Cheap petrol and no rights

November 2, 2009

trafficIt was a nightmare on the roads last Saturday. I was caught in at least three traffic jams on my way to Eunos.

All of them were caused by the petrol discount that Shell was offering that day. I was appalled by the congestion that the cars queuing up for cheap petrol was causing. The slip road from the PIE to Paya Lebar Road was choc-a-bloc. There was obvious frustration for road users near any Shell station that day.

However, all the news that was reported by Mediacorp that night was how long some drivers had waited to get tanks filled and how much savings they made. Nothing was said about the havoc that these cars-in-waiting had caused.

Compare this major disruption to traffic flow in many areas to the fear of public disorder that the police were concerned about, leading them to charge me and four others for distributing flyers at Raffles City in 2006.

So it’s okay for public disorder to occur when it’s for commercial purposes but if it is to advocate for rights of citizens, it is an offence.

I guess you can buy cheap petrol but you can’t buy dignity and rights.

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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.

By Chee Siok Chin

The best place to be during those 72 hours.

We went through last minute details and preparations on the morning of our protest. We were in high spirits although it was apparent that there some of us were nervous as something like this had never been done before in Singapore.

Then everything seemed to happen all at once between the time we walked to the Speakers’ Corner and the police huddling around us to prevent us from walking to Parliament.

By about 1 pm, I found myself sitting in the middle of the road on Circular Street barricaded by more than a dozen women police officers and surrounded by another 30 male officers.

It took me more than half an hour to get there from Hong Lim Park, a distance of less than 200 m. The police must have stopped me no less than four times before I reached Circular Street.

Each time, I negotiated with the police and they let me proceed. It was obvious that the woman office in charge was not able to decide what to do. She must have received strict orders not to let me proceed any further as I had announced that I would carry on the march to Parliament House by myself.

Throughout that day, I was surrounded by more than a dozen female officers. The circle formed around me was less about 50 cm in radius. At one point, I could not get enough air and almost threw up.

It was frustrating, to say the least. I asked them many times if I was under arrest or if I had been charged with any offence. The answer each time was no. But yet, I was treated like a prisoner. I had to tell them where I was going if I wanted to move.

It was surreal. I said that this whole scenario looks as if it was taking place in communist China or military-ruled Burma.

I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I were to say that there weren’t moments when I felt disturbed by the fortress that surrounded us. But at the same time, then sense of camaraderie and solidarity I derived from the supporters and well-wishers who were milling around us and visiting us helped keep my spirits up. I cannot thank them enough for this invaluable contribution.

As I had said in my press statement at the last hour of our stand-off, the entire experience was tiring, trying and yet exhilarating for me. Tiring because of the lack of sleep and the being exposed to the rains and the scorching sun. Trying because of the manner in which the police had used and misused their authority in restricting our movements even though we were not under arrest. Exhilarating because I know what I had done stems from a conviction and proud to be part of an unprecedented event in Singapore calling for democracy, freedom and justice.

The more oppressive this government becomes, the more determined I am to break the shackles of repression. The tyranny that exists here has also called up strength and will in me that I never thought I had.

I am well aware that the struggle ahead is a long one. I also know that there are Singaporeans who want to stand with us but are apprehensive to do so. I understand that trepidation because I once was also trapped in it.

The only way to free ourselves from this dread is to confront it. This does not mean a plunge into the deep end. We can take small and proactive steps to overcome our fear and sense of helplessness.

There are many ways to do this. One is to attend the Empower Singaporeans Seminar on 15 October where my fellow protesters and I will be present to help other Singaporeans take this first step.

The 72 or more hours that I spent on the sidewalk of Hong Lim Park with my colleagues, friends and fellow democrats has been a most rewarding and fruitful experience. Looking back it was the best place to be for the three days.

By Chee Siok Chin

The allegation made by the police that I had “tried to bite a female police officer when the
latter tried to arrest her” and that I had “attack(ed)” her is a serious one. It is also a lie.

The statement made it look as if I had resisted arrest by trying to bite one of the police officers as they were leading me to the police van. The numerous clips that have been posted on the Internet have proven that this never took place.

The press statement issued by the police is malicious. Its intent is obvious.

If the police have evidence that I had attacked or even attempted to attack an officer, then they should produce it.

Otherwise they must retract the slanderous and scandalous statement, failing which I shall consider taking action against them.

Chee Siok Chin
CEC Member
Singapore Democratic Party

Monkey see, monkey do

In 2007 Mr Tian Chua, Chief Information Officer of the Parti KeAdilan Rakyat was also accused of biting an officer when he was arrested during a protest in Malaysia. Mr Chua, now a member of parliament, documented the lie in his blog.

Now it is the Singapore police’s turn to fabricate such lies to demonise protesters.

Just who is trying to hurt whom?


Singapore


Malaysia

Police (back)biting by Tian Chua

This young man who claimed to be a police officer alleged that I bit him on his arm.

Later I discovered in a video record that he actually hit my head while I was being forcefully taken by the police.

It is most ridiculous that I could be accused of assaulting anyone under those circumstances.

I am amazed that the BN propaganda machine could spin such an incredible story to defame me.

The NST (New Straits Times, Dec 12) not only reported this unverified story [so did the Straits Times and Channel News Asia on Ms Chee Siok Chin], it even carried the issue of biting in the headlines of the front page.

I have no hatred towards ordinary policemen and women. Despite many unhappy incidents, I hold no grudges against the police force.

In fact, I deeply sympathize with the predicament faced by my fellow-citizens in uniform.

The mass arrest at Parliament on December 11 last week was shameful for all rational thinking Malaysians.

Razak Ismail and I, who arrived at the entrance to Parliament at about 10:30hr, were the first to be arrested. Our arrest was recorded on video by many people.

Two versions of the arrest have been posted online:

Tian Chua Arrested At Malaysian Parliament

BERSIH: Penyerahan Memo Di Parlimen

Letter to Wong Kan Seng

November 21, 2007

21 November 2007

Mr. Wong Kan Seng
Minister for Home Affairs
New Phoenix Park, 28 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore 329560
wong_kan_seng@mha.gov.sg

Dear sir,

I would like to refer you to the incident that occurred on 20 November 2007 along Orange Grove Road when Mr John Tan and I were illegally detained by the police.

The intent of this letter is not to inform you of the incident as I am certain you have been quite thoroughly apprised. Instead I would like to seek several clarifications from you as the Minister for Home Affairs.

Although Mr Tan and I were told that we were in a Protected Area, at no time did the police say that we were trespassing or forbidden to be in the vicinity. None of the police officers were able to cite any law that prohibited us from going to the Shangri-la Hotel.

What right did the police have to stop Mr Tan and I from going towards the Shangri-la Hotel after having been told that we were going there for a meal?

When asked if we had committed any offence and if we were being arrested, we were categorically told “no” to both questions. That being the case, what right did the police have in man-handling and forcing us into a vehicle?

If the vehicle belonged to the Singapore Police Force, why was it unmarked?

Was it legal for the police to take us to a place against our will when we had not committed any offence?

What right did the police have in not only harassing but manhandling Mr Tan and me?

What right did the police have in forcefully taking us away to a place when we were not under arrest?

In addition to this, Mr Tan was prevented from leaving the police vehicle when we were brought to Orchard Hotel? The police had restrained him and he had to physically struggle with the officers to get out of the van. Is this not a form of physical abuse?

The actions of the police in the mentioned incident is a grave violation of our constitutional rights, individual liberties and personal security.

How can it be said that the Singapore is built on the rule of law when those of us living in this country can be subjected to such arbitrary, illegitimate and physical actions by the police?

I look forward to your clarifications.

Sincerely,

Chee Siok Chin

Source: DPA

Four leaders of an opposition party were arrested Monday while protesting the Singapore government’s involvement in Burma, the group said.

Each of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) participants held a placard saying, “No Deals,” “No Arms,” “With the Junta,” and “Free Burma.”

The group was composed of Chee Soon Juan, the most vocal opposition leader and secretary general of the SDP; Gandhi Ambalam, SDP chairman; John Tan, assistant secretary general; and member Chee Siok Chin, Chee Soon Juan’s sister.

Chee Soon Juan has been rendered bankrupt for remarks made about Singapore’s leaders during a general election campaign and has been in and out of jail on several occasions for speaking without a police permit.

The SDP said the four were arrested by plain-clothed police once they began their protest in front of the Istana, where Singapore’s top leaders have offices.
The four “were taken to the police vans waiting nearby,” the SDP said in a statement.

They had planned to hold a 24-hour protest preceded by the submission of a petition to Myanmar Ambassador U Win Myint.

The protest was aimed “at raising awareness of the Singapore government’s exploitation of the situation in Burma,” a SDP statement said.

“We demand that the government open its books of the Government Investment Corp and Temasek to the people, starting with its investments in Burma,” it added, referring to government investment agencies.

The party’s petition with 1,107 signatures had been gathered since Burma’s military junta began its bloody crackdown on monks and anti-government demonstrators.

“The ambassador refused to come out and accept the petition himself,” the SDP said. “One of the embassy staff finally showed up and said the embassy could not accept the petition.”

The assembly of more than four people outside without a police permit is illegal in Singapore.

More than 400 Burma nationals packed a hotel room during the weekend to pray for their brethren. The gathering included 12 members of Burma’s Buddhist clergy.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his capacity as chairman of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), strongly criticized Myanmar last week for the crackdown.

Foreign Minister George Yeo has emphasized the importance of keeping Burma as a member of the ASEAN family.

ASEAN is made up of Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

By Chee Siok Chin

It would have been an activity of little significance in most parts Asia, save for perhaps Burma. A group of four citizens had donned on similar T-shirts and created quite a stir in the Central Business District area yesterday by calling for transparency and accountability from the government. One of them was me.

We had come together to make a statement – we want the PAP government to be accountable to the citizens. We want to know how our money is being invested or used by the GIC and CPF Board.

In our over-sized T-shirts that had messages asking for transparency and accountability, the four of us walked up to the entrance of the CPF Building at 12.30pm. We were greeted by a host of photographers and reporters. We took our positions and stood along the kerb. The cameras zeroed in on us and the messages we had on our Tees. The reporters also began to ask our spokesperson, Monica Kumar, a host of questions.

After answering all the questions, the four of us were left to our peaceful and quiet protest, with the reporters milling around. We were calm, unoffensive and relatively passive.

Suddenly a dozen or so riot policemen turned up in four riot vans (someone said that it was probably for one van for each of us). They were dressed in “warrior” garb, complete with darth-vader-looking helmets, truncheons and shields. Two more troops of regular uniformed male and female officers swarmed around us. All this on two female and two male activists who were were armed only with transparencies and silent? One reporter told us that this “drama” by the police was unnecessary. Thank you.

It was a ridiculous sight when one of the officers started shrieking: “Those of you not involved, move away from here!” It was as if 9/11 had happened in Singapore, except that the only “terrorists” were four of us armed with only two transparency signs. (I guess from the PAP’s standpoint, signs calling for transparency in the GIC and CPF were potential explosives.)

A senior police officer by the name of Dominic Baptist told us to disperse or we would be arrested. But on what grounds? He said someone had called to say that we were a public nuisance. Public nuisance? You mean the police always send in the riot squad in response to public nuisance complaints? And besides, the four of us were standing still and keeping very quiet. Mr Baptist muttered something which we didn’t quite understand and repeated that we were a nuisance and that our actions were an offence. Watch out, moms and dads! The next time your kids get a little too rowdy, you could be negotiating with the riot squad.

The group had agreed that we would do a 45-minute protest and it was about three minutes before we were going to disperse anyway. So one of us told the officer that we would go in three minutes, which we did when the three minutes were up.

We then walked to back of the building to wait for our transport. Perhaps feeling that they didn’t “win” this battle, Officer Baptist, accompanied by some junior officers and plain-clothes policemen approached us. By this time we had taken off our Tees. Then, like an after-thought or having taken instructions from someone who felt that it was insufficient that we had dispersed, he asked for our Identity Cards. They took down our particulars and demanded that we handed them our signs and T-shirts “for investigation”. I wonder what they’ll do with our sweaty Tees. CSI fans, what’s your guess?

But jokes aside, we want our T-shirts back as they are priceless. Priceless because they will always remind us of the day the four of us found our courage and stood up to demand accountability and transparency from the Singapore government.