We refer to recent reports on the comments made by the ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the opposition party, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), during the campaign of the by-election in Bukit Batok.
Parts of the campaign are currently degenerating into a sloganeering on the character of Dr Chee Soon Juan, the SDP candidate. This looms ominously as the statements are made by ruling party members in the name of the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong; the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu and the Speaker of Parliament, Halimah Yacob.
As election campaign watchers, MARUAH, a human rights group, would like to put on record that this is a disappointing approach taken on by the ruling party. We cite our research in 2011 that showed how media and public figures had conducted themselves at the 2011 General Elections. At the 2013 by-election in Punggol East it did not deteriorate to the current extent, though the opposition candidates were many and the PAP candidate also made some distracting statements that had some of us scratching our heads. In the 2015 hustings, there was improvement by all political parties. The views on candidates were taken up by citizens and in many instances over social media. All revealing a healthier engagement by citizens even as one acknowledges there will be partisan comments. We say it is part of our growth into a democracy.
In this Bukit Batok by-election, however, there seems to be a targeted barrage on Dr Chee’s past behaviour. In politics there are many candidates who will be judged at the ballot box and later as MPs. We ask that this sloganeering be stopped, as it is not in good taste to ensuring that we develop fair, free and democratic election processes.
We also raise attention to Singapore’s Parliamentary Elections Act, Section 59 and Section 61(d) which asks of all – including campaign leaders and leaders of all political parties– to act in a manner that is fair to all election candidates. In addition in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Code on Free and Fair Elections, it is also clear that all parties need to ensure that the election is conducted in a fair and democratic manner.
In conclusion MARUAH asks again for an Independent Elections Commission, not one under the Prime Minister’s Office.