Why the Singapore Democratic Party deserves our support

Written by Ng E-Jay
30 July 2009

The first SDP event I attended was the gathering at Hong Lim Park on 01 May 2007 welcoming Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin after they had completed a 2-day, 120km walk to mark Labour Day and to highlight the plight of Singaporean workers.

Looking at the exhausted but determined faces of Dr Chee and Ms Chee, and hearing the short but edifying address Dr Chee made left me with the impression that perhaps, unlike the terrible vibes that the party constantly receives from the mainstream media, the SDP was a party of substance, that perhaps it was a party with a message worth listening to.

I was not wrong.

Over time, as I got to know the party, its members, its ideas and its political philosophy better, I found myself agreeing more and more with its vision and its values.

The SDP is an opposition party that has been on the receiving end of a concerted torrent of negative Government propaganda, fueled by a compliant mainstream media that would stoop as low as need be to vilify, demonize, and ridicule the party.

I constantly wondered why after having had their names dragged through the mud so many times, SDP’s leaders soldier on with their cause, never angry nor feeling victimized by the situation, but ever determined to get their message across to Singaporeans.

I took a look at SDP’s performance at the previous two General Elections. It was not pretty, to say the least. The SDP only managed to obtain 20.36% of the valid votes cast in the constituencies they were contesting in during the 2001 General Elections. For the 2006 General Elections, they obtained an overall 23.23% of the valid votes cast.

I wondered why, after having been trashed at the polls and after having been laughed at not only by PAP supporters, but even by supporters of other opposition parties, the SDP soldiers on, believing in what they are doing, trusting that they would be vindicated one day.

After some time, I found the answer. It is about unyielding leadership, having conviction in their values and what they believe in, and having the stoic determination to press on with the good fight, out of an unbounded love for Singapore and for Singaporeans.

That is why the Singapore Democratic Party deserves our support. That is why I am a supporter.

Many critics have speculated that the SDP is not interested in participating in elections because it is not wooing the electorate over with bread-and-butter issues, and because its participation in civil disobedience and its focus on democracy and human rights issues have alienated it from voters.

This is despite the fact that the SDP has stated categorically on its website that it remains committed to participating in elections and winning the hearts and minds of Singaporeans.

With the mainstream media deliberately censoring news and comments from the SDP, it is no wonder that many people remain unaware of the activities the party is organizing and engaging in, and its stand on various issues.

The truth is, the SDP has always paid close attention to bread-and-butter issues like jobs for Singaporeans, our CPF, and the cost of living, and suggested workable alternatives to our disastrous Government policies.

But the SDP has also correctly recognized that to campaign effectively for bread-and-butter issues, we need democracy in Singapore, without which we would be merely going around in circles and championing those issues only on terms dictated by the PAP.

Without transparency and without a means of making the Government accountable to the people, we would only be able to obtain token concessions from time to time, but we would never be able to compel the Government to act in the people’s interest.

The SDP is displaying true leadership and moral courage by committing to participate in elections even though they know the PAP and the mainstream media will resort to all ways and means of fixing them and tarnishing their image in the eyes of voters.

I feel that the SDP is correct in remaining committed to elections, because elections are a good opportunity for the party to make its presence felt and a good chance for the party to build awareness and cultivate the ground.

The SDP must also show that it cannot, and will not be intimidated by the underhand, undemocratic tactics employed by the PAP.

Consistent participation in elections is also a way of showing the electorate that despite insurmountable odds, it is fit and ready to lead, that it is willing to do so not because it is easy, but because it is right.

But beyond elections, I believe that the SDP also wants to build an enduring legacy for itself, a legacy of championing the principles of democracy, of social justice, of human rights, of transparency and accountability of a Government to its people.

I believe that the goal of the SDP is not just to do well in the next 1, 2, 3 or even 5 elections, but to be at the forefront of the wave of democratic change that must inevitably hit Singapore’s shores one day, no matter how long it takes.

The SDP is not afraid of being dissolved by the PAP because it knows that what binds its members, supporters and friends together is not the party vehicle, but its values, its shared beliefs, its convictions, and its commitment to championing a more free and just society.

The PAP can and will most likely use more and more sophisticated methods to marginalize the SDP, to alienated them from voters, and to discourage others from working with them and collaborating with them to build a better Singapore.

But I also believe that eventually, the truth must prevail, because the causes championed by the SDP are just and right.

There is little doubt in my mind that if the SDP continues the good work it is doing, it will leave behind an enduring legacy of being part of the democratization of Singapore, and that its work, its activities, its articles and writings will also form an enduring record for future generations of Singaporeans to reflect on.

Bloggers, activists, friends and supporters of SDP should also try their best to be part of this legacy by openly supporting the party and penning their thoughts, feelings and ideas on the party and its role in the democratization of Singapore.