Vivian Balakrishnan Says Chee Soon Juan Is Taking A Cheap Shot
There were some fireworks between Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during Singapore’s first political debate, named “Singapore Votes 2020: The political debate”.
Dr Chee asked Dr Balakrishnan a pointed question, rephrased as: Is the Government planning to raise the population to 10 million?
Empathically denying this, Dr Balakrishnan then accused Dr Chee of indulging in falsehoods.
S’poreans worried that population might rise to 10 million
In a segment where the candidates were supposed to ask each other questions, Dr Chee said Singapore had been beset by declining labour productivity and gross domestic product (GDP) growth, as well as rising unemployment, even before Covid-19 stuck.
However, foreign PMETs, S-Pass holders and Employment Pass holders continue to come in, he added.
Then, Dr Chee claimed that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said during an interview that Singapore’s population should plan to increase to 10 million.
This is something that Singaporeans are “deadly worried” about, he said.
Thus, he asked Dr Balakrishnan whether he can “categorically tell Singaporeans” that his party has no intention to raise the population by bringing in foreigners to compete with Singaporeans for jobs.
Dr Balakrishnan warns Dr Chee not to indulge in falsehoods
To that, Dr Balakrishnan pointed out that on that same day, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued an advisory to “people like you” (referring to Dr Chee) not to indulge in falsehoods.
Both men then talked over each other, with Dr Chee accusing Mr Heng of coming up with the idea of a 10 million population during an interview, and offering to send the interview to Dr Balakrishnan, who then replied,
That’s a cheap shot, Dr Chee.
Dr Balakrishnan then stated for the record that Singapore “will never have 10 million”, and “we won’t even have 6.9 million”.
PMO statement says “10 million” plan is untrue
The PMO statement Dr Balakrishnan was referring to was the press release on Wednesday (1 Jul) from the Strategy Group of the PMO, saying that statements about the Government planning to raise the population to 10 million are untrue.
Govt doesn’t have population target
Elaborating on this, Dr Balakrishnan added,
The Government doesn’t have a target for the population, what we want is a Singapore core that is demographically stable, able to reproduce ourselves, able to create jobs and opportunities for ourselves, and able to stay as a cohesive whole.
He added, for emphasis, that it is not a target, and it is certainly not 10 million.
Pointing at Dr Chee, he said he is raising a “false strawman”.
For more emphasis, he looked directly at Dr Chee, and said,
That is a false statement.
In terms of the GDP, Dr Balakrishnan said it’s been an “incredible journey” over 55 years.
On productivity, in the last 10 years, the figure was negative only last year, he said.
Dr Chee shares ST article
After the debate, Dr Chee swiftly shared a Straits Times article of Mr Heng being interviewed in 2019.
In the ST article, Mr Heng was quoted as citing 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”.
Thanks for a good debate
When watching debates after a long day, sometimes the issues may get a bit cloudy, but it always helps when things get a bit feisty.
Workers’ Party candidate Jamus Lim may have stolen the show with his eloquence, but we can always count on old battlehorse Dr Chee to liven things up with his confrontational style of talking.
However, do beware of spreading falsehoods. We’ll be keeping updated over any response to Dr Chee’s latest claims.
We hope the rest of the campaigning this election season will be similarly robust – after all, that’s what elections are for.
Featured images adapted from YouTube.