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GE2020: PAP using old tactic of accusing SDP of distorting the truth, says chairman Paul Tambyah

SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party's (PAP) attacks against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), accusing its leaders of distorting the truth, is a tactic that the ruling party uses “all the time”, said SDP chairman Paul Tambyah on Monday (July 6).

Dr Paul Tambyah (right) from the SDP distributes flyers to residents at a bus stop at Block 270, Bangkit Road on July 6, 2020.

Dr Paul Tambyah (right) from the SDP distributes flyers to residents at a bus stop at Block 270, Bangkit Road on July 6, 2020.

  • Dr Tambyah said PAP attacks on SDP are tactics the party uses “all the time”
  • Dr Chee criticised Mr Gan Kim Yong for his track record as health minister
  • Mr Tan Jee Say outlined how SDP will fund its election campaign policies

 

SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party's (PAP) attacks against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), accusing its leaders of distorting the truth, is a tactic that the ruling party uses “all the time”, said SDP chairman Paul Tambyah on Monday (July 6).

His comments came after the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office issued a correction direction to the SDP, among other organisations, on Saturday for “false statements of fact claiming that a statement made by Dr Cheong Koon Hean at the IPS-Nathan Lectures in 2018 suggested that our population would increase to 10 million by 2030”.

The Pofma Office had been instructed to do so by the alternate authority for the Minister of National Development.

SDP said that while it has complied with the notice, “the conclusions that the alternate authority at the Ministry of National Development arrived at are disputable” and it will challenge the order.

On Sunday, several media outlets were then issued a separate correction direction from the Pofma Office, this time from the alternate authority for the Manpower Minister, regarding statements made by Dr Tambyah over the outbreak of Covid-19 in foreign worker dormitories.

During an interview with reporters at a walkabout near Bangkit Road on Monday morning, Dr Tambyah said he “should have anticipated” that the PAP would accuse the SDP of propagating falsehoods during this General Election (GE) period, as the ruling party had done the same thing during previous elections.

“Unfortunately, this is the same thing that they do all the time… The lesson I learned from (GE2015) is that somewhere in the middle of the campaign, the PAP is going to pick up some really minor issue and then they're going to blow it up,” said Dr Tambyah. 

In 2015, he said, he ended up in a dispute with Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan over the issue of ministerial salaries, when both were contesting in Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

“This is the pattern (of the) PAP... They don't want to confront the issues they take an issue with, then they paint the SDP as being distorters, or propagating all kinds of untruths... Stuff like that there's no substance whatsoever,” he said.

Commenting on the correction direction issued to media outlets on Sunday, Dr Tambyah said that he had never said that the authorities acted during the Covid-19 outbreak without consulting medical experts.

“As I predicted, those were statements I never made. I never said that there was a unilateral action by MOM (Ministry of Manpower). What I said was the circular came from MOM, and that is there (on the circular) in black and white,” he said.

He also reiterated that the MOM had discouraged employers from sending their workers for tests, a point which the Pofma Office said was a falsehood. 

“Frankly, if you threaten somebody and you tell them they may lose their work pass privileges, I do not see how anyone can say that is encouraging the testing.”

HOW SDP WILL FUND ITS POLICIES

Separately, during SDP’s e-rallies on Sunday night, secretary-general Chee Soon Juan criticised Mr Gan Kim Yong for his track record as the health minister. 

Describing Mr Gan as a “fumbling minister”, Dr Chee chastised the PAP for making Mr Gan the co-chair of the task force handling Singapore’s response to the coronavirus despite his mishandling of other healthcare crises.

Dr Chee cited the example of the Hepatitis C outbreak in 2015, where 25 people were infected and eight killed by the disease, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) registry leak in 2019, and the SingHealth cyberattack in 2019 where 1.5 million patients’ non-medical personal data was stolen, among other lapses.

“He remains in his post despite repeated debacles,” said Dr Chee, adding that other former ministers such as Mr Raymond Lim, Mr Wong Kan Seng and Mr Mah Bow Tan, who were in charge of the ministries of transport, home affairs and national development respectively, were asked to step down after GE2011, when the PAP received 60.1 per cent of the vote share, a drop from the 66.6 per cent it had received in the previous GE.

That is why, he argued, voters should vote more opposition candidates into Parliament, as “life gets better when you vote for the opposition”.

Meanwhile, SDP candidate for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Mr Tan Jee Say, responded to questions from voters and the PAP on how the party would fund its 4Y1N (Four Yes, One No) policy plan — its plan for ordinary Singaporeans affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Tan said the estimated total cost of SDP’s three initiatives — the suspension of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) until 2021, a monthly S$500 income for retirees and retrenchment benefits — comes up to S$16.1 billion a year.

The SDP proposes to make use of the investment returns on the national financial reserves to fund these policies, he said.

“According to current policy, the Government can use up to 50 per cent of these returns for our annual Budget,” he said, pointing out that the authorities have also allotted S$18.6 billion on this year’s Budget. 

“This means that there’s a net balance of at least S$18.6 billion available, which is more than enough to fund the three SDP initiatives,” he said.

Mr Tan added that based on the party’s calculations, the principle sum of the reserves is not touched, and so SDP's policies will not result in a raiding of the reserves.

“Our reserves will continue to grow with economic growth and net investment flows,” he said, adding that the sale of state land leases will also provide a “huge buffer” to ensure a “sustained and healthy growth” of the reserves.

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