Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Singapore. Congratulations Chee Soon Juan. Should we rejoice or is it too early to tell

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In a surprise move, after the Lee Ruling Family had for about 3 decades, sued him for defamation in the courts, jailed him repeatedly and holding him under literal house arrest, denying him the right to engage in politics, denying him the right to travel out of Singapore, now suddenly out of the blue, they are about to release him from bankruptcy and allow him to contest parliamentary elections in Singapore.

Please see the article in Singapore state controlled newspaper the Straits Times dated Sept 11, 2012, "Chee's offer of $30K to settle case accepted by former leaders"

It sounds almost too good to be true, but is it? I am not so sure.

If indeed the Lee Ruling Family who have kept Singapore island under their iron grip for the last 52 years, jailing and bankrupting anyone who dared threaten their monopoly on power have suddenly become magnanimous and embraced democracy, it would indeed be an unprecedented event anywhere in the world in it's entire history, because we know that no tyrant has ever willingly agreed to share power with anyone.

Singapore today is, as you know almost the private property of the Lee Ruling Family. They control the press, the entire media, the law courts, all the big businesses and Housing and Development Board in whose apartments almost every single Singaporean lives. There is no right to free speech or expression, no right to peaceful assembly and anyone criticizing them is liable to defamation charges and a prompt bankruptcy.

We also know that without such repression over their people, the Lee ruling Family would not be able to last a day without being overthrown.

In these circumstances, by releasing Chee Soon Juan, the Lee Family's most strident and implacable critic, is the government trying to tell us that they have now had a paradigm shift from dictatorship to democracy, which would also automatically mean the end of the absolute control of the Lees over his people?

Also remember, that as far as we know till now, Chee has been the only one who has all along publicly championed the right to free speech and expression, the right to a free press, the rule of law, the right to assembly and every other right that democracies enjoy around the world.

By allowing Chee to take part in politics, are they now saying that they accept the need to restore democracy to Singapore, which by extension would be the end of their own power?

I think not. My following observations lead me to that belief.

Firstly, you would have noticed that since 2008, the time I was last in Singapore and deported from the island, Chee had not engaged anymore in public protests; not a single one; whereas in the past he had carried them out numerous times, either alone or with others, as his belief always was (and rightly so) that the Lee dictatorship cannot be toppled without peaceful civil disobedience. In fact his idols have all along been as far as I know, men like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who brought down the British Empire and racial discrimination in America.

Secondly we have noticed that many who were with him in the struggle for decades are now nowhere to be seen. Gandhi Ambalam was his right had man and Chairman of his party for decades. Today, Gandhi is no longer the Chairman or even in his party, the Singapore Democratic Party, replaced by Jufrie Mahmood.

He also had a youth wing associated with the party which had activists such as Seelan Pallay and Kai Xiong, who were both arrested for numerous peaceful democracy political protests throughout the island. They are no longer seen either with him or his party.

I myself used to be a regular contributor to his blog the Singapore Democrat in the past, and was close to him and his party during my visit to Singapore in 2008 which ended up in my arrest for criticizing Judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean, Lee's Kangaroo judge for misusing the law to bankrupt and jail him. I have to say that the help he gave me during that time was beyond measure for which I would be forever grateful.

At some point of time after 2008, I was given the cold shoulder and received several Emails from anonymous people that I should no longer associate myself with Chee's party because Chee is trying to get into Parliament and radicals such as I would become an impediment. I am of course not sure wheather those Emails were either from his party members or from the government’s cyber brigade, an organization set up like a 5th Column intended to harass and intimidate Lee’s opponents.

Although conjecture and I have no real evidence of this, I believe that Chee in his need to somehow get into Parliament has decided that the only way to do it is not to anger the Singapore Superman Lee Kuan Yew and that open challenges such as public protests will not further that plan.

But I want to tell Dr. Chee, if indeed that is his plan, that this is not the way. One has to do the right thing. And the right thing is to demand that the rights that people are supposed to enjoy must be resorted to the people first, before anything else. There can simply be no dialogue and no debate until and unless the Lee Ruling Family is made to accept this fact. And the only way to get these rights back is to protest, demonstrate and agitate until such time the Lees finally give in, because otherwise Chee would serve no purpose in Parliament.

People should realize that Parliamentary debates make no sense and are useless, unless these fundamental rights are restored to the people. It makes no sense to argue that cost of living should be reduced if the government would simply ignore it, because they control the press, because they can arrest anyone they want, and because they control the police and courts and could bankrupt anyone the moment you criticize.

If indeed Chee Soon Juan is going into Parliament to become another Loh Thia Khiang of the Workers Party, which claims to be opposition, but is in fact merely an extension of Lee's PAP, it is not going to do any good to anyone.

I would ask Chee to remember, that he carries with him the hope of countless Singaporeans, both within and outside Singapore as the torch bearer for democracy. They have waited very long for this, and so have I, and I hope Chee would have the courage to do the right thing, and not be another Workers Party because with them, Hell will freeze over and Satan would ride to work in a snow sledge.

It should be either democracy or none at all. I think many Singaporeans think this way too. Otherwise we might as well embrace the Workers Party. I hope Chee Soon Juan takes heed.

Congratulations Chee Soon Juan. Please do the right thing. We depend on you.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
Fremont, California
Tel: 510 491 4375


Anonymous said...

I completely support Chee's approach. His situation is similar to that of Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar.

After half a century of PAP rule, the majority do not care for civil liberty in Singapore at present. It will be a long road to bring true democracy to Singapore. I applaud Chee and his supporters' effort and I wish them the best.

Anonymous said...

Some inside information.
There has been lots of pressure from USA to the PAP to open up and allow diverse views.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gopalan

Do not be too happy yet. I guess this is just a trap.

Erik said...

Maybe what is needed is an ad hoc organisation which by peaceful means demands free speech and the right to assembly. The Serbian movement Otpor may be worth remembering in this respect.

Gopalan Nair said...

To anonymous who said

"I completely support Chee's approach. His situation is similar to that of Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar".

I am not so sure. Singapore is not Burma. It has always been an international city, no9t an agricultural backwater, and concepts such as rights are very much part of the Singapore psyche.

What Lee has done is to supress it with force and as a result almost the entire intellegensia have packed up and left mainly for Australia.

No, giving in the Lees is not the approach. They will never give up power unless you wrest it from them. I know that. Chee knows that too.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Anonymous who said

"Some inside information.
There has been lots of pressure from USA to the PAP to open up and allow diverse views".

All I have to say is this is Rubbish. I think you don't understand American foreign policy. The last thing in the world they desire, despite their lip service to the contrary, is more human rights in Singapopre.

The bottom line for them is the free trade policy of Singapore, even more oppurtunities for American companies and even more big bucks.

Singapore is a big friend of Amerca. So is Isreal. So is the dictatorship Bahrain. So was Philippines under the dictator Marcos, Iran under the Shah and ever other tin pot dictator in Latin America which toes the US line.

Why do you think Lee's son bends over backwards (and even forwards if necessary) for the Amercians anytime any day?

The US does not really care until such time that Lee commits genocide. So far he has not. So everthing is good becase free trade and US dollars are flowing.

Wake up. You have lot's to learn.

There was no US pressure. I can assure you that.

What really matters in US foreign policy is free trade, and American security interests. Singapore provides that. It makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Like reading your blog. But, I take you for what you are - a bull in a China shop.

CSJ needs to surgically lance the boil that is the Lee Family. Associating with you at this time will not be good for his cause.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Anonymous who said

Like reading your blog. But, I take you for what you are - a bull in a China shop"

I may be the bull in the China shop but if you think Chee would further his cause by moderation, which means forgetting the abuse of the law, the lack of a free press, accepting the prohibition of even peaceful protests or even agreeing with Lee that Singapore is in fact a democracy; I think all that will not further his case one bit.

What it will do is simply perpetuate the Lee Dynasty even further. That is exactly what the so called Workers Party opposition are doing.

At this moment I am not sure what Chee is going to do. I am not sure anyone else knows. So anymore theories on what the new Chee will be is entirely speculation.

Anonymous said...

The USA and Australia, among others, are stopping Communist Chinese companies Huawei and Zte from selling telecom equipment in their countries due to fears of spying and hidden trap doors in their equipment.

Meanwhile, the LEE family continues to bring in boatloads of communist Chinese into Singapore and give them PR and citizenship!

I think LEE are agents of China, and let them use Singapore to control Indonesia and Malaysia.

Erik Strand said...

Do yuo think it would be a good idea to formulate an online petition for the right to free speech and peaceful assembly in Singapore? It could be a means of spreading information and encouraging people to take a standpoint, both within Singapore and internationally.

mycroft said...

Perhaps you're doing Dr Chee a disservice by questioning his relative silence of late. I submit that after 20 years of opposing the PAP head-on he has made his point about non-violent confrontation. It would be indeed astounding if we assume by his recent lack of histrionics that he is abandoning the principles he holds dear and which he has time and again reiterated in speeches and writings.

It is manifest that his previous quietly stubborn but very public dissent has gained little traction with the majority of chickenshit Singaporeans who quite frankly do not deserve a person of Chee's calibre on their side. Personally I would have washed my hands of them long ago but Chee seems determined - perhaps it's now a very personal feud engraved in his psyche - to persevere, so a new tack is called for to carry the fight to the Lee faction.

He needs to sidestep PAP's iron grip on having the last say on what gets reported in the media and Parliament is the ideal, very public forum whose doings are a matter of record, open to public scrutiny and awkward to muzzle without people noticing. The time and tides post-2008 are moving in his favour for a change. So the MP Chee would I suspect be a far more formidable opponent than the lonely protestor of one, bravely standing up for the peoples' rights in front of the Istana and swiftly being bundled into the back of a police Black Maria for his pains. Doing that to a hapless dissident is one thing, doing it an elected MP is quite another.

Chee in Parliament does not necessarily have to be another tongue-tied 'silent Low' does he? Chee in Parliament - protected by the shield of Parliamentary Privilege - is more likely to follow in the footsteps of JBJ who so harried and enraged LKY that he had to be got rid of by egregious manipulation of the law and rigging the electoral process, to wit the introduction of GRCs (an indelible stain on LKY's reputation to this day).

Hopefully Dr Chee will take his rightful place in Parliament and with that Singaporeans will finally gain an articulate voice that is more than a match for father and son, as he has ably demonstrated in court before.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Mycroft who said

"Perhaps you're doing Dr Chee a disservice by questioning his relative silence of late".

I am sorry but I have to repeat what I have said all along. There isn't a better way to rid of this tyranny, there is only one way; which is ensuring first of all, fundamental human rights are restored to the people. Because without them, there is no use of Chee going into Parliament because the next minute he would be out of it.

I am suprised to hear you talking of parliamentry privilege, in of all places, Singapore. No, there is no parliamentary privilege. There is Lee Kuan Yew privilege.

Which reminds me of the movie Breaker Morant. In it, some Australian soldiers fighting the Boer in the Transvaal, South Africa, 1901, were charged with shooting 3 Boer prisoners, in circumstances where it was common practice to shoot them instead of taking prisoners (although a violation of the rules of war).

At their court martial, they were asked under what rule they shot them. Their tounge in cheek response was "We caught them and we shot them under Rule 303".

303 was the calibre of Lee Enfield rifle which was standard issue in the British Army.

mycroft said...

If even the squandering of $105 billion dollars of the Reserves, if the continued refusal to return their hard-earned CPF savings in full upon retirement as promised, if PAP callousness and incompetence has led to HDB homes receding ever further from affordability, if the swamping of the country with aliens to snatch away 'ungrateful' native citizens' jobs - just to name but a few of the spurs in their hides - if all of these push factors still cannot make Singaporeans take to the streets in outrage, what makes you think Dr Chee's return to street protest AGAIN will magically rally these people to rise up and overthrow the Man? Ain't gonna happen anytime soon and Chee, I think, has probably reluctantly arrived at that very conclusion.

Therein lies the cunning of Lee's 'soft' dictatorship model - allow the digits just enough crumbs to keep them hoping that there'll be some jam tomorrow and while there may well be mutterings of discontent in the background about the meagre feast, the streets will remain grudgingly silent. Especially when your state-controlled media tells them they've never had it so good, ad nauseum, and your police dogs round up the determinedly recalcitrant.

No, there has to be a new approach to reaching out to that peculiar Singaporean electorate mindset which shies away from direct confrontation almost at any cost. In his thank you message to his supporters who cleared his $30k fine in a record 10 days, CSJ hints at SDP's new thinking and this updated, more considered, smarter, plan I think does stand a fighting chance of getting the SDP elected. Clearly, sticking to 'more of the same' has shown itself to be a fruitless tactic and it has been rightly consigned to the back-burner.