8I’m two shades darker and my face more freckled than a couple of weeks ago. No, it’s not because I’ve been frolicking at the beach. It’s because I’ve been moving from place to place in the blazing noon sun to sell The New Democrat (TND).

It’s been exhausting as my colleagues and I have been standing at street corners and hawker centres to sell my party newspaper. But this is necessary. With all the demonization, persecution and then black out by the local media about the SDP, this is the only way we can get accurate information out to the public.

Almost invariably, strangers come up to tell us that they support us or push a $10 note into our hands and tell us to keep the change.

Even though it sometimes gets gruelling, my colleagues and I will continue to ensure that the TND gets into the hands of as many people as possible.

Here is a promotional video for The New Democrat:

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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.

Who is John Tan?

December 29, 2008

By Chee Siok Chin

I first met John in September of 2006 during our three-day standoff at Hong Lim Park with the police. He had heard about our rally and march on September 16 and came to lend his support.

I remember him staying on into the wee hours of the morning with us that first day. He came every day subsequently and buoyed our spirits by encouraging us. He had brought refreshments and little things like raincoats and toiletries that would make our stand-off less taxing.

He has since been one of the most active members of the party as well as a dedicated practitioner of Nonviolent Action.

That’s John Tan.

The mettle in this man is inspirational. On the morning that he found out that James Cooke University had suspended him, John broke the news to me over brunch. I was angry for him. That was evident especially in my language. It wasn’t quite French, but still…

John, on the other hand was cool, composed and very “head” about it. Getting fired from one’s job is a big enough blow for anyone who is the sole-bread winner in a family of five. Getting fired unjustly is downright infuriating.

But John never once expressed any anger or ill-will towards those who were responsible for his suspension. Instead of lamenting and complaining, our conversation was steered by him to talking about possibilities and opportunities that would arise from this situation.

It dawned on me that I was upset than he was. Instead of my helping to bring comfort to him, John’s steadiness and refusal to succumb to bitterness served to console me.

This was the same reaction when he received the 15-day imprisonment judgement. John had argued before High Court Judge Judith Prakash that his wearing of the kangaroo t-shirt was a matter of self-expression and fair criticism of the way her colleague Belinda Ang had presided over the Lees vs Chees defamation suit.

Some of us put our arms around him and tried to offer some consolation when we met immediately afterwards, but there was no hint of anxiety or resentment in this man. Sure he thought the judge shouldn’t have found him guilty for contempt of court in the first place, but he accepted the sentence without any doom or gloom.

That’s John Tan.

About a half a dozen of us took him out for lunch the day he was to surrender himself at the High Court to serve his sentence, but it was John who paid for our lunch.

He ordered a big meal and we joked about that being his last edible meal for the next two weeks (especially difficult for him as he is a fantastic cook).

Although he wasn’t looking forward to spending the next two weeks in jail, he was upbeat, positive and confident.

John will be released on Tuesday morning, 30 December. While most of us are merry-making over the Christmas period, he is spending that time in a tiny cell. But despite this, I’m certain his conviction to his struggle against the self-serving PAP and to bring greater justice and freedom to Singaporeans will only grow from strength to strength.

That’s John Tan.

John Tan, Asst Secretary-General of the SDP, will be released from Queenstwon Prison at 9.30am on 30 Dec 08 (Tue). He was sentenced to 15 days imprisonment for wearing a t-shirt with a kangaroo in a judge’s gown during the defamation hearing between Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore Democrats. Two other activists, Shafi’ie and Isrizal, were both sentenced for 7-days jail. They were released on 18 Dec 08.