Source: Singapore Democrats and supporters of Ms Chee outside the Changi Women’s prison

Ms Chee Siok Chin walked out from Changi Prison today after serving a one-week jail term for distributing flyers that were critical of the PAP.

Together with Mr Gandhi Ambalam and Dr Chee Soon Juan, Ms Chee was convicted for distributing flyers in a group of 5 or more persons without a permit outside the Raffles City Shopping Centre in September 2006 which was considered an illegal assembly.

District Judge Chng Lye Beng convicted the three in December last year. All three have appealed the conviction.

Ms Chee, however, chose to go to jail first. (In fact, she may be the first female inmate to enter the facility in 2010, her prison number is 00001-2010.) Judge Chng reminded her that if she served the prison term first the appeal would be academic because the authorities could not compensate her for her lost time if she won the appeal.

The Judge is wrong. Ms Chee is fighting not to avoid going to jail but to demonstrate how wrong the system is.

If opposition politicians cannot come together in groups of 5 or more to “demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government” then what good is the opposition.

It is common knowledge that Singapore is not a democracy, but the decision of this judge has taken the matter to a whole new level.

This is because the Prosecution took pains to emphasize on the phrase “intended to demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government” in its charge (see below). It is unfortunate that Mr Chng has seen it fit to agree with the Executive on this point.

The Defendants contested vigorously that the charge itself of penalising citizens for criticising the actions and policies of the PAP Government is unconstitutional. How can it be an offence to criticise what the Government does? Isn’t the basis of a democracy one where an opposition exists to oppose the actions of the Government? Isn’t it only in a totalitarian state that forbids criticism of the powers-that-be?

More ominously, is the PAP becoming even more oppressive, if that’s possible?

This matter will be brought before the High Court when the appeal is heard in a few months time. It’s decision will be closely watched not just in Singapore but around the world.

Probably more around the world because most Singaporeans don’t know about this episode and the arguments surrounding it. Why? Because the local media has decided to completely blackout this news. It is clear that the PAP is bent on “winning” the argument by banning and keeping information from the public rather than having an open debate and allowing citizens to decide for themselves.

How is Singapore a First World country when its laws are so backward and the media is controlled? More importantly, can Singapore cope in the future when laws oppress Singaporeans to such a frightening degree?

Now can you see why going to jail is the least of Ms Chee’s concerns?

The charge

You are charged that you, on the 10th day of September 2006 at about 12:15 pm, in the vicinity of Raffles City Shopping Centre, North Bridge Road, Singapore, which is a public place, together with 5 persons did participate in an assembly intended to demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government, which assembly you ought reasonably to have known was held without a permit under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) (Assemblies & Processions) Rules, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Rule 5 of the said Rules.

Mark Chua
Senior Investigation Officer
Central Police Division
29 December 2008

Rule 5 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance)(Assemblies & Processions) Rules
Any person who participates in any assembly or processions in any public road, public place or place of public resort shall, if he knows or ought reasonably to have known that the assembly or processions is held without a permit, or in contravention of any term or condition of a permit, be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000.


Posted on behalf of Chee Siok Chin
Source: Singapore Democrats

Ms Chee Siok Chin began serving her one-week jail sentence yesterday after District Judge Chng Lye Beng had found her guilty together with Mr Gandhi Ambalam and Dr Chee Soon Juan for distributing flyers without a permit.

A permit was required because, one, 5 or more persons were involved and, two, the police insist, the flyer was demonstrating “opposition to the actions of the Government.”
The Deputy Public Prosecutor had during the hearing emphasized that it was not the distribution of the flyers per se that was illegal but the content of the flyer which was critical of the policies of the Government was also illegal.

The police witnesses had testified during the trial that distibuting flyers was a common and normal activity. They could not say what offence the Defendants had committed. One even said that in his opinion, the SDP leaders were not committing an offence.

Furthermore, the licensing officer testified that distributing flyers for a commercial cause did not require a permit whereas one was needed if the cause was political. This, of course, is not true because the law (Miscellaneous Offences Act) does not make such a provision.

The Defendants also argued that the fact that the flyer criticised the Government was irrelevant to the charge.

Despite all these, Judge Chng sided with Prosecution and convicted Ms Chee, Mr Ambalam, and Dr Chee, sentencing them to the maximum fine of $1000, or one-week jail in default. (See here)

The three have appealed the conviction. Ms Chee has chosen to serve her sentence first but will continue with her appeal because it is important that the High Court renders its decision and grounds if it upholds the conviction.

Even as she begins serving her sentence, Ms Chee will be brought to court daily for the on-going hearing before District Judge Toh Yung Cheong for a separate charge for “attempting to take part in a procession” during the WB-IMF meeting in 2006.

Immediately after Mr Chng made his decision on 18 Dec 09, Ms Chee stood up and told him:

“I continue to say that what we did was not a crime. Criticising one’s government is a right guaranteed in a democratic society. By finding us guilty you are as good as saying that we do not have this right. By pronouncing us guilty you are also saying that Singapore is not a democratic society and that this government is an undemocratic one.”

Source: Singapore Democrats

District Judge Ch’ng Lye Beng found Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin guilty of distributing pamphlets criticising the PAP Government without a permit and fined the three SDP leaders the maximum amount of $1,000 each with one week’s jail in default.

The Judge agreed with the Prosecution that distributing flyers in a group of 5 or more persons criticising the PAP Government’s policies is an offence. He gave the decision in court yesterday morning, adding that most of the evidence submitted was irrelevant. The group had distributed flyers at the Raffles City Shopping Centre on 10 Sep 06 questioning the ministers’ salaries as well as the denial of political rights to Singaporeans (see here).

Judge Ch’ng did not give reasons for his verdict. The Defendants will appeal the conviction whereupon the Judge will then have to give his grounds of decision. The sentence will be held in abeyance pending the appeal.

The SDP leaders argued that to make illegal criticism of the Government is itself unlawful under the Constitution and a breach of the principles of the rule of law.

In particular they emphasized that the Miscellaneous Offences Act under which they have ben charged has been abused by the police to target and criminalise legitimate political activity conducted by the opposition.

After the sentence was passed Ms Chee rose to tell the Judge:

“I continue to say that what we did was not a crime. Criticising one’s government is a right guaranteed in a democratic society. By finding us guilty you are as good as saying that we do not have this right. By pronouncing us guilty you are also saying that Singapore is not a democratic society and that this government is an undemocratic one. That is all.”

Source: Singapore Democrats

District Judge Christopher Goh dismissed a Magistrate’s Complaint filed by Ms Chee Siok Chin and Mr John Tan last week.

Ms Chee and Mr Tan had filed the complaint in February this year for unlawful detention and selective use of the law by the Singapore Police Force when the two were walking along Orange Grove Road in 2007 (watch video Part I and Part II).
In her complaint, Ms Chee stated that during the ASEAN Summit that year, police officers along Orange Grove Road harassed and stopped her and Mr Tan from walking to Shangri-la Hotel. The police had told them that the area was under gazette at that time.

Ms Chee argued that if that was the case, why were other pedestrians and vehicles allowed in the vicinity while she was being prevented from proceeding.

Mr Tan also said that he had been assaulted by the police officers in the the van.

The SDP leaders stated that after they were forced into the van, the police officers told them that they were not being arrested but refused to answer repeated questions about where they were being taken.

On Tuesday last week, the judge told both complainants that in response to the complaint, the Internal Investigation Department of the Singapore Police Force had come to the conclusion that Ms Chee and Mr Tan were removed from the vicinity under the Protected Area and Places Act. The report was sent to the Attorney-General’s Chambers who decided that there was no case for the police to answer. The judge thus dismissed the matter.

Ms Chee pointed out that the investigation was carried out by the same body against whom the report was made.

Mr Tan argued that the two main issues highlighted in the complaints were not being addressed by the investigation. He asked the judge to demand answers to the questions raised, but was rejected. The selective application of the law and the wrongful detention of the aggrieved persons were dismissed by the district judge.

Judge Goh responded by saying that he had no powers to initiate prosecution. In other words, he could only act on the direction of the AGC.

Despite much explicit reasoning, the judge could not see the absurdity of an investigation carried out by the perpetrators and the decision not to carry out further action by their accomplices.

The PAP has for decades used public institutions against its political opponents and dissenters. This is a serious misuse of power. Unfortunately, Singaporeans have been subjected to such abuse for so long that many have come to accept it as normal.

Is this the Singapore-styled democracy to which Mr Lee Kuan Yew is referring when he rejects “liberal democracy?” Is this the kind of democracy that Singaporeans have pledged to uphold? The answer is clear. The function of all government agencies or public institutions is to serve the people, not the party in power.

This is why the Singapore Democrats and Friends continue with the struggle for democracy and pursuit of justice and equality for all.

Source: Singapore Democrats

The following letter by Ms Chee Siok Chin was sent to the Straits Times Forum in reply to Assistant Official Assignee Mr Malcolm Tan’s letter dated 5 Aug 08.

Mr Malcolm Tan’s distorted version of my meeting with the OA’s office is misleading (see letter below).

He says that I had refused to give my passport for verification. This is a lie. One of the officers had asked to go through my passport. As the majority of my travels had taken place before my bankruptcy, she had no right to peruse it.

I therefore flagged the pages of my passport which contained my travels that took place after my bankruptcy and went through these with the officers. None of them objected.

One officer said that she merely wanted to confirm if I had gone on the trips where the travel permits were approved. I confirmed that I had gone on each of those trips.

It is clear that Mr Tan is not telling the truth.

Mr Tan also accuses me of not telling them who was paying for my trip. Again, this is an outright lie.

I had submitted to the OA’s office on no less than four occasions the letter from Stanford University telling me that the university was paying for my trip. In part, the letter read:

“As mentioned, CDDRL (Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law) will cover the cost of your air and ground transportation. We will also buy a health insurance on your behalf …You should not really need much money since all of your meals, transportation, and housing are covered by the program.”

Contrary to what Mr Tan said in his letter, I never refused to answer who was paying for my trip to Stanford. Mr Tan is quite shameless in covering up the fact that the OA had full knowledge of this matter.

Mr Tan also says that I had refused to verify information of my income and expenditure statement. At the meeting, one of the officers told me that my creditors had wanted to know who was helping me financially. She said that if they wanted to remain anonymous, all I had to do was to put that in writing. That was done in my email to the officers on 9 July 2008.

How have I refused to verify the information requested?

The officers at the OA must come clean about why it refused my travel application to Stanford University. The initial reason they gave was that my previous trips had not benefited my creditors.

But after I sent them the letter from Stanford saying that the university would pay me an honorarium so that I could use that to pay the creditors, the OA changes tack and now says that the reason I was refused the travel permit was that I had been uncooperative.

Such flip-flopping is offensive.

To add insult to injury Mr Tan reveals the figures owed to my creditors. I remind Singaporeans that I was made bankrupt by the AG’s Chambers over a court challenge on a Constitutional matter, not because of my own private dealings.

Still, it is wholly unethical for the OA’s office to make public what they have been privately entrusted to manage. What has the information anything to do with this case? Even then, Mr Tan cannot get the figures right which adds to his unprofessionalism.

Lest the OA’s office forgets, the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office is a body that is supposed to serve citizens. It is not a vehicle to further the agenda of the ruling party.

Chee Siok Chin
Singapore Democratic Party

Official Assignee’s letter published in the Straits Times:

Why Chee’s sister denied Stanford visit
5 Aug 08, Straits Times Forum

I refere to last Saturday’s article, ”No’ to Stanford trip for Chee’s sister’. It contains a number of serious errors. It is regrettable that The Straits Times did not seek to verify the facts with us, unlike Lianhe Zaobao which did verify, and therefore published a more accurate article.

Ms Chee Siok Chin applied to the Official Assignee (OA) on June 17 for permission to travel to Stanford University in the United States from July 26 to Aug 20. She met officers of our department on July 3. At the meeting, as is the general practice, our officers asked her about her previous travels and requested to inspect her passport, since she needed permission of the OA to travel. She refused to give her passport for verification. She was also asked how she would be paying for her trip. It was important to establish this. But she refused to answer. Our officers also asked her to verify information she had given previously in her income and expenditure statements. She again refused to answer. Ms Chee was under a legal duty to cooperate but quite cynically refused to do so. Thus her application to travel was rejected.

Ms Chee owes a total of more than $59,000 to two creditors – Maybank ($15,896.44) and the Attorney-General ($43,364.17). To date, she has paid only $550.

The ST report states that Ms Chee would be given an honorarium for a public speech while attending her course at Stanford University. She did not mention this to the OA’s office during the interview on July 3. It surfaced only after her application was rejected. By then, she had clearly demonstrated her unwillingness to cooperate.

We have checked and would like to clarify that the Minister for Law did not receive any letter from Stanford University, contrary to what was reported.

Malcolm B.H. Tan
Assistant Official Assignee
for Official Assignee

Source: Singapore Democrats

Even though it’s her first experience in jail, Prisoner 5925 is in good spirits at Changi Women’s Prison. Ms Chee Siok Chin, who was jailed for contempt of court on Wednesday, 4 June, is lodged in a cell together with two women from China, spending time for overstaying offences.

On the second day, Ms Chee who is tagged as Prisoner 5925, was allowed a family visit yesterday afternoon. Dr Chee’s three children with their mother Dr Huang Chih Mei were able to interact with Ms Chee through video conferencing for close to thirty minutes.

The prison authorities, who had refused to let Ms Chee have her books in the cubicle on the first day, returned them just before the family visit. Prisoner 5925 is also being treated for her tooth infection that had dogged her throughout the three-day hearing to assess damages in a defamation suit by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong against the SDP, Dr Chee and Ms Chee.

On the last day of the hearing on 28 May, Justice Belinda Ang committed both Dr Chee and Ms Chee for contempt of court, including that of having acted “vigorously” in their cross-examination of the Lees. Subsequently Dr Chee and Ms Chee were found guilty by Justice Ang and sentenced to 12 days and 10 days in jail respectively.

Last night, more than 30 activists, SDP members, friends and well-wishers held a candlelight vigil outside the prison where Ms Chee is being detained. Among them was Mr Gopalan Nair, who is presently on bail for seditious charges.

Tonight, a similar vigil will be held at the Queenstown Remand Prison where Dr Chee Soon Juan is incarcerated. The public is encouraged to turn up and light a candle for democracy.

Ms Chee is expected to be released on next Friday, 13 Jun.

Source: Singapore Democrats

SINGAPORE-POLITICS-OPPOSITION-CHEEDr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin were convicted of contempt of court by High Court Judge Belinda Ang and sentenced to 12 and 10 days imprisonment respectively.

The Judge had said that the two defendants had scandalised the court and impugned its integrity.

At the beginning of the hearing this morning counsel for Ms Chee, Mr M Ravi, argued that the transcript Judge Ang used for citing instances of contemptuous conduct came from Merrill Legal Solutions, a company contracted to record and transcribe proceedings.

The Lees’ lawyers of Drew & Napier had paid for Merrill’s services. A copy of the transcript was then extended to Judge Ang.

Mr Ravi pointed out that documents that were relied on by the court had to be made available to all parties. The defendants were not provided copies of the full transcript.

When Dr Chee approached Merrill earlier, he was informed that because Drew & Napier had applied for the transcription servicess, a copy could not be given to him. The defendant was told he would have to contact the Lees’ lawyers.

Judge Ang ordered Mr Ravi to proceed to make submissions on Ms Chee’s punishment. When counsel finished, the Judge sentenced Ms Chee to ten days imprisonment.

It was then Mr J B Jeyaretnam’s turn to make submissions on Dr Chee’s behalf. Mr Jeyaretnam had earlier agreed to act for the SDP secretary-general.

Mr Jeyaretnam made two preliminary applications. The first was to invite Judge Ang to recuse herself from the matter.

“It’s a question of whether a judge should act in her own cause,” the veteran opposition politician pointed out. “You have been so much a party in the proceedings that public perception of your participation in it is important.”

Mr Jeyaretnam also wanted more time to study the facts of the case. He had received the Judge’s citations only during the weekend and have not had the time to prepare the case.

The Judge rejected both applications.

Because of the lack of time to properly brief Mr Jeyaretnam, Dr Chee said that it was not fair to expect his lawyer to argue his case effectively.

“I couldn’t leave Singapore because of my bankruptcy and Mr Jeyartenam was in Johor Barhru over the weekend,” Dr Chee cited, adding that this made it difficult to get the transcripts to his counsel.

Dr Chee accordingly discharged Mr Jeyaretnam as counsel and said that he would not be defending the charges. He would accept whatever punishment the Judge ordered.

Judge Ang then sentenced him to 12 days imprisonment. She also directed that if the defendants did not file their Notices of Appeal by the close of business day on Wednesday, 4 Jun 08, Dr Chee and Ms Chee would be jailed starting 5 Jun 08.

The defendants have applied for the $10,000 security costs to be waived in order to appeal Judge Ang’s decision. She has reserved judgment on the amount of damages the defendants have to pay to the Lees.