Eight months after contesting his first election in 14 years last September, Dr Chee Soon Juan, 53, finds himself contesting his second.
While some political pundits had suggested that the Bukit Batok by-election was effectively last chance saloon for Dr Chee and as good an opportunity as it gets for him to enter Parliament, the man himself disagrees — opting to see the latest contest as simply one stop in the ongoing political process.
“It’s like an MRT station. You come to one stop, it doesn’t end there. You go on. I don’t think it’s ever an end goal in that sense. I’ve always seen it as a journey and not just for me personally — for the party, for the country as well,” said Dr Chee, who has parked himself at the MRT station many mornings and evenings leading up to the Bukit Batok by-election this Saturday, cycled and walked with his team around the Single-Member Constituency, and shaken hands with numerous patrons of the coffee shops there.
Political analysts have weighed in on what is at stake this time for Dr Chee, who first entered politics in 1992. They said that the by-election offered Dr Chee the best shot at winning a parliamentary seat in his colourful political career so far — due to factors such as the by-election effect and the ignominy of former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament David Ong’s resignation over an alleged extramarital affair.
Any result lower than 35 per cent would raise questions on his electability, an analyst said.
In response, Dr Chee pointed to the lack of a democratic system and media freedom here.
“Let’s put that in context and then we can start talking about electability … We don’t analyse the system first. Before you do that, let’s not start throwing words like you would in a democratic system,” Dr Chee told TODAY in an interview last Saturday.
When reminded of how opposition parties have made breakthroughs in the current system, Dr Chee called for “even-handed” media coverage and said his team would just have to continue to appeal to voters.
The tentative and sometimes tetchy relationship between the SDP and the mainstream media came to the fore in the past week as several speakers at its rallies criticised a front-page headline used by Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao after an interview with him, which the newspaper later corrected online.
SDP central executive committee member Dr Paul Tambyah also disagreed that this by-election spells the best opportunity for Dr Chee to get elected. Many in the opposition believe Bukit Batok SMC was carved out of Jurong Group Representation Constituency in the 2015 General Election because it was a PAP stronghold, said Dr Tambyah.
Other challenges include what Dr Tambyah called attempts by the ruling party to smear the SDP and Dr Chee, and distortion of statements they made.
Dr Tambyah — who was part of the SDP Holland-Bukit Timah team with Dr Chee and two others that won 33.4 per cent of the vote last September — also took a longer-term view of the SDP’s efforts to get into Parliament.
“We hope that by running a clean and fair campaign and focusing on the issues, we have moved the cause of democracy forward so hopefully Dr Chee will be in Parliament, if not this time, perhaps in the next GE,” he said.
Dr Chee said the response from Bukit Batok residents has been encouraging.
He has come to know many residents, who are beginning to feel “very comfortable with us around”. But he said: “How can you tell until the final poll comes around (on) Saturday?”
TODAY tagged along twice when Dr Chee was at Bukit Batok MRT Station and once as he walked around several coffee shops. Some commuters resolutely kept their earphones plugged in and refused to be distracted from their journey home, some politely smiled and accepted the brochures he gave out. Others stopped for a chat, wished him well and requested photos and autographs. One man stuffed a S$50 note into his hands.
The SDP is trying a more nuanced and gradated approach in reaching out to voters this time around and has covered all the residential blocks in Bukit Batok, said Dr Chee, who has pledged to be a full-time MP.
“For example, you come across a pro-PAP supporter or Residents’ Committee supporter, you say thank you and if they don’t want to support you, they don’t want to support you,” he said. “For those people who say, ‘I’d like to meet Dr Chee’, (my activists) will let me know and I’ll go visit them.”
Whatever the outcome on May 7, Dr Chee said he will keep at his cause. “Life is a journey. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And change takes persistence, takes perseverance, but we’ll get there,” he said.
Source: TODAY Online