PM Lee: Racial comments a concern
PM Lee: Racial comments a concern
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed concern about racial comments emerging on the ground and online sphere in the Bukit Batok by-election.
The May 7 polls is a contest between Mr Murali Pillai of the People's Action Party (PAP) and Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) Dr Chee Soon Juan.
Several posts by random netizens on SDP's and Dr Chee's Facebook pages depict the PAP candidate as a man making roti prata.
PM Lee said in a multi-racial society, race is always on people's minds.
"It is not unknown for racial sentiments to emerge and to be exploited during election campaigns.
"I see online some of the comments making this point about race in a quite open way."
PM Lee said the comments have not been refuted or taken down.
"I have no doubt that somewhere along the way, when pressure heats up, people will feel that, well, maybe this is one way you can use race to your advantage."
But PM Lee remained confident of Mr Murali's chances.
He highlighted the candidate's 16-year work in Bukit Batok and his performance in last year's General Election.
Mr Murali stood in Paya Lebar and garnered 300 more votes than Mr Chen Show Mao.
PM Lee said: "Mr Murali has shown in Paya Lebar (Aljunied GRC) that despite him being Indian and not Chinese, he is able to connect and serve voters. He is able to win their confidence and win their votes."
Mr Murali himself said he is confident of overcoming issues of language and race as he is "sincerely interested" in residents' issues and with the help of his "committed" group of volunteers.
PM Lee yesterday said Dr Chee was completely hypocritical.
At the Friday night rally, Dr Chee, who spoke last, advised his party members against referring to former MP David Ong's past indiscretions.
But earlier, SDP member Sadasivam Veriyah, who ran in Bukit Batok last year, had suggested Mr Ong had other interests and commitments instead of the ward.
Another party member, Mr Damanhuri Abas, had also accused the PAP of not being upfront over estate upgrading plans and claimed that the party was "caught like David Ong with his pants down".
PM Lee said: "You get your guys to say all the bad things, and you come along, and you look magisterial and benign, and you say you must not hit somebody, having caused all your lieutenants to hit him as hard as they can. But unfortunately, it's in character."
On the SDP's charge that he would be a less effective MP because of constraints from his Party Whip in Parliament, Mr Murali said: "For me, being in politics is not an occupation, it's a cause, so why should I muzzle myself?"
SDP addresses PM Lee's criticism
Dr Chee Soon Juan addressed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's charge of racist comments on SDP's online page that were not deleted or refuted.
"If the PAP wants to talk about racism, then I refer you to some of the comments PAP leaders have made about the Malays. And I think it's absolutely appalling...
"But we want to tell everyone stay on the issues, stay away from the personal attacks, whether it's on race, whether it's on personal indiscretions," Dr Chee said during his walkabout at the Bukit Batok ward.
He accused the PAP of playing politics and said it was not possible for his team to go through the hundreds of comments on SDP's Facebook page.
Dr Chee also said he would make sure comments made about former MP David Ong are not repeated.
"I want to make sure that all these things need to stop. If it hasn't, I will tell these speakers not to go on about this matter...
"If we want to contest, we want to contest on ideas (and) what we want to do for the residents here," he said.
When asked if he had read Mr Sadasivam's and Mr Damanhuri's speeches beforehand and knew that they would throw shade at Mr Ong, Dr Chee said: "Yes, we always (know about their speeches). We want to make sure that if it's something that is not right, we will keep it off the table."
Dr Chee also called out Ms Grace Fu's charge that he did not have a full-time job to give up to become a full-time MP.
Ms Fu, the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, had made the comment at the PAP rally on Friday.
Dr Chee said: "My best CV is to look at the SDP and look at our organisation. You look at some of the things we have come up with, one example is the series of alternative papers we put up."
SDP's Paul Tambyah said attacking one's character is "uncalled for".
In a video posted on the party's Facebook page at around 6.30pm yesterday, Dr Tambyah said: "We believe that you can criticise what a person says or what a person does but do not attack the person."
He said a person is not defined by his or her actions or words. "We need to debate the issues, not engage in character assassination," he said.
Last night, PM Lee responded to the video saying a candidate's character matters, whether to be an MP, or any public office.
"Is he honest? Does he have integrity? Is he loyal? Is he committed to serve the people? What are his basic motivations?
"These come first, before we even talk about how able he is, what experience he brings, or what policies he proposes," he said.
He said being a person of good character and integrity is the first requirement for PAP candidates and should be so for opposition parties too.
He added: "It is understandable why SDP, and particularly Dr Chee Soon Juan, should wish it to be otherwise.
"But anyone standing for public office should be prepared to have his past actions examined, transparently and honestly, so that voters can make informed, responsible decisions as to who is fit and best qualified to represent them in Parliament."