GE2020: PAP says SDP’s Chee Soon Juan hasn’t changed, expected better of Paul Tambyah in dispute over ‘10m population’ claim
SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party (PAP) has expressed its disappointment at the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and its two leaders, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Dr Paul Tambyah, saying that they are misleading voters with a “mythical” 10 million projected population figure for Singapore and refusing to say sorry for that.
- PAP said it was disappointed at the SDP and its two leaders, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Dr Paul Tambyah
- It was “surprised” that Dr Tambyah would join in what it called a “charade”
- PAP also criticised other opposition leaders who have jumped into the fray, singling out WP chief Pritam Singh
SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party (PAP) has expressed its disappointment at the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and its two leaders, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Dr Paul Tambyah, for misleading voters with a “mythical” 10 million projected population figure for Singapore and refusing to say sorry for that.
In a statement issued late Friday (July 3) night, PAP said: “We are disappointed that Dr Chee and the SDP have dug their heels in, repeated their falsehoods, and refused to apologise to Singaporeans for misleading them. Disappointed but not surprised, for we knew Dr Chee has not changed, cannot change, and will never change.”
But it said it was “surprised” that Dr Tambyah, SDP’s chairman, would join in what it described as a “charade”.
“We thought he was a better man,” the statement read.
Dr Tambyah is contesting for a seat at Bukit Panjang ward for the July 10 General Election. He said to reporters on Friday that PAP should take it up with national daily The Straits Times if it is unhappy over the 10 million population figure.
The dispute between the two political parties erupted on Wednesday when Dr Chee and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan went head-to-head during a live televised debate.
Dr Balakrishnan, a member of PAP’s central executive committee, had accused Dr Chee of perpetuating falsehoods when Dr Chee asked his opponent to go on record to say whether the Government indeed had plans to increase Singapore’s population size to 10 million
SDP is campaigning for voters to “say no” to this figure. It said that this number has been bandied about in public discussions and it referred to an article from The Straits Times published in March 2019, which contained remarks made by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on population size.
The article stated: “On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government's 2013 Population White Paper, Mr Heng said the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important. Singapore's population density is not excessive, he said, noting that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.
“He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term."
After the debate, the national broadsheet and Mr Heng clarified that he did not mention the figure.
On Thursday, PAP had already demanded that SDP apologise for misleading Singaporeans with the figure.
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.
“We are gratified that Dr Vivian Balakrishnan categorically said at the political debate on July 1 that the PAP will not increase the population to 10 million or even 6.9 million,” SDP said on Friday before PAP issued its response.
In its latest statement, PAP sought to use what it called a “simple analogy” to explain Dr Chee’s “mendacity”.
“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.
Apart from the SDP leaders, PAP also criticised other opposition leaders who have “opportunistically jumped into the fray”.
It singled out Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh, who was asked by the media about the matter during his party’s walkabout in Punggol West Single Member Constituency.
Among other things, Mr Singh said that the problem stems from how a falsehood is being defined and that there was “room for fair comment” regarding the Government’s projected population size.
He added: "One of the things I don’t understand is why can’t these things come up well before the elections? I mean, it’s the (PAP) Government’s position, so it should state that very clearly."
Responding to Mr Singh, PAP said: “Mr Pritam Singh asked why the Government could not have said earlier that our population would be well below 6.9 million in 2030, let alone a mythical 10 million. It is baffling that Mr Singh should ask this question.”
PAP 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.
“Was the leader of the opposition not scrutinising the minister’s statements?” PAP asked, referring to Mr Singh.