Dr Chee Soon Juan's address members and guests at SDP's 30th Anniversary Dinner held on 27 Feb 10. Below is he full text of his speech.
Mr Chairman, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
Five years ago when we thought of commemorating the 25th anniversary of our party, I looked around and concluded that we had to shelve the idea simply because we did not have the resources or the capability to pull off such an event. Five years, hence, you are here celebrating this evening with us.
Something happened between 2005 and 2010, a mini-explosion occurred in the SDP in terms of our membership and, together with it, our capability.
Everything that you see tonight is the result of a party that has come anew and more important one that is growing. And none of what you witness here and elsewhere, be it on the Internet or on the ground, would have been possible without an organisation – a dynamic and committed organisation. This is our strength.
But as you know, our ride through the years has been anything but smooth. We have made our fair share of mistakes. But the important point is not that mistakes were made. It is that we learn from them. Because it is from the trials and tribulations of mistakes that character and strength are forged.
Tonight I am glad to announce that not only have we weathered the storm, but we find ourselves strengthened, both in our numbers and in our resolve.
One of the reasons why we have grown, as I have been repeatedly told, is because we have insisted on doing what is right, not just what is popular. It is this principled stand that has attracted, and continues to attract, many to our fold.
To be sure, however, there are those who still cannot understand what we are trying to do.
They do not yet comprehend that as we are confronted with this grave problem of a declining productivity of our workforce, a decline that will greatly impact our standard of living, we need to focus not just on the economics of the situation but the politics as well. For it is a free, democratic, and diverse society that will encourage creativity and innovation. And it is the creative mind and the innovative spirit that will boost productivity.
They do not yet see that it is an autocratic system that closes that creative mind and kills off that innovative spirit.
They do not yet realise that politics and economics are the two halves of the same brain. One without the other just cannot work. And because they don't yet understand, they criticise.
Some even say that I am not enough of a politician. I thank them for the compliment. Because politicians, many of them anyway, believe in doing what's good for themselves. I believe in doing what's good for the people.
Indeed many things have been said about me. I have been called all sorts of names and been described in all manner of ways. I cannot say that they haven't affected me personally or that they have not taken their toll politically.
But I also know this, Singapore, these words cannot take away my determination to keep the faith and see through the work has been thrust upon me. For I know that the truth will prevail and it is this knowledge that keeps me going.
There's another thing that keeps me going. It is the desire to leave behind a better society for my children when they grow up.
Earlier An Lyn recited our nation's Pledge. I want her to be able to believe the words that she said and not simply mouth them. She may not be able to comprehend much of what I say now, but one day she will.
And when she does, when a generation of Singaporeans grow up to understand that life is not just about making money and seeing how much power we can grab for ourselves, then we will see a better Singapore emerge, a Singapore that takes care of her weak and down-trodden, a Singapore that accepts us all in spite of our differences, a Singapore that cares about people more than profits, justice more than jewelery.
We must believe. Believe that we shall overcome. Believe that we can free ourselves from the suffocating choke-hold of this authoritarian system that dumbs us down, that brings out the worst in all of us.
Believe that we can replace this system with a noble one that lifts everyone up, that calls on the spirit of goodness in each and everyone of us.
Believe that freedom can walk hand in hand with economic progress.
To those of you who do believe, I assure you that, while the light may not yet be upon us, that sweet ray of dawn is not far away. When the going gets tough, sit down if you must and rest a while. But even as you do, let not your gaze fall away from that sunrise that must surely come. We stand at the cusp of something momentous. For the soul of this nation is stirring, and we must be the ones to awaken it.
On this occasion of our 30th anniversary we celebrate not electoral success for that is still not at hand. We celebrate something that is altogether more important, something that gives us the rock solid foundation for our future election battles. That something is the triumph of the spirit of the Singapore Democratic Party – it is the triumph of courage in the face of persecution, the triumph of grit and determination over adversity.
I ask all of you, our friends, to journey with us. We need you. We need your support. Our younger and newer members – they have taken that courageous step to join the party – support them and encourage them, not just with words but also in deed. Let them know that you too care about democracy and what happens to the future of this republic of ours.
There is a moment in the course of every generation where each and everyone of its members will be called to stand up and be counted. That moment of our generation is now.
Let it not be said that we looked the other way, shirked our responsibility and left the fight to our children. For make no mistake, democracy cannot be wished for, it must be fought for.
In the course of this noble battle my colleagues and I make to you tonight The SDP Promise.
It is the promise that we will continue to be faithful servants of democracy.
It is the Promise of speaking truth to power, reason to the powerless and compassion to the poor.
It is the Promise of working for a Singapore that is at once free and just and prosperous.
Friends, if you believe in this Promise then come and be part of this cause, come and grow with us. As dark as the present is, I remain excited and optimistic. I remain hopeful that the mini-explosion in the SDP will take place all across Singapore.
But hope itself without hard work, without passion, without courage cannot translate into success. Tonight I ask all of you to help us translate our dreams and hope into reality. For it is only with your help that a brighter tomorrow will come and a better future will descend upon this place that we call home.
Thank you, goodnight and God bless.