The following are brief points on what happened to the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) during the recently concluded general elections in Singapore (April 27 to May 6 – a total of 9 days):
Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, launched a lawsuit against the SDP and its 12 executive committee members during the election period. The lawsuit was over an article published in our Party’s newsletter, The New Democrat.
The Lees also sued the SDP’s printer and harassed him into not printing the Party’s election material including posters, flyers and the election issue of The New Democrat. The local media published stories about him having a mistress and not living with his wife. He was so frightened he didn’t dare to return to his own home.
Our only alternative was to make photocopies of The New Democrat. Even then, none of the photocopying shops wanted the business. We finally resorted to renting Xerox machines and making the copies ourselves.
We could not find a hotel that would rent us its rooms to us to hold a press conference and to introduce our candidates and campaign platform. (We managed to find a hotel only when we booked it under another organisation’s name.)
The landlord of our office has served notice that he wants the Party to vacate its premises in June 2006.
Several of the Party’s volunteers who had agreed to nominate the prospective candidates backed out at the last minute. Because of their pull-out, the SDP was unable to field a candidate in one of the constituencies.
On the morning of our first election rally on 28 April 2006, the company that was responsible for constructing the stage suddenly pulled out, saying that its office had been visited by “government officials.”
The police called up Party Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan and two of his colleagues for questioning over instances of “speaking in public without a permit.” The three had been selling The New Democrat (see photo below).
In the midst of the elections, Dr Chee Soon Juan was also called up for questioning by the authorities for attempting to leave Singapore on 30 March 2006 for the World Movement for Democracy in Istanbul, Turkey. The immigrations authority had seized Dr Chee’s passport.
During the campaign period, 10 of the Party’s executive committee decided to apologise to the Lees. Otherwise they would face a financially crippling lawsuit. Dr Chee and Ms Chee Siok Chin refused to apologise. Those who apologized included 5 candidates (the SDP fielded a total of 7 candidates in the elections) who spent two of the nine days in the Lees lawyer’s office to settle the terms of their capitulation. As a result, they were unable to campaign in the elections.
Being a bankrupt, Dr Chee was prohibited under the law from speaking at election rallies. The police even prevented him from going on stage to join his party colleagues.
When he spoke to the crowd who had gathered around him, the police indicated that they were investigating him for “speaking in public without a permit.”
At the end of one of the public rallies, a few of the SDP members protested the lawsuit by the Lees by taping up their mouths (see photo below). The police quickly announced that they were investigating the participants for violating the law.
Political parties were given two occasions to broadcast their campaign message. The SDP was allotted two-and-a-half minutes. The Government-controlled media insisted that certain statements in the Party’s message had to be taken out and others amended before it would allow the message to be taped and broadcast.
Before the elections, the Government banned the use of podcasting. The Singapore Democrats had said that it would depend on the new technology to help disseminate its campaign message because of the control of the media by the ruling party.
Election Department officials and Lees’ lawyers repeatedly visited the Party office and homes of the candidates, often late at night, to serve orders and writs on the candidates. This had the resultant effect of intimidating the candidates and distracting them from running an effective campaign.
A candidate from another opposition party is now under police investigation for “criminal intimidation” and has been prevented from leaving the country.
Short video clip of the SDP’s rally: