My letter of complaint to The New Paper on their article about Dr Chee and the SDP.
[Bryna Sim (facebook site: here) and Melvin Singh]
I was most disturbed to read TNP's coverage of the SDP, in relation to Sec-Gen Dr Chee and the rally at Jurong East Stadium for Yuhua SMC on Friday night.
I was present at the rally in Jurong East from 6pm - 11pm that night, and witnessed everything from the very beginning of the rally right up to the end. Photographs that I took can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theonlinecitizen/sets/72157626608387790/. The four last shots are from the end of the rally.
Unlike in the TNP report, which says that Dr Chee came out after Ms Teo Soh Lung's speech, I remember clearly that Dr Chee did not appear until the end of the rally. Ms Teo Soh Lung was not even the final speaker at the rally; Dr Vincent Wijeysingha came after her.
Dr Chee came out because there was a supporter who wanted to garland him. However, it was announced that Dr Chee would not be able to go onstage to be garlanded, and had to be garlanded offstage. At no point in the night did I see Dr Chee attempt to go onstage.
People began to leave, but I stayed on to speak with some friends and to exchange a few words with some of the candidates. I saw no disruption or commotion, or any sign of Dr Chee trying to start any protest march.
Just before I left the stadium, I saw Dr Chee standing by the merchandise stall. A crowd had gathered before him to see if he would address them, but he simply said that he is not allowed, by law, to address the public. He then urged people to visit the SDP's website, and that was it. There were no "incidents" and no "antics".
You can then understand how I was confused and alarmed to read the article in TNP last night, as it was completely uncorroborated by my own firsthand experience. Other attendees of the rally have also commented (and I have attached those comments to this email). Another blogger has also written about his account, even before TNP's report was published: http://www.nowhere.per.sg/?p=1601
Your article has cast some serious aspersions on the SDP, at a very crucial time. It is thus worrying that the article is contradicted by other attendees of the rally, and seems to be mainly unsubstantiated – based on anonymous sources from unnamed candidates and members.
Personally, I find it difficult to believe that an SDP candidate would jeopardise his/her own party – and by extension, his/her own election campaign efforts – by speaking to TNP about rifts within the party at such a critical juncture.
I am sure you are already aware that TNP does not always command the highest amount of respect in terms of journalism among readers. This is unfortunate, but true. Therefore, I am sure you might not be surprised when I say that there are people who are saying that TNP probably fabricated all these "unnamed sources".
I know that journalists often used unnamed sources and protect their informants. I do not want to dispute that. However, the credibility of the newspaper is at stake here, as the report is being disputed by members of the public who were at the rally. The SDP themselves have also released a statement on their website rebutting this article, and candidates have addressed the issue of a "rift" in the SDP at their rally last night (1 May 2011).
When I complained to TNP about being complicit in the PAP's smear campaign of Dr Vincent Wijeysingha (also of SDP), I was told that it would only be a "smear" if it were untrue, and therefore Dr Wijeysingha would have to prove that the allegations were false for anyone to say that it was a smear campaign.
Similarly now, with attendees of the rally – including myself – as well as the party in question itself contradicting TNP's story, I would say that the onus is on TNP to substantiate their report.