DR CHEE SOON JUAN: I wrote in 2010 that whenever the elections draw near, the PAP never fails to resurrect Mr Chaim See Tong’s departure from the SDP and run the story that I had ousted Mr Chiam and usurped his post.
Quite predictably, the PAP has done it again, this time through Mr Chan Chun Sing’s letter to the Straits Times last week where the minister said: “Dr Chee plotted against Mr Chiam and pushed him out of the party he had founded.”
It is the PAP’s constant attempt to indulge in character assassination that compels me to set the record straight:
#1: “Chee plotted against Chiam”
Mr Chiam resigned as secretary-general of the SDP. No one kicked him out. In fact, after he resigned, a few CEC members and I persuaded him to come back. We held back the announcement of Mr Chiam’s resignation for one month.
If I had “plotted against Mr Chiam” why would I persuade him to return? I would have pounced on the opportunity and quickly announced his resignation. After all, I was in possession of Mr Chiam’s hand-written resignation note – complete with signature. (Read Part 1: The truth about Chiam See Tong’s departure)
#2: “Chee pushed Chiam out”
When his resignation was made public, Mr Chiam was invited to the Singapore Press Club to speak in which he attacked the SDP’s leadership.
Even then the CEC held its counsel. The Straits Times reported that while Mr Chiam “was gaining political capital from the public at the expense of the SDP’s ‘collective leadership’, the CEC has maintained a stony silence.” (The Sacking of Chiam See Tong, 28 Aug 93)
Three weeks later, the CEC convened a disciplinary enquiry and summoned Mr Chiam to attend. At the hearing, Mr Chiam did not express any regret about his talk at the SPC. The meeting ended close to midnight on 6 August 1993. The CEC discussed what action to take against Mr Chiam with arguments going back and forth until 5am.
In the end, a vote was taken and a majority decided to expel Mr Chiam. But even after the decision was made, we still wanted to reconcile with him. The CEC assigned three members to meet Mr Chiam that very morning to convey to him our decision and to see if there was anyway that we could avoid sacking him.
The delegation visited Mr Chiam, faxed him a letter requesting a meeting, and telephoned him several times to see if there was any chance of reconciliation but to no avail. Mr Chiam did not deny this in court but only said that the overtures were not sincere.
Perhaps, the most important point to note is that Justice Warren Khoo, who presided over the trial, acknowledged that he could find no bias or malicious behaviour on the part of the CEC since it did attempt to seek reconciliation with Mr Chiam. (Read Part 2: Chiam’s expulsion – What really happened?)
#3: Chee betrayed his mentor
The PAP has spared no effort to paint me as the villain in this episode and to get Singaporeans to turn against me. (Read Part 3: Goh Chok Tong – Without Chiam, harder to destroy Chee).
It drew cartoons, ministers and MPs made statements in Parliament, the media ran headline after headline portraying me as an ingrate who betrayed his mentor. Mr Chan Chun Sing’s letter is just the latest in a series of attacks that has lasted two decades.
The truth is that Mr Chiam’s relations with his CEC colleagues, as he testified in court himself, was already strained prior to my joining the SDP.
Given the above, is it credible for Mr Chan to say that I “plotted against Mr Chiam and pushed him out of the party he had founded”?
Those were pre-Internet days where I had no effective means of countering the attacks, and much of the public believed the PAP’s narrative.
I hope that with the advent of social media, the truth will spread and the record corrected.
I write this article not to criticise Mr Chiam but only to set the record straight and to head off any attempt by the PAP to resurrect the issue during the next elections.
The SDP has repeatedly sought goodwill with Mr Chiam through the years. In 2009, I wrote to Mr Chiam: “We bear you no ill-will and we wish only the best for you, your family and the Singapore Peoples’ Party. We seek cooperation with our fellow opposition parties.” (Read An open letter to all opposition supporters)
The SDP has moved on and we have grown. We have been a constructive party, drawing up alternative policies for Singapore. (Read Part 4: Taking the SDP forward)
We want to focus on the real issues that Singaporeans are interested in such as the cost of living, CPF housing, population, and healthcare.
We hope that, for the sake of our nation and her people, the PAP will do the same.