Thursday, April 28, 2011

Online firestorm stops PAP's smear campaign


Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has called for a truce.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, the Minister said there is "no need" to further discuss a video which shows Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) candidate, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, attending a forum on gay rights.

Dr Balakrishnan, who will contest the Holland-Bukit Timah group representation constituency (GRC) against the SDP team led by Dr Wijeysingha, said that he was satisfied with the SDP's video response to his earlier concerns about a possible "gay agenda" should SDP be voted into Parliament.

"His video statements (by SDP chief Chee Soon Juan) were a response to my question. He's answered the question. Let's leave it at that," said the minister.

When asked if he would bring the matter up again during his team's campaigning, he said, "No. No need. I don't need to go any further with that. Questions were asked, I posed the question, he answered," he added.

However, Dr Balakrishan dismissed claims that he was employing a "smear tactic" when he brought up the issue, saying "No. This is a legitimate question and he's answered it."

In a statement released on Monday evening, the People's Action Party (PAP) team for the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC had called on the SDP and, in particular, its candidate Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, 40, to be upfront about his "political motives", prompting a heated war of words between the two parties.

In a swift video response, SDP chief Dr Chee said that while both parties might have disagreements over policy issues, he called on the Minister not to resort to "personal attacks" and adopting "smear tactics".

Meanwhile, Dr Balakrishnan also rejected calls by the SDP for a public debate, saying that it would just give the SDP an added platform to engage residents.

Explaining that there are no such "shortcuts", he said, "Personally as incumbents, we've been here, our residents know us, we have walked and knocked on every single door in this GRC.

"A team that has just come together in the last few days and has not done their leg work, the reason they want a debate is because they want a platform to reach out to residents."

Taking a jibe at the SDP's statements that he was rattled by their contest in the GRC, Dr Balakrishnan said, "Do I look rattled?"

Apart from that, he also stressed that the choices made by voters will have an impact on the outcome and opportunities for young Singaporeans over the next 20 years, at least.

"For a young Singaporean who just graduates today, 20 years is half your working life. So there are some very fundamental choices which Singaporeans will have to make up their minds on, over the next nine to ten days," he said.

Chee welcomes Dr Vivian’s remarks

On the other hand, Chee pointed out that there has been a “very stern rebuke online” about the way Dr Balakrishnan brought up the issue on the video.

However, the SDP chief welcomed the minister’s statements that he will not pursue the issue come campaign period. Chee was speaking at a separate press conference on Wednesday afternoon where he unveiled his party’s manifesto.

“It’s very clear the online reaction has been very negative towards him. And we asked him not to continue, not to persist in this line.

“I’m hoping, and we’re all hoping that we can run this campaign in the spirit that it was meant to be, and that is talking about issues that people are concerned about, and not get into personal attacks," said Chee.

“We take Dr Balakrishnan at his word, that he will not pursue this, and it was very distasteful. The internet community has made that clear to him, and we are glad to hear that he will not continue to pursue this matter. We’ll leave it at that."

In addition, Chee also dismissed the suggestion that the party will take advantage of the situation and turn the tables back on Dr Balakrishnan, saying that this is not what SDP is about. Instead, he called on all parties to adopt a “clean fight”.

“This is one thing SDP is not and that we want to go after somebody in a very negative way,” he said.

“We call on every party to take the high road in politics and discuss what’s important for the future of our nation and the people. And when we do that, we’re hoping they will reciprocate.”

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