SINGAPORE: SDP chairman flip-flops over ousting Chee
Chairman accuses media of discrediting the Singapore Democratic Party
Friday, April 28, 2006
By Chua Chin Hon
At 11 a.m. yesterday, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Ling How Doong was going on about how he was 'angry and disappointed' with the way Dr Chee Soon Juan ran the party and got members dragged into a lawsuit.
He even told reporters that he and fellow SDP leader Wong Hong Toy had wanted to oust Dr Chee a few weeks ago but failed to marshal support.
'You didn't read that report when we told the Chinese press we said we intended to remove him?' Mr Ling asked shortly after arriving at Fajar Secondary School, the nomination centre for the single-seat Bukit Panjang ward.
But several hours later, in the afternoon, he did an about-face. In a joint statement with Dr Chee, the two SDP leaders said media reports on how Mr Ling wanted Dr Chee sacked 'is completely untrue' and accused the media of discrediting the SDP even before the hustings began.
'The SDP stands united in this election amd is determined to speak up for the people,' the statement read.
It was a far cry from what Mr Ling told reporters when he turned up with supporters to file his papers in the morning.
He noted press reports in which Dr Chee was decribed as running a 'one-man show', adding: 'I can't agree more.'
Mr Ling also said that he disagreed with Dr Chee on 'a lot of things', including the party newsletter, which he had no hand in.
Asked whether he would quit the SDP or switch political parties if he was so unhappy, he said: 'I've been standing for elections since 1984, and I've no reason to pack up because someone made a boo-boo.'
Over at Hotel Asia where the SDP was having a press conference, its first for this General Election, Mr Ling was conspicuously absent.
When asked about Mr Ling's comments on wanting to oust him, Dr Chee said: 'I don't want to be entertaining all these reports.'
Pressed further, he said he had called Mr Ling but the SDP veteran could not speak as he was driving. 'But those with him said there was no such thing. Let me sort this out and then we'll take it when it comes.'
Asked why Mr Ling was not present, Dr Chee said that the press conference was intended for the introduction of the Sembawang slate only.
As for the assertion that he ran a 'one-man show', he replied: 'The people sitting here, many of them are in the CEC. If the whole situation rests on the fact that this is a one-man show, I don't see how we can get these things done.'
He told reporters that during the nine-day campaigning period, the SDP will focus on issues like the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) scandal, income disparity and rising cost of living.
These issues had 'tremendous significance' for ordinary Singaporeans, he said, but offered no concrete solutions when asked how his party would go about lowering the cost of living.
As for the lawsuit filed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, he said it had affected the party's campaign logistics as the printer was afraid to print his posters.
Asked if it would also affect how voters viewed the SDP team, he said: 'A lawsuit is a lawsuit. This campaign is separate from that.'
But would the SDP be able to convince Sembawang voters to separate the two? He replied: 'We tell the voters that it is important for you to concentrate on what is going to happen right now and the PAP is trying to distract you.'
Additional reporting by Ben Nadarajan, Aaron Low and Azrin Asmani