Emotions run high at SPP rally


SPP candidates stand in a row after an inspiring rally (L-R: Jimmy Lee, Mohd Hamim Aliyas, Benjamin Pwee, Chiam See Tong, Lina Chiam, and second from right: Wilfred Leung). (Yahoo! photo/Christine)

The Singapore People's Party's (SPP) rally on Friday turned out to be a dramatic night for both attendees and candidates.

The 1,200-strong crowd who attended the rally at an open field in Jurong West Avenue 3 heard SPP candidates running for Hong Kah North SMC, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and Potong Pasir SMC speak passionately on various issues.

The emotional moments started from the arrival of SPP secretary-general Chiam See Tong and Lina Chiam in the middle of Bishan-Toa Payoh candidate Jimmy Lee's speech. His arrival got the crowd chanting 'Chiam See Tong'.

Mrs Chiam then delivered her maiden speech, beginning by acknowledging that she was possibly more well-known as "Mrs Chiam See Tong", but asserting later on her individual identity and conviction to stand and serve.

"My name is Mrs Lina Chiam, not Mrs Chiam See Tong. I am my own person, and I will do things my own way," she declared to resounding cheers and applause from spectators.

Mrs Chiam shared some of the trials Mr Chiam faced as an opposition MP. This included an incident where Mr Chiam planted a tree that was given to him as a gift, but it was uprooted and killed with acid by unknown enemies—a story that even her fellow SPP candidates themselves were unaware of.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC candidate Benjamin Pwee, for instance, told Yahoo! Singapore candidly that he was "completely touched by the Chiams", while his teammate Jimmy Lee was inspired by the stories shared tonight.

"I now have renewed strength for the coming week," Lee said.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC candidate Benjamin Pwee encourages the crowd to face their fear of voting the opposition. (Yahoo! photo/Christine)

Pwee stepped up to the podium after candidate Wilfred Leung to cheers of his name and loud applause, speaking passionately about the need for voters to overcome their fear of voting for the opposition.

He shared that he had battled fear for the longest time, eventually telling himself that "if (he was) going to step out, it has to be for the people."

Addressing comments made previously that voting for the opposition was akin to making a ship sink, he responded, "Which opposition candidate will put everything on the line to bring this ship down?"

The most poignant moment of the night came when Mr Chiam took to the stand to speak -- members of the audience reserved their loudest applause for him.

He addressed the crowd candidly and humbly, saying, "You give me more applause than I deserve."

Emphasising that in his view, opposition is the essence of democracy, Mr Chiam elaborated on his belief that the government needs transparency and accountability.

He paused at certain junctures, however, and at one point a resident called out to him, saying, "Mr Chiam, you don't have to speak. We will vote for you!" while others applauded to show their encouragement for him.

Enthusiastic supporters cheer the SPP candidates on as they speak. (Yahoo! photo/Christine)

Mr Chiam also said at one point: "Every one of us can take part in politics. I can assure you that nothing will happen to you; I am a living example you can follow."

To that, he added: "I am not actually a brave man. But I love Singapore and I love Singaporeans", explaining why he is contesting in another election.

After the rally ended, some attendees were so moved by his speech that upon shaking Mr Chiam's hand, a man in his 60s started to cry, saying, "I feel so happy for you that I am crying. I hope you win."

An ardent supporter breaks down upon meeting Mr Chiam See Tong, clutching both his hands and giving the latter his best wishes. (Yahoo! photo/Christine)

Others who shook his hand added more words of encouragement, including one who said: "We need more people like you."

Residents from near and far attended the rally -- some from as far as Woodlands -- regardless of whether or not they will end up deciding between the SPP and the PAP.

Crane operator Nizam, 26, for instance, attended the rally because he was interested in an alternative voice, even though he is a Choa Chu Kang GRC resident, and would not have the opportunity to vote for the SPP.

"I came down to see Mr Chiam, because I wanted to see him in person, to hear him speak. He's a great man," he said.

"He's a legend," added Hanizah Zaini, 27, a customer service officer. "It's amazing that he is still here (and standing for election again), against all odds."

The question of whether or not this will serve to sway the residents who are deciding between the SPP and the PAP, however, seems to remain unanswered.

Hong Kah North SMC resident Linda Tan, 30, remains ambivalent despite the events of the night, having attended the rally to translate what was said to her parents, whom she lived with.

"They (the candidates) brought up a few things, but I will need time to digest what has been said here, as well as to listen to what the PAP candidate has to say," she said.

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