SDP marks its 30th year

Source: STRAITS TIMES, 28 Feb 2010

The opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) marked its 30th anniversary with a gala dinner yesterday, which was attended by members of the opposition scene and activists.

The two-hour event kicked off with SDP chief Chee Soon Juan’s 10-year-old daughter, An Lyn, leading the 170-strong crowd in singing the National Anthem and reciting the National Pledge.

Its chairman, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, gave an opening address before several members of its youth wing, Young Democrats, took the SDP pledge to signal their commitment to its beliefs on democracy and human rights.

They included its president, Mr Priveen Suraj, 22, a law student at a private institution; honorary secretary Jarrod Luo, 26, a science graduate who runs his own business; and member Teoh Tian Jing, 25, a property agent.

Two veteran SDP members, Mr Michael Hwang, 79, and Mr Albert Lim, 80, received awards from the party for their service dating back to the 1980s.

Among the people at the event, held at Concorde Hotel in Orchard Road, were former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian, blogger Alex Au and veteran lawyer Peter Cuthbert Low.

Absent, however, were the two opposition MPs: Hougang’s Mr Low Thia Khiang of the Workers’ Party and Potong Pasir’s Mr Chiam See Tong, who founded the SDP in 1980.

Dr Chee joined the party in 1992. In 1996, Mr Chiam left the SDP for Singapore People’s Party, following a public spat with him and party leaders.

In the 2006 election, the SDP contested in the six-man Sembawang GRC and single-seat Bukit Panjang. It got 23.3 per cent of votes cast in Sembawang and 22.81 per cent in Bukit Panjang ward.

Dr Chee, an undischarged bankrupt, cannot stand for election.

Speaking yesterday, he said the dinner was made possible bya ‘mini-explosion’ in the party’s membership between 2005 and this year.

He did not give any figures on the membership growth over the years.

He said the party was able to attract new members as it insisted on doing what is right, not what is popular.

He urged members to persevere in their pro-democracy efforts, saying ‘democracy cannot be wished for but has to be fought for’.

Dr Chee also spoke about the push to boost productivity growth, blaming the poor level of productivity on the political scene which, he said, crippled creative minds and innovative spirits.

Alluding to criticisms of his political style, he said: ‘I’ve been told I’m not much of a politician. I take that as a compliment because politicians believe in doing what’s good for themselves. I believe in doing what’s good for the people.’

Mr Priveen said it was this belief that prompted him to join the SDP shortly after the general election in May 2006.

He told The Sunday Times: ‘The party’s ideologies in protecting and defending human rights and promoting democracy in Singapore was a key factor.

‘Singapore is a role model for many countries and we need to have a more democratic system.’