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Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)

Dr. Chee Soon Juan (simplified Chinese: 徐顺全traditional Chinese: 徐順全pinyin: Xú Shùnquán, born 1962) is the Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). Chee is a neuropsychologist and received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 1990. He joined SDP in 1992 and became the Secretary-General of SDP, replacing founder Chiam See Tong who left to join the Singapore People's Party. Chee has been convicted and imprisoned several times. Chee lost a defamation lawsuit filed by PAP leaders in 2001. Chee was declared and forced into bankruptcy in 2006 when he failed to pay the damages. He was in jail for contempt of court. He has since been released.

Chee was Honorary Research Associate at the Monash Asia Institute in 1997 and at the University of Chicago in 2001. In 2004, he participated in the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Program at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C.. He is the Chairman of the Alliance for Reform & Democracy in Asia, and was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy (2004)[1]. He participated in many international organisations such as World Movement for Democracy and the Forum of Democratic Leaders in the Asia Pacific. He was the recipient of the Defender of Democracy Award 2003 given by the Parliamentarians for Global Action.

Contents

Pre-2001

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Before 2001: Chee's beginnings in SDP

Chee was a lecturer in neuropsychology at the National University of Singapore when he joined the SDP in 1992. [2] The first election Chee contested was the 1992 Marine Parade by-election when his team won 24.5% of the votes. In 1993, a few months after Chee joined the SDP, the university audited a $27,000 research grant given to Chee, terminated his employment for the alleged misappropriation of $226 and sued him for defamation when Chee contested the allegations.[3] Chee later staged a hunger strike in response.[4]

Later, a new party, the Singapore People's Party (SPP) was formed, out of an internal disagreement[5] between Chiam and Chee.[6] Chiam chose to leave the SDP; and he joined the SPP. As Members of Parliament (MPs) in Singapore are not supposed to join a party in his/her term unless he/she decides to call a by-election, Chiam would not leave the SDP until 1997. On the other hand, the SDP, headed by Chee, was later sued by Chiam See Tong, for insinuating that Chiam was acting on behalf of the ruling party. SDP lost and was ordered to pay Chiam damages of $150,000. [7]

Chee lost in the 1997 election, in the MacPherson Single Member Constituency; garnering 34.8% of the votes, below the national average for the other opposition candidates for that election.[8]

2001-2005

2001 General Elections and its aftermath

In the Singapore General Election, Chee led another team, losing with 20.2% of the votes in Jurong GRC in 2001. After the election, Chee was sued for defamation by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew for remarks he made during the General Election. He allegedly accused both Goh and Lee for misleading Parliament over an alleged $17 billion loan to former Indonesian president Suharto. Chee lost the lawsuits and was ordered to pay S$200,000 to Lee and S$300,000 to Goh. Chee was later declared a bankrupt in 2006, for failing to pay the damages.

In 2002, Chee was fined S$3,000 for speaking at the Speakers' Corner in Singapore on 15 February 2002, which requires prior registration and where discussion about race and religion is prohibited. Chee was commenting about the suspension of three Muslim schoolgirls whose parents wanted them to wear headscarves in school. Chee commented that it is against the parents' personal choice to force their children not to wear headscarves.[9]. As a result of this conviction, Chee was ineligible for the 2006 general election.

Later on Labour Day, 1 May 2002, Chee staged a rally in front of Istana, official residence and office of the President of Singapore. Chee had earlier applied for a license to hold the rally, but the application was denied. Chee was later charged for trespassing and for attempting to hold a rally without a license by the Police.[10].

Disallowed Documentary

In 2004, Martyn See directed a documentary on Dr. Chee called Singapore Rebel. It was supposed to be screened at the Singapore International Film Festival but was forced to be withdrawn from the festival and later banned by the Singapore government because of its political content. Singapore's Film Act forbids the production and distribution of "party political" films, which are defined as films "made by any person and directed towards any political ends in Singapore". Martyn See agreed to surrender the film on 29 August 2005 along with his video camera, though he still faces the threat of prosecution. Despite the Singapore government's efforts to stop the distribution of such a documentary, the documentary is available on the Internet. [11]

2006-present

2006 election

Despite a recent rule in Singapore that bans podcasting during elections, [12] Chee released a political podcast nevertheless on 23 April 2006. However, it was, on the order of the Elections Department, removed by 25 April 2006. [13] On 27 April 2006, Chee challenged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to a public debate about the government role in the NKF scandal during a forum held in the National University of Singapore, titled - "The General Election: Does Singapore have a choice?"[14]

On the same day, nomination day for Singapore's General Election 2006, SDP chairman Ling How Doong was reported to say the party's executive committee is planning to remove Dr Chee Soon Juan as its secretary-general. This was quickly debunked by both Chee and chairman Ling, with them blaming the local media as being a government mouthpiece and waging a campaign against the SDP. [15] At the 2006 General Elections, the SDP was the worst performer at the polls. They are the only party that did not garner at least 25% of the votes. [16]

Civil disobedience at Annual Meetings of IMF and World Bank

On August 22, 2006, Chee announced that he was planning to hold rallies and marches in Singapore during 61st Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group as part of Singapore 2006 in September 2006 to protest against the rising income gap and raise awareness of the hardship of working-class people in the country. [17][18][19] The police application for the protest was rejected on 30 August 2006.[20] Nonetheless, Chee, in the SDP website, continued to urge people to participate in the protest. [21] [22]

On September 9, 2006, Chee started to alert the public to the planned "Empower Singaporeans Rally and March" on September 16, 2006 by distributing leaflets but was stopped by the police from doing so. The police then reminded the public that anyone participating in Chee's planned rally and march would be committing an offence.[23][24]

On September 13, 2006, Chee invited both Mr Paul Wolfowitz, President of World Bank and Mr Rodrigo de Rato y Figaredo, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, to his planned rally on September 16, 2006. At a press conference the next day, Chee announced that his application to be a civil society representative to Singapore 2006 as a representative of the Open Singapore Centre, was rejected by the IMF/World Bank. His sister and party's member Chee Siok Chin's application to represent the Alliance for Reform & Democracy in Asia, was approved by the IMF/World Bank but was rejected by the Singapore government.[25][26] On September 15, 2006, Chee released a podcast that warned Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that the Singapore 2006 event was a "public relations disaster" for Singapore. [27]

On September 16, 2006, Chee started off the "Empower Singaporeans Rally and March" at 1100 at the Speakers' Corner, Singapore, Hong Lim Park but was stopped by the police when he started his march.[28][29] As the police had formed a human barricade to stop him whenever he resumed his march, Chee announced at 1730 that there would be a rally the following day in front of the Parliament House.[30] Nevertheless, Chee was stopped from leaving the park unless he agreed to stop the protest immediately. Left with no choice, he stayed at the park with his party's members and supporters.[31]

On September 17, 2006, Chee announced his plan to continue the protest by remaining at the park until the start of the IMF-World Bank meetings two days away. On September 18, 2006, after hours of negotiations with police, Chee went to Raffles City to hand out pamphlets to the public and he returned to the park.[32] Chee stopped his protest accordingly at noon on September 19 and concluded that his protest had achieved its purpose.[33] Chee further announced that the just concluded 72-hour protest was only a start. Chee mentioned that for the next few months, more activists would be recruited and trained, and more activities would be organized for the campaign to bring pressure on the Singapore Government to reform.[34]

2006 bankruptcy and contempt of court

On 10 February 2006, Chee was declared a bankrupt by the High Court, after failing to pay S$500,000 in damages awarded to Goh and Lee in the 2001 defamation lawsuit. Upon this bankruptcy order, Chee will not be allowed to stand for elections until February 2011. [35]

On 24 February 2006, Singapore attorney-general filed contempt of court charges against Chee for refusing to answer court's questions and criticising the Singapore judiciary during a bankruptcy petition hearing on February 10. [36] Later, Chee was sentenced to a day in jail and a fine of $6,000, but he failed to pay the fine and was jailed for an additional seven days. [37] [38] He was released on 24 March 2006. [39]

In April 2006, Chee was stopped at the airport as he was preparing to board a flight to Istanbul. He is currently facing a charge for attempting to leave the country without official approval, which he was required to seek as a bankrupt.[40]

NKF incident

On 21 April 2006, Chee rejected an offer by Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan to call for a Commission of Inquiry to look into his ministry's handling of the NKF Scandal, instead he asked the government to stop all their 'wayang'. [41] This came after the former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had demanded an apology from SDP (including Chee) for their slanderous remarks on the NKF in the latest issue of its party newspaper, The New Democrat.[42] In it, SDP insinuated that the government was run like the NKF, and had covered up the infamous NKF Scandal that had rocked Singapore, suggesting corruption at the highest level.

The SDP, its 12 members and its printer, Sum Kwai Lum trading as Melodies Press Company, had until 10am April 25, to respond to the demands for an apology. This apology, according to the text set out in the letters of demand, was to be published in two local dailies on April 27, failing which both leaders would sue all parties involved. But the SDP announced ahead of time they would not be apologising. However, currently all members of the SDP and the printer have apologised except Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin.

The defamation lawsuit by the PAP leaders Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong and Goh Chok Tong, against Chee, his sister and the SDP for insinuating that the government was run like the NKF is ongoing.[43]

Charges for speaking in public without a permit

On 20 June 2006, Chee was charged in court facing eight counts of speaking in public without a licence between 13 November 2005 and 22 April 2006, allegedly violating the Public Entertainments and Meeting Act. Two other SDP members were also charged. [44]

On 23 November 2006, Chee was jailed for five weeks over his failure to pay a S$5,000 fine for speaking in public without a permit in April 2006. Two other SDP members, Gandhi Ambalam and Yap Keng Ho, were also imprisoned.[45]

Alleged Poisoning In Prison

While serving prison in November 2006, Chee reportedly became ill, leading to speculations from the SDP that he was poisoned. From a statement released by SDP [46], Chee was feeling nauseous and dizzy, and was unable to sleep.

Four days later, the Ministry of Home Affairs asserted that Chee was treated the 'same as other prisoners' and that the SDP's claims were 'baseless, malicious and seek to undermine the reputation of the Singapore Prison Service'.[47] On December 3, 2006, after the doctor at the Queenstown Remand Prison had found traces of blood in Dr Chee's urine, he was admitted to Changi General Hospital. [48] On 10 December 2006, about a dozen of Chee's supporters, including Chee's family and his sister Chee Siok Chin, held a protest march starting at the Speakers' Corner in Singapore and ending at Queenstown Remand Prison where Chee was incarcerated.[49] Several foreign non-government organisations released statements expressing concerns about Chee's health and treatment in prison.[50]

Chee was released on 16 December, 2 weeks short of his sentence, for good behavior in jail.[46] Two days later, he published a statement on what happened during his stint in jail. He claimed that his food tray was marked, and that the light in his cell had remained on during the night, causing sleep deprivation. [51] Two days later, the Ministry of Home Affair replied to this, claiming "Chee’s insinuations about being the victim of a food conspiracy are ridiculous and a product of his own mischief..." and that "Chee’s purported 'ailment' in prison served only to provide an expedient story for his associates and foreign supporters to faithfully distort and exploit for political mileage." [50] Chee immediately released another statement rebutting MHA, claiming "the MHA’s statement is riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions and outright lies." [52]

Another hearing began for Dr. Chee began on 8 January 2007 for attempting to leave the country without a permit.[53]

Tak Boleh Tahan arrests and trial

On March 15, 2008, Chee Soon Juan and 17 others were arrested at a demonstration held outside Parliament and later charged with unlawful assembly. The trial began on October 23, 2008.

Internationalisation of Singapore Domestic Politics

In an interview with Asia Times Online, Chee made a statement to the effect that he is working towards internationisation of Singapore domestic politics. "The constitution states that any law that runs contrary to the constitution will be void. This is something that needs to be brought up internationally," he said. His SDP party has also been granted observer status to Liberal International, a world federation of liberal political parties. "SDP has signed an agreement with the Commonwealth countries, where Singapore is a party, to include respect for fundamental human rights and civil liberties," said Chee, who has also hired Amsterdam & Peroff to take up his case against the government,[1]whose members have recently filed law suits against news publications that have run Chee's critical comments. "We are trying to pursue this and some of the international community would hopefully pay more attention and encourage Singapore to be part of the civilized world."[54]

Chee already was made Chairman of the Asian Alliance for Reforms and Democracy, and have been engaged by the National Endowment for Democracy.

In December 2006, the SDP alleged that Chee's health has deteriorated while in prison due to toxic food provided by prison officials. The SDP has made it an international public relations exercise against the Singapore Government, causing it to respond to the media and human rights organisations in Western countries.(See below, Singapore Responds)

At the beginning of 2009, Chee had also posted a video message to the newly appointed US President, "Video Message To President Obama".[2]. This message was never officially replied to by the Obama Administration. President Obama instead has met the Prime Minister and the Minister Mentor.

Later in November 2009, his lawyer firm conducted a public relations exercise to attack Singapore on "human rights" and called upon President Obama to confront Singapore leaders.[3]

Singapore's Political Leaders On Chee

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had this to say about Chee: “He’s a liar, he’s a cheat, he’s deceitful, he’s confrontational, it’s a destructive form of politics designed not to win elections in Singapore but to impress foreign supporters and make himself out to be a martyr,” Mr. Lee ranted. “He’s deliberately going against the rules because he says, ‘I’m like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. I want to be a martyr.’ Minister Mentor and ex-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said much the same things about Mr. Chee, “a political gangster, a liar and a cheat”. ”[55]

“He’s a liar, a cheat, and altogether an unscrupulous man,” Mr. Lee Kuan Yew said of Chee at another occasion. “I could also add that I’ve had several of my own doctors who are familiar with such conduct,” he continued, “tell me that he is near-psychopath.”[56]

Singapore Responds

The Singapore Government issued a press release on 11 November 2009 centering on the political activities of Chee Soon Juan, the defamation cases against him and his inability or/and unwillingness to defend himself in court, the court cases concerning his civil disobedience activities and contempt-of-court cases, and his reactions to all these judicial judgements.[57]

The press release was a response to queries on the “White Paper on The Repression of Political Freedoms in Singapore: The Case of Opposition Leader Dr Chee Soon Juan” by Amsterdam & Peroff.[4]

In December 2006, the Singapore Government responded to a number of Western human rights organisations and media queries regarding his alleged mistreatment and food poisoning in prison. [58][59][60][61][62][63]

Works

  • Dare to Change: An Alternative Vision for Singapore (Singapore Democratic Party: 1994)
  • Singapore, My Home Too (1995)
  • To Be Free: Stories from Asia's Struggle Against Oppression (Monash Asia Institute: 1998)
  • Your Future, My Faith, Our Freedom: A Democratic Blueprint for Singapore (Singapore Open Centre: 2001)
  • The Power of Courage: Effecting Political Change in Singapore Through Nonviolence (2005)
  • A Nation Cheated (2008)

References

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External links


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