Despite his best electoral performance in two decades, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Chee Soon Juan failed to wrestle Bukit Batok from the People’s Action Party (PAP) at this by-election.
During his concession speech on Saturday night after formal results were announced at 11.30pm, Chee appeared fatigued and emotional — but with the fight still left in him.
He paid tribute to his supporters and the voters of Bukit Batok, many whom have gathered as early as 7pm at the Bukit Batok Stadium.
Chee lavished praise on his fellow SDP members and thanked his family profusely for their unwavering support.
Here are some of Chee’s best lines:
To all his supporters and the voters of Bukit Batok:
“I want to thank all the supporters, the voters of Bukit Batok. To those who have voted for us, my deep, deep gratitude. For those who didn’t vote for us, I will be around to persuade you and continue to serve, work and convince you, the next round, to vote for the SDP”.
To all SDP members worked tirelessly in BE2016:
“I am so proud, so proud. All of you here worked your hearts out. Thank you. Everyday you were there, from the morning till the evening. You never gave in. You were always there and I thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.”
To his supportive family:
“I would like to thank also, my family. [Hugging Mrs. Chee] This lady who’s been with me through thick and thin…my children who are here today with me as well. Thank you so much!”
Mainstream media was Chee’s punching bag
The media, on the other hand, received multiple bullets. Chee lashed out at them for peppering the SDP campaign with smears and distortions by “drudging up” events from 20 years ago.
He also blamed the media as the cause of creating an unfair playing field for the SDP and implied that if it were not for the media, the results would have been much better.
Dredging up things 20 years ago
In his opening salvo, Chee took aim at Shin Min Daily News for “asking the same questions about 20 years ago about ex NCMP Lina Chiam” because “I give these interviews on good faith that you’ll come up with a fair report.”
Chee added, “What is the motivation of wanting to dredge up things up 20 years ago?”
In other words, a “fair report” here means not digging into somebody’s past.
Suffice to say, this has been one of Chee’s biggest sticking points, ever since his interview with Lianhe Wanbao led to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong using it to paint Chee as an unrepentant figure.
Chee’s rally speakers responded by calling for their supporters to avoid reading the newspapers.
Chee thinks that SDP stands a good chance in this BE if not for the media
In his Chinese remarks, Chee upped the ante by blaming the media for creating an unfair field for the SDP to fight in.
“If the media didn’t use such methods to attack us, I think we would have a very good chance…If it is a fair and democratic society, we would have a very good chance in entering parliament.” (Translated from Chinese)
Chee claimed, “The problem is that we have to fight not only our opposition, but also the media. I find this very disappointing.”
When one of the reporters proceeded to ask whether he would return to contest Bukit Batok in the next General Election, Chee launched into a tirade exclaiming,
“You ask us such questions, have you asked the PAP about their redrawing of the constituencies? Last time we had a good result in Bukit Batok but then it got suddenly drawn into Bukit Timah GRC. If you’re so brave in asking me such questions, with Murali, why do you only ask him what his plans for Bukit Batok are? For me, you always ask me trivial questions and questions related to Chiam See Tong.” (Translated from Chinese)
In all honesty, we thought that was a pretty fair question to ask but then again, Chee might have been reaching his maximum tolerance for the media’s questioning.
Fire the journalists!
By now, Chee had opened all his guns with barely concealed irritation.
“If the media had standards, you would have been fired. Really.” (Translated from Chinese)
Slamming the editors for their headlines, Chee fired in Chinese, “I really cannot understand your headlines…How can you take words that I didn’t say and claim I’ve said them? Lee Hsien Loong has made such a big issue out of it. You need to go and seriously reflect on what you have done.”
In response to the next question by the Chinese media, “What do you think is the reason for your loss this time?”
Chee retorted, “There is something you should go and understand it on your own.” However, he added, “But we’ll also have some analysis in the next few days.”
Switching back to English to end his remarks, Chee noticeably cooled his barrage towards an English question, “Can we hear your thoughts on the vote swing against the PAP?” by actually answering the question this time.
Chee replied that he was “very encouraged” and that “we want to continue this momentum,” before finally ending his speech.
The Chinese evening papers responded
Anyway, both Lianhe Wanbao (p.3) and Shin Min Daily News (p.4) reported Chee’s tirade against the media today.
In Lianhe Wanbao’s report, they clarified that while they have edited the headline of its interview with Chee online to avoid misinterpretations, they did not apologise to SDP as what SDP’s Paul Tambyah had claimed.
We guess that concludes the skirmish between Chee and the media.
All photos by Edwin Koo
Interview transcribed by Daniel Ho.