Sunday, May 8, 2011

We fought a principled fight: Vincent Wijeysingha


The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) fought "a principled fight" as their electoral campaigns focused on the issues concerning Singaporeans, said Vincent Wijeysingha, who led the opposition party's team in the contest for the Holland-Bukit Timah group representation constituency (GRC).

Speaking at the SDP's press conference held at the Quality Hotel early Sunday morning after election results were announced, the 41-year-old executive director of a non-governmental organisation said that the party has been able to offer Singaporeans a "coherent" programme that has ignited the interests and commitment of people.

This was in contrast to the "less savoury" methods employed by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), he added.

Throughout the election campaign period, SDP has been pressing for alternative solutions to address issues such as the rising cost of living, education and health care. Earlier, it unveiled a plan on how to provide affordable medical services to Singaporeans.

While acknowledging that the PAP has put up a "good fight", Dr Wijeysingha also took the opportunity to remind the elected representatives of the need to put the people at the centre of policy making.

"I acknowledged as well that our opponents put up a good fight, and I would like to congratulate them.

"But I would also like to ask them as a Singaporean, to bear in mind the poor in our midst, to bear in mind those people who have not benefited from the 14 and a half percent GDP, from rising asset values of their homes and to consider all Singaporeans as one.

"This is a plea I make to the next parliament and the next cabinet, that they must govern this nation as one and they must not allow us to be divided according to the traditional devices that we have been subjected to," said Dr Wijeysingha.

The SDP candidate for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC had led his team to garner 39.90 percent of the votes, not enough to defeat the incumbent People's Action Party team helmed by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan that won 60.10 percent of the votes.

SDP's secretary-general Chee Soon Juan said that the election is a "new beginning" for the party, referring to its quality of candidates and also the less confrontational image that it is projecting through the use of social media.

Although the party failed to capture any seats, he said that it had also "won" in the process, comparing this year's much improved electoral results to that in the 2006 polls in which the party fared poorly.

"We lost, but we won. We won the hearts of many Singaporeans in this campaign, we fought a gallant contest," said Chee.

"We have seen a slate of candidates come on board, we have done everything that we could possibly have done, try to get our message across online. This is just the beginning.

Saying that the party is able to build on the momentum from this year's election, Chee added that this results is also a lesson learnt for the PAP.

"I think they would have to really look at what has happened and they must listen to the people.

"And the people have shown that with the growing, burgeoning of the internet and flow of information, they (PAP) cannot do what they have done in the past, that's just not possible," he said.

The SDP had fielded a total of eleven candidates, contesting in the Sembawang and Holland-Bukit Timah GRCs as well as the single-seat wards of Bukit Panjang and Yuhua.

Although it won only 36.11 percent of the votes in Sembawang GRC, this was a marked improvement from the dismal showing in 2006 where it garnered only 23.30 percent of the votes.

In the press conference, SDP candidate for Yuhua, Teo Soh Lung, was conspicuously absent with Chee revealing that she was "just physically, physically very tired" and had asked to be excused.

This was clearly the case for the other candidates who were visibly exhausted — mentally and physically — from the "fierce" electoral campaigns over the past nine days.

The party also reiterated the need to do a "post-mortem" to analyse their weaknesses and flaws that led to the failure of capturing a single seat in Parliament.

"And certainly we want to capitalise on what we've gained, what we've learned from the electorate about our methods and how we serve the people in the next five years," said Dr Wijeysingha.

When asked whether he has a personal message to Dr Balakrishnan, he simply sent congratulatory wishes and acknowledged his "heavy" responsibilities of having to care for the poor.

"I wish him all the very best, he has won the fight. It was a hard fought campaign, he has a difficult job, you know, caring for the poor of this community, it's a difficult job," said Dr Wijeysingha.

"And as I said during the press conference, we need to put people at the centre of policy again. It's all right to talk about GDP, it's all right to talk about reserves but once you forget that all of those things are done in the service of people, then you have stopped being a leader."

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