Singapore's Chee Soon Juan hopes for 'united' opposition | Connect Asia

Singapore's Chee Soon Juan hopes for 'united' opposition

Singapore's Chee Soon Juan hopes for 'united' opposition

Updated 22 November 2012, 16:23 AEDT

Singaporean opposition leader Dr Chee Soon Juan will have his bankruptcy formally annulled on Friday.

The leader of Singapore Democratic Party had owed more than 400,000 which barred him from leaving the country or running in elections.

But in an unprecedented move, two former prime ministers have agreed to accept a significantly reduced amount for the debt, effectively discharging Dr Chee from bankruptcy.

Some observers say the concession is a political manoeuvre, aimed at further splitting the oppositions' votes in the next elections.

Correspondent: Delnaaz Irani

Speakers: Dr Chee Soon Juan, leader of Singapore Democratic Party

CHEE: In a way I think it's something that would happen, it was just going to take time, and whatever happened I was just going to go on with my work, and that's continuing to build up the opposition party and to provide Singaporeans with a genuine and credible alternative to the current ruling party.

IRANI: Are you surprised that the ex-prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong were willing to accept such a reduced amount of money from half a million dollars to 30-thousand Singaporean dollars?

CHEE: In a way not really because it was in their interests to want to make sure that the ruling party kept up with changing times, and Singaporeans everybody was beginning to see that, are getting very frustrated with the inability of Singapore to make political progress and become more democratic, more open. And with some of the economic problems that we're facing I think even the government can see that if they didn't keep up and make sure that they continued to, in a very limited way, open up society there's going to be a backlash. So I think they knew it was in their interests not to continue to keep this very tight lid on political society in Singapore.

IRANI: Yes but there are many people who are questioning this dramatic turnaround. These are the two people who sued you for defamation and now they're helping you free from bankruptcy, and this is all coming in the lead-up to the elections. Are you concerned that there could be some political manoeuvring here?

CHEE: Well if you're referring to the fact that my getting back into electoral politics is going to split the opposition vote …

IRANI: Yes.

CHEE: If I have anything to do with it we're going to make sure that the opposition becomes more united instead of being more fractured. I think there's a lot of room for us to be able to work towards that goal. So I'm not totally sold on this idea that this whole thing, I'm a player in this whole thing, and I think it's important for us to make sure that we continue to work towards a more united opposition.

IRANI: Well that's exactly what some political commentators are saying, that one of the reasons that perhaps this has come right now is so that you can contest, it would split the opposition votes and hence sort of help the ruling party, which has recently lost popular support. How is this going to change your strategy going into the elections?

CHEE: It doesn't really because we've always worked on the fact that the stage that we're at, the opposition has for decades been hounded and pounded to the point that our ranks have all been decimated. And I think there's a lot of room for us to improve and make sure we get our message right. And one of those would be to tell the electorate look, the opposition can come together a lot more and there's much more that we can do united than divided. So I think there's much that we can do and I'm hopeful that we're going to be able to reach that stage, rather than continuing to see a fracture of the opposition.

IRANI: And now that you will be able to stand in the 2016 elections, what are some of the main issues you're going to be looking at addressing?

CHEE: As far as my party's concerned, the Singapore Democratic Party, we've been working very hard to make sure that Singaporeans have an alternative, not just on policy, but at the end of the day to make sure that Singaporeans know what they're going to vote for, and to want to have this alternative ruling party. And that is why we'll work very hard on alternative policies, such as healthcare, plan our housing, we're going to go into population and immigration, education and the economy as a whole, and we're going to put forward a set of workable realistic policies that the people can relate to and resonates with the electorate. And I think they will be very pleased to know that there is going to be an alternative ruling party that they can choose for which they haven't been having all these decades.

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