hypocrisy.
I am encouraged that Mr Ng also sees that Singapore is not PAP and vice versa. However, he misses the point about ending the one-party dominance in Singapore. Tragically Singaporeans will not, under the present system, be able to break the PAP's dominance. Why? Because the PAP will continue to change the rules to ensure that the one-party state continues.
Finally, Mr Ng is mistaken to think that I am in a plight a word that describes a distressed or unfortunate condition. I consider myself rather fortunate to be free from the fear that prevents Singaporeans from standing up for their rights. Speaking out is the highest honour a citizen can claim. If truth be told, it is not I who is in a plight.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party
(16 Nov 2004)