Thursday, January 22, 2009

A letter to President Barack Obama


President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20500

Jan 22, 2009 First Class Mail

Dear President Obama,

I would like to congratulate you in becoming the President of the United States. In your presidency, you carry the hope of many around the world who seek freedom. I believe that with your presidency, we can achieve a new age where freedom will be the bedrock upon which everything else will depend.

This letter is a plea to you to help the countless people in Singapore who are suffering under the crushing yoke of Lee Kuan Yew's dictatorship. One of his victims is myself.

I wish to tell you my story.

I am an American citizen, born in Singapore and formerly a Singapore citizen. I lived most of my life in Singapore, and was educated there. I then went to England to read law and was admitted to the English Bar. Thereafter I returned to Singapore, was admitted to the Singapore Bar, and practiced there law until 1991, when I came to the United States, obtained asylum for the persecution I suffered for my political beliefs. I was admitted to the California Bar and have been practicing law here ever since.

On May 26, 2008, I went to Singapore to observe a defamation of character trial in which the Minister Mentor of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew and his son, the Prime Minister were suing Dr. Chee Soon Juan and his sister Miss Chee Siok Chin who are opposition politicians, for having written an article critical of them.

Being a lawyer and someone personally involved in Singapore politics, this trial was of particular interest for me, especially since it was publicized that Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin will be cross examining Lee and his son. This particular hearing was to decide the quantum of damages the court will award to the Lees since they had already won this lawsuit earlier. This hearing was scheduled to be heard by Judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean in the Singapore High Court from May 26, 2008 to May 28, 2008. I planned my trip to Singapore to last from May 26, 2008 to June 1, 2008, a period of 7 days to enable me to attend the trial as an observer and return after spending the remaining few days in Singapore.

I was in Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean's court for all 3 days listening to the trial. Throughout the 3 days, this Judge was completely biased in favor of the Lees. She did not give the Defendant Dr. Chee Soon Juan or his sister Miss Chee Siok Chin any meaningful opportunity to defend themselves. Anyone who had observed the trial would have walked away with the same opinion. Full details of Judge Ang's complete abdication of her judicial responsibility is well documented in Dr. Chee Soon Juan blog,

On the 29th of May, 2008 in Singapore, after the court hearing was over, I wrote a blog post on my blog "Singapore Dissident", entitled Singapore. Judge Belinda Ang's Kangaroo Court in which I criticized her conduct in her judicial capacity during the 3 days of trial. I am attaching a copy of this blog post.

On Saturday May 31, 2008 at about 8.30 pm, while I was descending from my 7th Floor hotel room at Broadway Hotel, Serangoon Road, Singapore, I was arrested by 5 plain clothes policemen when the elevator door opened at the ground floor lobby. I was handcuffed, pushed back into the elevator, rode to the floor where my room was ransacked and my American passport and personal documents confiscated. I was then driven in their police car to Central Police Station where I was kept in solitary confinement for 6 days during which time I was repeatedly interrogated day and night and accused of having sent Emails to this judge and others, which I never did. I was charged for this. The charge read that I had insulted the judge in the Emails.

When I denied ever sending any Emails, I was charged under the Sedition Act of Singapore for having insulted this judge and told that I will be sentenced to a prison term of up to 3 years if convicted. Subsequently, they reverted back to the Email charge. Finally I was charged for having insulted this judge because I had written this blog post in my blog.

The Singapore Constitution has a provision like in most other constitutions of the world guaranteeing free speech, expression and assembly. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights guarantees this right to every person in this world regardless of race creed or religion. In my writing this blog post in criticism of this judge, I was acting just as any other human being is entitled to act.

After holding me in solitary confinement for 6 days, they officially charged me in court on June 5, 2008. I was then released on bail. My case was fixed for hearing before Judge Kan Ting Chiu on September 08, 2008. Although I had made several requests for my case to be heard sooner so that I can return to my law practice in California, the court simply refused. Two attempts for the court to release my passport to enable me to travel to the US in the interim to take care of business, even though supported by the American Embassy were also ignored.

This meant that I had to remain in Singapore throughout this period which will result in my suffering severe financial harm due to neglecting my practice this entire time of 6 months. I was not able to earn any income from my US practice as well as having to maintain myself to live in Singapore during these months.

Eventually the case came to trial. Judge Kan Ting Chiu was determined to send me to prison. No amount of argument by me in saying that writing a blog post was lawful criticism and a human right, made any difference to him. On the 17th of September 2008, he sentenced me to 3 months imprisonment, a sentence much harsher than even thieves and robbers receive.

On the 20th of November 2008, I was released from prison, allowed to remain in Singapore for 5 days until the 26th of November 2008 when I was permitted to leave Singapore. The Singapore Immigration Department has placed a condition that I am not allowed to enter Singapore again unless I have the written permission of the Singapore Immigration and Customs Authority. This effectively means that I am banned from ever returning to my country of birth.

Since my return to Fremont, California on November 26, 2008, I have been trying to rebuild my law practice which has been shattered. I have also been financially ruined by my forced stay in Singapore for 6 months, from which I am trying to recover.

Despite Lee Kuan Yew's attempts to show Singapore as a democracy, it is far from it. Today, Singaporeans live in mortal fear of their government. The constitution is completely ignored. Singapore Parliament is merely a rubber stamp, the country being run entirely on the dictates of this one man, Lee Kuan Yew. Although the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, the law requires permits to engage in such activity and permits are never granted. With one party rule, the people have no legal means to voice their dissent. Dr. Chee Soon Juan and other activists have engaged in peaceful protests for which they have been repeatedly charged and sent to prison. At this very moment, Singapore human rights activists, Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Siok Chin and Yap Keng Ho are undergoing a trial for having engaged in a peaceful assembly, one of the many they have suffered.

In Singapore today, there is no free press. Every single newspaper and news media is controlled by the government. The judiciary is entirely politicized and they invariably abuse the law to punish political opponents. The Internal Security Act, giving the government the right to detain people without trial is being used. There are a number of people presently detained in Singapore under this law. The police force is being used as Lee Kuan Yew's private army to arrest detain and charge his political opponents.

Dear President, you have said it is your intention to try to uplift people oppressed under the yoke of dictators. You have said you believe strongly in the right of people to achieve their self determination, to live as men and not slaves. This letter that I write carries the hopes of thousands of Singaporeans yearning to be free, to live as free men and women endowed with the human rights they rightly deserve.

Singapore unlike other countries has no hinterland, no farmland, no place where people can survive without government recognition. It is a concrete island where one has no choice but to submit to Lee's dictates, because inviting the wrath of Lee Kuan Yew would mean being destitute. There are people who are able to emigrate leaving Singapore for a freer life elsewhere. But for the vast majority, leaving Singapore is impossible. They have nowhere else to go. And so they live in submission and fear of Lee Kuan Yew's rule.

You have also said you intend to look into tax havens and money laundering centers where foreigners invest to avoid paying taxes in their own countries. It is very well documented that Singapore banks maintain large investments belonging to Burmese drug lords. The US has placed sanctions against the Burmese government. By Singapore permitting these assets from Burma to remain in Singapore, it is clearly hurting the purpose of the US sanctions. American and European businessmen, in order to avoiding taxes in their own countries also bank their moneys there. I hope your office will look into this and demand that Singapore comply with international standards of financial responsibility and stop profiting from illegal funds.

A free and democratic Singapore is a boon for the US, not a bane. Trade between the US and Singapore will increase, not decrease if Singapore becomes a democracy. Nothing is lost and everything is gained by this.

Even though I am an American citizen, Singapore is dear to my heart. It was the place where I was born. I hope to see Singaporeans proud and free, standing up tall as men and women, not the sheepish lives they live now. Dear President, please do what you can for the people of Singapore. Our hopes ride with you.

Thank you Mr. President.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914


Anonymous said...

This is a smart and timely move by you.

I understand the there are sentiments being expressed worldwide placing a lot of unrealistic expectations on Obama to 'save their countries' from the clutches of evil; it must be both infinitely flattering as well as overwhelming that people all over the world have place their hopes on him.

The APEC summit to be held in Singapore in the middle of the year will provide him with a good opportunity to address the Singapore question without us asking him to go out of the way. (I understand fully that in the larger scheme of things, Singapore is as unimportant to the rest of the world - it is only for those who call Singapore home to whom it is important.)

I hope that the SDP initiates a meeting with him - perhaps you can help.

Anonymous said...

Good co-ordination and sync with Dr CSJ!
This is the way fwd, Gopalan Nair! Dr CSJ fires one from S'pore and you fire another similar one from USA! The PAPists will be kept busy.....

Seelan Palay said...

Thank you for this letter, Gopalan.

Anonymous said...

Not trying to be cynical, do you think Obama reads his mails? Do you think your letter would even get pass his personal secretary? Singapore is a valued ally with USA and Obama would be foolish not to keep the status quo in the infancy of his new administration. Mr. Nair, you do know how lonely you are in this Quixotic quest of yours? Why don't you just continue living a good and fruitful life in USA and live the American dream? As an US citizen, do you not feel that by actively participating in local politics there is a conflict of interest?

Gopalan Nair said...

I am living the American dream. But that does not mean I have to stop exposing the Singapore regime which I consider corrupt and dictatorial. I know Singapore intimately. It will be a sin for me to remain silent. There is no conflict of interest at all. The interests of Americans and Singaporeans are not in conflict. I will continue to do whatever I can from here to bring about change there. No matter how small my contribution may be, contribute, I must.

Gopalan Nair said...

Actively participating in local politics? This is an often bandyed about excuse of governments that cannot stand criticism. If my writing this blog, and doing whatever else to bring about change in Singapore is participating in domestic politics, then yes, that is exactly what I intend to do.

Anonymous said...

Gopalan has every right to make a comment on S'pore's political affairs, Assuming Goplan is born to a Singaporean father in Singapore where the practice of "Jus Sanguinis" & "Jus Soli" are respected, then I see no reason why he may not comment. He is very much a Singaporean in my eyes eventhough he holds US passport(which is seems was by default as he had to seek asylum).

Continue the good work Goplan!! Singapore needs a voice!!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, ALL so call OPPOSITIONs instead of just being just ALL TALKED and criticise ONLY with NO ACTION. How do you expect people to take you seriously. Come out with an alternative and better solution than the current system. Which NO OPPOSITION has provided any whatsoever AT ALL ! If you can't than don't wait till action has been taken and start criticising. Everyone knows how to do that ! You will never gain respect from those that you try to reach out to until you show your seriousness.

To me yourself, Chee Soon Juan and your zombie followers are just armchair generals with Air plans ! Not to mention the personal grudge of PERSONAL VENDETTA against the system. Otherwise all action taken is just a JOKE !

Anonymous said...

Our rulers would dearly love for you to cease and desist in your relentless campaign against their chicanery, dear Mr. Nair. Why else would they expend so much time and effort haunting your humble blog trying everything to stop you, from outright crude abuse to appealing to your better nature?

Because you have a talent for writing incisively and have a sharp eye for their egregious behaviour, you are a constant thorn in the side, one for which they have no answer and no remedy now that you're back in the land of the free. Nice to see the shoe on the other foot for a change. As many have discovered, your views are rarely less than eye-opening to read so more power to your elbow to keep harrying our Harry and his merry, greedy men. The cracks in his flawed dogma will be certain to widen even further this year as the recession tightens its grip.

Come APEC, it will be mighty interesting to observe how civil rights lawyer Obama reacts to his first encounter of the worst kind with Singapore's sham democracy. When he goes to a Communist country he knows what to expect, but peaceful protestors here being peremptorily rounded up in advance and jailed like criminals? In a purportedly 1st world democracy? Hmmm. It would be astonishing were he to remain silent in the face of such a blatant abuse of civil rights.

If the World Bank fiasco is any guide, he'll have a lovely ringside view of razor wire and concrete barriers in the heart of main street and will be wondering about the eerie silence... Let's hope the PAP's tiny Rottweiler, Wong Kan Seng, never the sharpest of intellects, will arbitrarily ban him from attending for potentially being likely to cause them a serious mischief.