At the closed door forum organised by the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), Dr Chee outlined the SDP's campaign message for the next general elections. He told the audience that the Singapore Democrats will focus on the need for minimum wage, lowering the cost of living and to implement the Singaporeans First Policy.
Mr Chairman, fellow speakers, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
I thank the NUSS for this opportunity to address you and for the erudition of the speakers who spoke before me as well as, I am sure, those who follow.
Ours is a society that celebrates wealth. Nothing wrong with that. But when that is all we celebrate, then I submit to you that we are, in fact, not a wealthy people. We are a society starved in spirit, one that is morally bankrupt, and one without a soul.
We are too afraid to speak up when we see injustice, too driven by material wealth to care about what happens to our fellow citizens.
I don't say this lightly. There was an Australian who visited Singapore a few months back and she told me that she was shocked to see an elderly lady clearing dishes and cleaning tables at a hawker centre. And yet for us Singaporeans, we don't bat an eyelid. We take it in our stride and think that that's the natural order of things.
But that's not even the saddest part. Many of such elderly workers are paid pittance. I met a cleaner, Mr Ramli, who was employed by a town council. I struck up a conversation with him and learnt that he was in his mid-70s, worked 6 days a week, starting at seven in the morning and not finishing at about 2 in the afternoon.
His salary? $400 a month.
On the other end of the spectrum we have people who hail themselves as society's talented and that they should be paid top dollar for the skills they possess. I am, of course, talking about Mr de Souza's party bosses, the ministers, who in their infinite wisdom see it fit to pay themselves 500 times the salary Mr Ramli is paid.
The PAP likes to use the term free-market system to describe this horrific imbalance. At the SDP we have another word for it: Exploitation.
We must restore some sanity to our system. We need to inculcate a sense of morality. This is why we advocate the introduction of a minimum wage law to prevent such quite immoral exploitation of people like Mr Ramli. We will be campaigning on this policy in the coming general elections.
Another matter that we campaign on is the lowering of the cost of living in Singapore. We need to reduce the GST, prices of HDB flats and public transport fares all of which conspire to make life unimaginably stressful for working Singaporeans.
Third we will continue to push for a Singaporeans First Policy. I say continue because we campaigned on this issue 10 years ago at the 2001 general elections. We want to see incentives provided for employers to hire Singaporeans first and to retrench them last.
These three policies are among the many that we have proposed in our alternative economic programme. It's entitled It's About You where we lay out a comprehensive, realistic and workable plan to take our economy forward. It's available for purchase.
This programe is, in a nutshell, what I would like you, my friends, to take home with you this evening which is that the SDP has a viable alternative plan for Singapore.
We are not just in opposition to the PAP. We offer Singaporeans a clear and compelling alternative vision, one that provides the people a real choice at the next elections.
The Singapore Democrats are not just in opposition to the PAP. We offer Singaporeans a clear and compelling alternative vision, one that provides the people a real choice at the next elections.
It is a vision that calls on the best in each and every one of us, a vision that lifts our nation up into a truly developed society where an intelligent and informed people partake of a process that is open, civil and democratic.
In other words a vision that celebrates who we are as a people.
We reject the PAP's elitist system where a few enjoy unimaginable riches and power while leaving the many disenfranchised. We want a more egalitarian society where all - women and men, young and old - prosper together, one which nourishes our weak and poor even as it drives economic prowess. When we care, we all win.
We want a government that is transparent and accountable. We want enlightened governance where differences in opinion are valued. We reject detention without trial. It is only when citizens dine from the full menu of constitutional rights, and not merely eat the crumbs that fall off the ruler's table, that we can hold our government accountable and truly call ourselves citizens of this Republic.
We want leaders who are humble in spirit, leaders who do not see saying sorry as a sign of weakness but an emblem of courage. For it takes courage to acknowledge one's shortcomings and it is courage that makes leaders wise.
We want a country where our youths are involved and engaged in the nation's affairs, not alienated and lost. A youth community dislocated is a youth community that is self-centred and indulgent, one that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, and one that is prone to violence. We want our youths to be loyal to Singapore. We want them to care for the community, and imbibe values of compassion and justice.
We want a society where our children go to school to learn, not just study; to discover the geniuses in themselves. We want them to know the joy of reading and pleasure of writing because these are not just skills to be acquired but pleasures to be experienced. They will learn just as much outside the classroom as in them. Creativity and innovativeness will be second-nature, not secondary. Most of all, we want them to strive to better themselves and, in so doing, better the people and society around them.
We want a society where our elderly do not have to to clean tables, sell tissue and pick up tin cans just so that they can eke out a living. We want our Ah Kongs and Ah Mas, having worked hard for all of their lives, to live contentedly and comfortably during their retirement years.
We want a society that truly values the family, one where parents don't have to choose between work and children. We want mothers and fathers to have the opportunity – and the means – to experience the indescribable joy of parenthood. For there is no greater curse in life than to slave over our work only to lose the chance to love, and be loved by, the little ones we bring into this world.
We want an economy where we work to live, not live to work. We want a smart economy where we encourage and value creative employees, not a slave economy where we see workers as digits good only for production. We reject an exploitative economy, one fueled by greed and sustained by wasteful monopoly of state resources. We want an innovative economy that thrives on Singaporean entrepreneurship and know-how.
We want a nation where foreigners are welcomed to live and work among us, not replace us. We reject xenophobia as strongly as we reject the use of cheap foreign labour to displace Singaporean workers.
We want to develop talent and not buy it, for there is no pride in that. We want Singaporean sportsmen and women to represent our nation. We want to see them smile even when they lose because we want them to know they played with their hearts, and that is worth more than the all the gold medals money can buy. And when they hear Majulah Singapura played when they win, as they eventually will, they will know that they won for the country they love, and all the island will share in their joyous pride.
We, the Singapore Democrats, want for Singapore what every Singaporean wants for our nation – a nation of intelligent and caring citizens, a nation that is the beacon of decency and humanity, where wealth is not just measured by the size of our bank accounts but also by the depth of our character.
It is a nation ready for the future.
This is our vision. Build it with us.