Elections fever went up a notch in Singapore as the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) launched its campaign for the upcoming General Elections on Saturday, but not without controversy over having to switch venues after an eleventh-hour venue pullout.
The party launched its campaign at the Mandarin Orchard hotel, unveiling the slogan “#SDPNow – The Way Forward” in front of a crowd which spilled over the maximum 300-seat capacity, according to the party on a release issued Sunday.
Among the messages launched for the SDP campaign include promises from the previous 2015 elections that the ruling Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong allegedly “broke” such as increasing living costs — a common bugbear among the nation’s residents.
“The indifference of this government to suffering is disturbing,” alleged the release. “(The current government) is a government that has lost its way, utterly bereft of moral values.”
In the next few months, Singaporeans will get to examine and critique SDP’s alternative policies as early as next month when the party launches its cost of living and housing policies, according to Mothership.
In order to do so, the party is calling for some 300 to 400 volunteers to step forward to help out with the party’s activities for the upcoming elections, which must be called by 2021 but are highly rumored to happen this year.
The elections come under intense scrutiny as the brother of the ruling Prime Minister, involved in a family spat over the house of their late father Lee Kuan Yew, has been publicly seen supporting newly-minted opposition figure Tan Cheng Bock who narrowly lost out on the previous presidential elections.
Despite the bevy of opposition parties in Singapore, SDP hopes parties would be able to cooperate with each other to prevent contests from multiple opposition parties in a single ward which could dilute the opposition vote.
“We are happy to work with other parties in our goal for a freer and more democratic Singapore,” said SDP chairman Paul Tambyah.
Last-minute pullout from venue partner
The campaign launch event comes under controversy after SDP alleged it was booted out of the event’s original venue in the eleventh hour due to a last-minute inspection by state-owned industrial agency JTC.
On Friday, Chee said on his Facebook page that the original venue, an auditorium in Eunos run by Kingdom Community Church’s business arm KCC Ventures, could no longer be used a day before the event was slated to happen.
SDP vice-chairman John Tan was then later told by the church’s business arm management that the building management insisted events “political” in nature are not allowed on its premises, according to a Facebook post by SDP.
JTC then absolved blame on its Facebook page (yes, political matters in Singapore get played out on Facebook a lot), saying the firm had no idea the event was happening, that it was not part of the cancellation and that the inspection was actually supposed to happen a few days after the event.
SDP then later clarified on Sunday through Facebook that it was the church’s business management and not SDP that pulled in JTC’s name into the whole deal.
“If the JTC wants to take issue with the matter, it should do so with KCC Ventures,” the post said. “While at it, JTC should also clarify whether it has any policy barring political events such as the one we held yesterday from its premises.”
SDP vice-chairman John Tan said on Facebook that he was happy JTC clarified its involvement in the matter “because it verifies the accuracy of SDP’s account of the incident and casts doubt on KCC’s official reason for canceling the event”.
“Unfortunately, JTC was too eager to point its finger at SDP even when it was done mindlessly,” said Tan.
If you’re still here reading till the end of this article, then prepare for more fireworks: a pre-election rally by SDP is slated to be held at the Speakers’ Corner in September, the only place in Singapore where it is legal to protest (with a permit, of course).
The Hunger Games has just begun.
This article, Singapore Democratic Party kicks off General Elections campaigning amid controversy over last-minute venue pullout, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!