Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Interview with Dr Kieran James of the University of Queensland.

Exclusive Interview: Patrick Lee Song Juan talks about battle for Pasir Ris-Punggol

by Kieran James on Sunday, February 5, 2012 at 2:33pm
My exclusive interview with Mr Patrick Lee Song Juan (Singapore Democratic Alliance contestant for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, 2011 GE)

“I’m very happy with the 35.2%, we are all greenhorns, first-timers in politics. I met many residents who said: ‘you dare fight with Teo Chee Hean?’ I said purposefully: ‘Who is Teo Chee Hean?’” - Patrick Lee Song Juan

“For James Gomez and Goh Meng Seng if they had stayed with Workers’ Party they would have been MPs already” - Patrick Lee Song Juan

By Dr Kieran James (University of Southern Queensland),
Interview at: Tiong Bahru Plaza, Singapore, 6 October 2011 (amended by PLSJ, 3 February 2012)

Kieran James: Hi Patrick. First of all can you tell me how it came about that you contested with the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) team in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC at the May 2011 General Election?

Patrick Lee Song Juan: To put it from the beginning, Desmond [Lim] [current Secretary-General of SDA] head-hunted me on FaceBook, he befriended me [and] read my writings. I found he’s a nice guy; he doesn’t have an evil motive.

KJ: I recall that at one stage you planned to be part of an independent team.

PLSJ: I felt as an independent the resources would be logistically tough. He [DL] took me as his mentor. I advised him on a couple of things. I was not even on the [Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC] team yet. I was invited to sit on their CEC meeting [Singapore People’s Party, SPP, the lead party of SDA at that time]. This was the year before the election. He brought up his plans to contest in single seat versus Teo Ser Luck. We thought they wanted to divide [Pasir Ris-]Punggol GRC into Punggol West [and remainder]. I said to him “you are a veteran in 06, why do you want to go to a single seat? We are novices”. He did not agree with me. A Malay guy working in Dubai came back for the meeting. I was not happy. I told him I will not have anything to do with it. His strategy is very poor.

On the first outreach I wrote an article. He wanted to put me as Mass Communication Manager. I said: “don’t put a title on me”. Goh Meng Seng [GMS] said: “you are in SDA now?” He [DL] should listen to what I tell him. I was behind the scenes in politics for many years. I left him as did the Malay guy. We never thought SDA would put a team in Punggol GRC. The Malay friend was a candidate from Jalan Besar GRC before and contested in it in 2006..He does not want his name to be published...Now [he is] still in Dubai working!

KJ: Why was that?

PLSJ: There were not enough people to contest. I felt sad for him [DL]. You can see what happened. He lost his deposit. Even so if not a three corner fight [in Punggol East SMC] he will still lose his deposit but not by so much. He cried during the election campaign. He claimed Workers’ Party supporters [were] harassing him.

KJ: So how did you come back into the team for Pasir Ris-Punggol just before the election?
PLSJ: I came in two days before Nomination. My photo was taken. [KJ: Patrick Lee’s very late re-entry to the team is why Wikipedia did not list him as a candidate even after the poll.] I talked to Desmond before this. I talked to Sidney Soon. I said “one day Chiam See Tong will play him out” and, sure enough [it happened]. I told him to leave SPP early, six months ago before the GE!.
KJ: What state was SJP [Singapore Justice Party] in prior to Desmond taking over there?

PLSJ: SJP was just a shell party with a few core people [such as] founding President [and] Treasurer. He said: “I think Chiam See Tong will play me out”. Chiam See Tong withdrew his SPP from SDA. Desmond had no choice but to fall back on SJP. Six months out I told him to pull out of SPP. I predicted it. It’s very sad. SDA was only PKMS, SJP, and SPP. I declined to be on CEC of SJP because he refused to listen. PKMS supported him a lot. He thought he was very safe.

When CST withdrew from SDA, SDA was and is even now a total empty shell. I told GMS when we had a telephone conversation that CST is not a gentleman to Desmond. GMS said “he’s a lawyer, he will sue you”. I gave it to my lawyer friend to vet; it was all factual statements of what CST said. Desmond was left dangling. No-one was there to form our team. He wanted to recruit some Masters guy; Sihita Nilesh was to stand but he later declined saying his US Company did not give him permission to stand. Desmond fell back on me.

Desmond barred me from speaking. When Teo Chee Hean asked me (in the toilet) “why don’t you join us?” I said “you go after the PhD, Masters, Mistresses, and Bachelors!” I graduated from the University of Lifelong Learning.
George Yeo lost big time, he’s an idiot, [and] he always thinks he’s intelligent. “Aljunied voters will have "emotional dilemma” says George Yeo. I said: “It’s George Yeo’s own emotional dilemma”.

KJ: So what are your opinions of the campaigning performance of your SDA team in Pasir Ris-Punggol?

PLSJ: Desmond made very major mistakes, every speech took one hour; his speeches are not entertaining. He banned me from the press and speaking at rallies.

KJ: How many rallies did you actually speak at then?

PLSJ: Officially I spoke at one rally and I was last-minute replacement for the second rally. I spoke for twelve minutes; that was my best rally speech and I spoke off-the cuff with no preparation..because was not slate to speak..Only for party sake I stood in for Tony Tan (same name as president)..when he got stage fright..And he never spoke in any rally at all!

KJ: What were the crowds at the rallies?

PLSJ: At the second rally crowd of 7000-8,000 in Punggol-Pasir Park. At the first rally [there was] only 1,000 at Senkang because it was raining. At third rally he excluded my name. He did not want me to speak. We only had three rallies. He put his wife up and she cried onstage. I was at home, I didn’t attend, [and] she said “people harass my husband”.
Teo Chee Hean asked me why he doesn’t see me with them [other SDA]? Only after election I put on FaceBook saying “this will be my first and last election”. I resigned from SDA through FaceBook. He did not give me an official reply. Jeffrey Lim resigned as did Tony Tan.

KJ: OK, key question: Are you happy with the 35.2% result achieved by your SDA team?

PLSJ: I’m very happy with the 35.2%, we are all greenhorns, first-timers in politics. I met many residents who said: “you dare fight with Teo Chee Hean?” I said purposefully: “Who is Teo Chee Hean?” Then I say: “I’m joking with you”. I say: “Does he have four arms? He is an ordinary person made good, we fight on equal terms”. These people are so intimidated by ministers [but] we are all equal except for different circumstances when they (ministers) are catapulted to high positions.

KJ: Can you remember any interesting or funny incidents from the campaign?

PLSJ: One incident is I met this Penny Low, she has got the worst brickbats from the residents, [and] many promises are not kept. I met her at Pasir Ris MRT campaign. She was still on crutches recovering from leg operation. I said: “Are you OK Penny?" I was sarcastic, you are limping, [and] it’s a very small thing. She told me the truth: “I had operation”. I said: “Take care, goodbye” and [then] she was upset. I have the guts and humour to do it.
Teo Ser Luck is a nice baby-face guy. He was shouting all the names of his gang at the rally. I said: “This is not the way”. He said laughing: “I’m not a politician”. He is a nice guy, he does not show pretense.

I like also the new [PAP] guy, DBS banker [Mr Gan Thian Poh]. He shook my hand, very courteous. One of the other PAP interrupted our talk. The crony was sarcastic. I said: “A lot of you guys talk bird language, talk cock”. I said: “What’s the point, at the end of the day you are just cronies”. He wanted to argue with me. I forgot his name, grassroots guy, not on the team. They know my credibility. Gan showed me respect by telling the grassroots guy to be quiet. I departed cordially from Gan after asking about his family. I catapulted to a bit of prominence during the election but all the time I’m a behind the scenes guy.

KJ: What were the reasons behind your friend Goh Meng Seng’s resignation from the NSP [National Solidarity Party] Secretary-General’s post after the election?

PLSJ: GMS was pressured to resign. It [NSP electoral results] is seen as a failure. GMS is a very nice guy, very accommodating. He took all the RP [Reform Party] group in as a mass exodus. Gilbert Goh asked me which party to join. I said: “KJ [Kenneth Jeyaretnam] is not a good leader [and] I don’t think Workers’ Party will accept you. I said: “NSP is a good choice”. Out of the blue he joined RP but when the exodus happened a few days later he quit right away!
KJ: What do you think of the NSP’s election campaign strategy?
The NSP strategy was not really that good. He [GMS] should have put himself, Hazel [Poa], [and] Tony Tan in Tampines [GRC]. GMS approved me joining the NSP and I would have been a member in Tampines.

KJ: Ah, really? That’s new information to me. When was this?

PLSJ: Before the election. SDA had problems getting people and Desmond and Sidney Soon asked me to join them again. I said to GMS: “I’m sorry; I have to leave the party”. I do it for the best interests of the people. GMS wanted to put me into Tampines to contest Mah Bow Tan, I dislike Mah Bow Tan. and his handling of the HDB escalating price.I left to join SDA with GMS blessing..(Ken Sun was not happy about that!) GMS asked Gilbert Goh to take over Tampines. I told Steve Chia I was interested to join NSP, straight away my membership was approved. I was only in NSP for one week, they approved my membership already, [and] they all know me already. Ken Sun said: “You played us out”. I said: “What about all those who played out the RP?” I wrote in the blog that the old birds of NSP should give way to the young. Sitting too long in the CEC of NSP..the main old veterans!

KJ: What did you think of the NSP’s result at the election including Steve Chia?

PLSJ: I was surprised Steve Chia did not do well; I thought it might be due to the personal incident, PAP capitalized on this. The opposition did not have their presence felt at all. They should have functions better at walkabouts. Tony Tan can’t speak very well. He’s a scholar but his rally speech was quite mediocre..lacked punch!

KJ: Tell me about your role in the presidential election of August this year as well as your thoughts on the election.

PLSJ: I was helping Tan Jee Say. I will give you a perspective. George Yeo announced he first did not want to be presidential candidate but later said he wanted to be. He was asked to step down. I knew Tony Tan would win. I lobbied for Tan Cheng Bok, he has a presence in west coast, he is a respected doctor. I arranged a meeting with Tan Jee Say with the Hainanese Association through a Hainanese friend who came back from Sydney (He quit S'pore to live in Australia). Twenty people attended at a coffee shop at Liang Seah street ..our Hainanese enclave ! Later on we went to the Kheng Chiu Association [premises].

KJ: Returning to something we touched on previously do you think Mr Goh Meng Seng will return to active politics?

PLSJ: I think GMS will contest in next election. He just needs a break.
KJ: What did you think of performance of SDP [Singapore Democratic Party] in the May election?

PLSJ: SDP performance is not that good too - honestly it’s pathetic. They will not be able to redeem themselves if they do not change their political ideology in Singapore, they are too belligerent. In Singapore you cannot be too belligerent, you cannot connect in [the[] American way – democracy, freedom, human rights, ISA. They [the Establishment] don’t harm you if you don’t do anything wrong. Why bother with ISA?

KJ: What is your opinion on James Gomez’ move to SDP earlier this year?

PLSJ: Gomez is on the way down. He is an intelligent guy. He does not have a mindset to stay in one place. For him and Meng Seng if he stayed with Workers’ Party he would have been an MP already. I said to GMS: “Why do you need the [SG] title?”
KJ: Earlier we were talking about the presidential election result? I think I interrupted you and we got distracted...

PLSJ: The result is already foregone, once Tony Tan comes in. The reason why he did not win so well is Tan Cheng Bok. TCB scored 70% in west coast. [KJ: I’m not sure here whether Patrick meant West Coast GRC or the whole west coast area.] The vote was split due to Tan Jee Say. Otherwise I think TCB could have won. Tony Tan has the experience but he cannot speak Mandarin unlike TCB; how can he speak to Hu Jin Tao? He lost $60 billion with the GLC. How can he say he is an expert in economics?

KJ: Why do you think Workers’ Party chose to ignore the presidential election?

PLSJ: I think the Workers’ Party are very shrewd, they know what they are doing; they understand the politics of Singapore much more than SDP, that is why PAP is more in tune with them than with SDP,... SDP is rather confrontational.

KJ: Can I ask you for your revised view on the third question in my original research project: “What do you think will happen in Singapore politics in next 10-15 years?”

PLSJ: I wrote an article [saying] Singapore cannot have a one-party system. I hope one-third will be opposition and then there will be a constitutional right to speak on any topic. The people are more politically aware [now] and their mentality has changed. It can certainly happen [i.e. one-third opposition MPs in 10-15 years]. Workers’ Party can definitely win some more seats and officially become leader of the opposition then.

KJ: What has been one of your more important public speaking engagements?

PLSJ: My speech Mothers’Day on filial piety at YWCA, 9 May 2010 arranged by Active Retirees Association. Two hundred people attended. I spoke freely as a volunteer.

KJ: On another matter what do you think are the reasons behind Mah Bow Tan’s exit?

PLSJ: MBT was unpopular due to the housing board issues. People never accepted what he said about HDB being affordable. Lee Hsien Loong got the cue and removed him.

KJ: And NSP’s showing in Tampines was another factor?

PLSJ: [Yes] NSP’s success in Tampines was another reason. If you put Hazel Poa in there NSP could have gone higher. They [NSP] were quite disappointed. I’m not with them. I needed to help SDA to see Teo Chee Hean not do a walk-over...Citizens will be disappointed that no voice represented them..Hence we are happy we put on a good fight and scored 35.2% of the votes.

KJ: Why did you agree to rejoin the SDA team in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC right at the last minute after having previously withdrawn?

PLSJ: I’m a voice for the poor, I go for the deprived, those who are marginalized. If I don’t stand in Pasir Ris it will be a walkover for PAP. Me and Sidney Soon came in two days prior, 35% was fantastic. Teo Chee Hean was DPM, he lost face, [and] we scampered in. KJ is unpopular, we beat him and his team by 3% point. We should have just got 18%, [and] Kenneth is finished...[KJ: PLSJ here is not talking about me of course but about Kenneth Jeya of RP].

KJ: Can Desmond Lim bounce back?

PLSJ: His performance was terrible, 1,386 plus votes, he should not have nominated if he knew Workers’ Party would contest.

[Our two-hour interview ended here.]

Patrick Lee's blog:
Kieran James' blog:

(read Kieran James' interviews with Desmond Lim, Yaw Shin Leong and Yee Jenn Jong with more to be posted soon)
Patrick Lee smiles and points to the Straits Times report of MM Lee leaving cabinet, Singapore, 6 Oct 2011
Kieran James with Patrick Lee, 6 Oct 2011
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