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GE2020: Aware criticises PAP’s analogy to SDP’s population claims for being ‘insensitive’ to domestic violence victims

SINGAPORE — The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has criticised a statement made by the People’s Action Party (PAP), where the party used an analogy involving spousal abuse to make a point.

GE2020: Aware criticises PAP’s analogy to SDP’s population claims for being  ‘insensitive’ to domestic violence victims

Taking issue with an analogy used by the People's Action Party to counter an opposition party's stance, the Association of Women for Action and Research said that it is insensitive to apply imagery of spousal violence to situations that have nothing to do with it.

SINGAPORE — The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has criticised a statement made by the People’s Action Party (PAP), where the party used an analogy involving spousal abuse to make a point.

In a Facebook post on Saturday (July 4), the gender rights group said: “Many members of the public have reached out to us with their concerns about this PAP press release about Chee Soon Juan, which compares a statement of Chee's to an allegation that someone had beaten up their spouse.

“This analogy is regrettable. It is insensitive to apply imagery of spousal violence to situations that have nothing to do with it.”

Dr Chee is head of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). His party and PAP have locked horns over a 10 million population figure projected for Singapore, which the SDP is using in its arguments for its election campaign.

PAP has said that SDP is perpetuating falsehoods about the PAP Government’s plans to increase Singapore’s population size to 10 million.

It demanded an apology from the opposition party on Thursday, but SDP refused to back down and said in response that it did not invent the number out of nowhere and that it has achieved one of its campaign goals.

On Friday night, PAP issued a statement and used an analogy to explain how Dr Chee is not telling the truth.

“Imagine this: Dr Chee claims you said you want to beat up your spouse. You deny it, and show proof that you neither said this nor have beaten your spouse. Instead of apologising, Dr Chee says, ‘Victory! I extracted a promise from you that you will never beat your spouse’,” it said.

In response to this, Aware said: “Domestic violence is a serious and devastating issue for many in Singapore, and millions more around the world. It is not something to be invoked lightly — especially not during the Covid-19 pandemic, when domestic violence has seen a sharp increase.”

The association said that it does not engage in partisan politics, but it is concerned that such a statement made by an authoritative public body could have an unintended consequence — reinforcing the myth that false allegations of abuse are common.

This deters victims from coming forward when domestic violence is already under-reported.

“We call upon political candidates to be mindful and responsible in their communications throughout this election,” Aware said.

THE DISPUTE

The dispute over the 10 million number came to the fore on Wednesday when Dr Chee and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan from PAP took part in a live televised debate

Dr Chee asked Dr Balakrishnan, a member of PAP’s central executive committee, to go on record to say whether the Government indeed had plans to increase Singapore’s population size to that number.

Dr Balakrishnan accused Dr Chee of spreading falsehoods and the two parties continued to volley with each other over this for the next two days.

Dr Tambyah, who is SDP’s chairman and contesting for a seat at Bukit Panjang ward for the July 10 General Election, said to reporters on Friday that PAP should take it up with The Straits Times if it is unhappy with the 10 million figure.

The national daily had published an article in March 2019 that contained remarks made by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on population size. The newspaper and Mr Heng later clarified that he did not mention the figure. 

That same night, PAP released its statement expressing its disappointment at SDP and its two leaders for repeating their falsehoods and refusing to apologise for misleading voters. It also pointed out that Mrs Josephine Teo, the minister in charge of population issues, had said in Parliament in 2018 that Singapore’s population would be below 6.9 million in 2030, and she repeated that statement again in February this year.

It also said that it thought Dr Tambyah would do better than join Dr Chee in the “charade”. In the same statement, PAP then used the analogy called out by Aware.

On Saturday, Dr Tambyah told reporters during a walkabout in Bukit Panjang that the PAP’s “repeated attacks” against SDP was a sign that the ruling party is “desperate”. 

Related topics

Aware domestic violence PAP SDP SGVotes2020 Singapore General Election

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