“No to 10 million population” is the “No” in SDP’s “4 Yes 1 No” campaign in this general election. The SDP claims that the PAP’s “wish” is to “jack up the (population) number to 10 million by bringing in more foreigners”.
Dr Chee Soon Juan repeated this charge three times during the Channel 5 debate on 1 July 2020. Each time, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan corrected him.
Dr Chee claimed that DPM Heng Swee Keat had in an interview “toy[ed] with the idea of bringing our population up to 10 million”. Dr Balakrishnan referred Dr Chee to a statement that the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) had issued earlier that day, rebutting stories circulating online about the Government’s supposed plan to raise the population to 10 million. The NPTD statement stated categorically that the Government “has not proposed, planned nor targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million”. Dr Balakrishnan also stated for the record that Singapore “will never have 10 million”. Indeed, NPTD projects a population size significantly below 6.9 million in 2030, as its statement pointed out.
Dr Balakrishnan requested Dr Chee not to repeat this false statement. But Dr Chee doubled down on this falsehood. After the debate, he published it again, this time in a Facebook post linking to a Straits Times report of a dialogue that DPM Heng had with NTU students in March last year.
This morning, the Straits Times clarified that “Mr Heng did not say that Singapore should plan for 10 million people – nor did he mention the figure” at the event. DPM Heng himself refuted Dr Chee’s false statement, and released the video clip of what he had said at NTU. DPM had referred to former Chief Planner Mr Liu Thai Kher’s comment that Singapore should go for an even higher population number than 6.9 million. But far from endorsing Mr Liu’s view, DPM had expressed his reservations to the students, explaining that “Whether this little red rock [sic] can accommodate a lot more people, actually, it is not strictly just a physical constraint. … There are many cities which if you look at the liveable space, it is actually a lot, a lot more crowded [than Singapore]. But the population number is not just about the physical space. It is also about the social space. It is about the sense of togetherness. And it is a very difficult topic.”
Having been proven wrong, the honourable thing for Dr Chee to do would have been to admit that SDP’s election campaign was based on a falsehood, withdraw it, and apologise to Singaporeans for misleading them. But that would have been out of character.
Instead, Dr Chee further twists the facts. He now claims the SDP has “achieved victory” by extracting a promise from the PAP that it had no intention to increase the population to 10 million.
Dr Chee first conjures a bogey out of thin air to befuddle, frighten and divide Singaporeans. When it is pointed out to him the bogey doesn’t exist, he claims someone else had “toyed” with the idea first. And when it is shown conclusively that someone else had done no such thing, he waves his arms triumphantly in the air, proclaiming, “see, I slayed the bogey”.
Dr Chee has staged this drama many times before, going back to 1996 when he refused to apologise for his use of wrong data on healthcare subsides at a Parliamentary Select Committee.
“Reputation is temporary; character is permanent,” Dr Chee said in 2015. One cannot agree more. A leopard does not change its spots. The new Dr Chee — of which there have been many — is still the old Dr Chee.
This latest falsehood, however, is not just a matter of Dr Chee’s personal dishonesty. The “1 No” is a key plank in the SDP’s election campaign. Its falsehood renders the campaign pointless, and calls into question the integrity of the whole party.
Image: Screengrab from Mediacorp