Last week, the Huffington Post published an open letter (here) penned by the founder of the Human Rights Foundation, asking for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to grant Dr. Chee Soon Juan approval to leave Singapore to participate at the Oslo Freedom Forum.
I thought the issue was a wholly legal one (correct me if I am wrong): Dr. Chee has yet to prove his ability to settle his outstanding debt, so the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO) is wholly justified to prevent him from heading overseas. Therefore, it is not entirely fair for Mr. Thor Halvorssen to contend that “[y]our government’s travel ban … is but the latest in a series of instances when he has been penalised for criticising Singapore authorities”. Mr. Halvorssen chose to – quite strategically – conflate multiple contentions about purported political motivations and the supposed abuse of human rights (which can be quite confusing because of the multiple perspectives, as mentioned later).
However, a quick browse through the comments of the article yielded some interesting observations about Dr. Chee and the incident from different individuals. Certainly, these views are far from representative, but they were intriguing reads.
The View From The Ground?
1. I found it difficult to reconcile the two images of Dr. Chee that were regularly presented: one, some Singaporeans who have met him and his colleagues hold him in high esteem for standing his ground (this is complemented by different video footages, which show Dr. Chee to be thoughtful and highly intellectual); two, besides the asserted complicity of the mainstream press (presenting him to be, I think, a deranged lunatic), some individuals on the Internet – based on an assortment of comments – disagree with his ideals and methodologies (here), and cast doubt over his credibility and conduct (here).
The multiple accounts surrounding his lawsuits and defamation cases also complicate the evaluation; if we looked beyond the legal conclusions, how could we ascertain the validity of Dr. Chee’s arguments against the present system?
2. Ultimately, a politician’s worth is determined by his performance at the polls; unfortunately, Dr. Chee’s results during the series of General Elections have been rather dismal (24.50% in 1992, 34.86% in 1997 and 20.25% in 2001). The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) did make progress in the 2011 Elections (from the 2006), but its gains were overshadowed by the gains made by the other Opposition parties.
Founded by Mr. David Marshall, then led capably by Mr. J.B. Jeyaretnam (who, incidentally, worked hard to be discharged from bankruptcy), and now helmed by Mr. Low Thia Khiang, the successes of the Workers’ Party (WP) are especially notable. The WP provides a stark contrast to these circumstances, and I suspect its sustained success has driven the SDP to start working the ground now for 2016 (with gradual grassroots involvement, introduction of new high-profile members et cetera). Unless Dr. Chee and the SDP can make more substantial in-roads at the voting booth, the aforementioned perspectives aired by Singaporeans might only persist.