Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dr. Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party believes in the power of peaceful protests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore watchers would have no doubt whatsoever that Dr. Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party believes in the power of peaceful protest against despots, the likes of Lee Kuan Yew. He has himself engaged in it at a very heavy price, being repeatedly jailed for it.

Chee's belief in protests as a vehicle for change is evident once again in today's Singapore Democrat his party online blog,, where he prominently has 2stories on it.

One headline at the very top of his page reads "Jasyln Goh congratulates Egyptian opposition leader", Singapore Democrats, Feb 13, 2011 about Goh, a member of his party congratulating Ayman Nour, an Egyptian opposition politician, having met him earlier in Cairo, on his successfully overthrowing Mubarak through Tahrir Square's peaceful protests.

The other story, which also prominently appears a little further down on the same front page page reads "How non violent protests defeat injustice", an article by Niclous Mills of CNN, It compares the recent successful overthrowing of Mubarak in Cairo with the peaceful protests of American Martin Luther King Jr, and why there should be no doubt whatsoever on the power of peaceful protest to overcome tyranny anywhere in the world.

I have known all along Chee's belief in it, and that is why, thankfully we are both on the same page as far as Singapore is concerned.

So my next question to him is this, why have you stopped? We have not had another peaceful protest for several months now since the last Tak Boleh Tahan protests. Of course protesting in Singapore comes with a price, as it does in Egypt or in any other totalitarian regime in the world. But that price is worth paying as Egypt has clearly shown us.

It should be wrong to misunderstand Singaporeans. One hears very often that Singaporeans are averse to such things as protests, they only want to make money, they are selfish, blah blah blah. Well my question to these nay sayers is this, how do you know that? Have you forgotten that Singaporeans in their earlier days were very political people? Have you forgotten the numerous strikes for better wages and conditions in the 1960s and the struggle to end British occupation?

If Singaporeans have not protested for the last 30 years or so, it is not because they have no opinions about anything, it is because Lee Kuan Yew has made the peaceful exercise of these fundamental rights enjoyed by anyone else in the world, illegal and severly punished. So instead of acting normally as anyone else would, the Singaporean goes into his cocoon of indifference and apathy about anything that goes on about him.

I keep writing in this blog to persuade Singaporeans to do the right thing to stand up to the despot there. I am an American citizen. I personally have nothing to gain, other than having the satisfaction of having done the little I could to make Lee Kuan Yew's repressive control over his people a little more unpleasant for him. Perhaps a few more reading this blog would realize the repression under which they live and do something about it.

In fighting repressive and dictatorial regimes around the world, everyone's effort, no matter how small does make a difference. It is the continuing effort of men like myself abroad who write and those in Singapore like Chee and his associates who keep up the pressure on the despot, that eventually brings him down. What really matters is the credibility of the ruler. If he loses it, like Lee Kuan Yew now, he loses everything.

I can assure you my entanglements with the Lee Kuan Yew over the last 27 years from 1984 has hurt him, there is no doubt about it.

When I was in Singapore practicing law in the 1980s, Lee Kuan Yew brought a series of false disciplinary actions against me, such as suspending me from practicing law for 2 years merely because I wrote a letter to the then Attorney General asking questions and being fined for a making a speech at an election rally in 1991 on the appointment of subordinate Court judges.

Of course Lee was doing this following the Chinese saying of "Kill a chicken to frighten the monkeys". In other words he wanted to warn other lawyers not to be like me to criticize him or challenge his authority. The consequence of these actions were completely unexpected and backfired very badly. It is true that he frightened all the lawyers, but he was so successful in it, so much so that after these cases and those against the late JB Jeyaretnam, nearly half the legal profession resigned in disgust and left for Australia for settlement!

Now the Law Society of Singapore has refused many times to tell me over the phone how many lawyers are practicing in Singapore, demanding that I write a letter to them first! I have no doubt they are embarrassed to tell me the figure. Perhaps it has come down as low as 2,000 from the 3,000 reported some time ago. Imagine that, only 2,000 lawyers in an island of 5 million people!

If Chee now commenced public peaceful protests, no doubt Lee Kuan Yew would have everyone arrested and charged. But the question is whether this would do Lee any good? I think not. Of course he would frighten Singaporeans even more, but on the whole he would be losing. The emigration rate to the West, high as it is, would become even higher. For a small island such as this, it is simply not not feasible. Lee would be left with no Singaporeans at all in his Singapore island.

By any reckoning, I think the Singapore government is very weak now, being hit on all sides. You have unstoppable emigration, lack of babies, insufficient English language speakers in government departments, spiralling crime rate and ever increasing income gap.

Lee Kuan Yew should now rethink both the wisdom of Machiavelli or the Chinese saying about killing the chicken. It now seems that killing that proverbial chicken is ending up in his having more problems, not less. For one, this one Chicken whom he killed, Gopalan Nair, is now turning to hurt him more from the grave than he when he was alive!

I am sure Chee has protests in his mind. If he does not do it now, which I think is as opportune a time as any other, he will do it when Lee Kuan Yew kicks the bucket, which I think is just around the corner anyway. But do it, he will. I think now is as good a time as any other for any Singaporean to take that bucket to Lee Kuan Yew's house in Oxley Road, Singapore. He may even want to kick it, the bucket that is, tomorrow.

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

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Anonymous said...

As the saying goes two swallows do not make a summer Dr Chee Soon Juan cannot do it in the Singapore context. If he were to protest in the streets, people will just pass by and comment he is "siao". Neither will his self-immolation help. The "bo chap" mentality is so strong in Singapore that protest is not in their vocabulary. What is concerning them and cares about is who's got an MBA and how much will he earn.

The younger generation of people in their 20s do not care about politics and these are the people to be relied on in any mass protest. The PAP is even finding difficulty fielding young MPs. They must have the stamina to stage out for days and this is not for the old people. If there is insufficiency of numbers then Lee Kuan Yew's anti riot squad will outnumber them and have them all arrested and put to jail.

Come on Gopalan, don't give them stupid advice. Advise them to pray and let God be God.

Anonymous said...

The people of Singapore dare not even vote out Lee Kuan Yew through the ballot box so do you think they have the guts to stage open protest in the streets? Lets be realistic.

Anonymous said...

it is useless - peaceful protests not allowed, the junta running singapore is beginning to jail pap troublemakers ahead of the election.

meanwhile, the transparency singapore immigration has forgotten to announce the arrival of poverty creator, the hyperinflation and land management expert - zimbabwe president robert mugabe to the singapore eye checkup.

both lee kuan yew and robert mugabe will have a lot of things to talk about, esp about turning a blind eye to their people aspirations.

Anonymous said...

Dr Chee should start a peaceful protest now. Its now or never. A replica of Eygpt is possible now with Iran, Algeria and Bahrain also surfing the tide of peaceful protest. Its now or never for Singapore. "San san lai, hood kah see" (Come with courage, fight to the end)

D said...

Mr nair, you must have a vivid imagination. Singapore is so very repressed indeed. -.- Yeah, right. The reason nobody protests is prob cause there's no reason to. And MM Lee is very well-respected here anyway. How could you carelessly curse him like that!