Opposition leader again defies
South China Morning Post Jan 6, 1999
BARRY PORTER in Singapore
RELATED: Lion City freedoms call scoffed at
Singaporean pays price of freedom
AN opposition party leader already facing trial for speaking without a police permit defied restrictions for a second time, drawing a larger crowd yesterday to hear a wide-ranging attack on the government's performance.
Chee Soon Juan pledged to continue his public campaign for greater democracy and transparency even if court fines disqualified him from running for parliament.
He says official harassment has blocked all other avenues for presenting his platform.
A crowd of more than 600 gathered in the Raffles Place business district to hear the Singapore Democratic Party leader - more than twice the number he drew for his inaugural speech at the same spot a week ago.
"Being convicted is the least of my worries. I want to work towards democracy," the 36-year-old US-trained neuropsychologist told his quiet and polite lunchtime audience.
In his 45-minute speech, he read out chunks of Singapore's constitution, accused the government of censorship and torturing political prisoners, and criticised the excessive cost of public housing and vehicle permits.
He claimed victims of last year's Silk Air plane crash were being short-changed compared to those of the China Airlines jet which crashed soon afterwards in Taipei.
He said factory workers made redundant by state-linked technology firm Micropolis in Thailand got more compensation than those in Singapore.
And he said state-run enterprises were stifling competition.
He also repeated his accusations of questionable government investments in, and aid to, Burma, China and Indonesia.
Before he began speaking, two senior police officers reminded him he would be breaking the law.
As his speech drew to a close, Chee was approached by the police a second time and asked to visit the Central Police Station at 5pm for questioning. He refused.
Superintendent Low Hui Hui said he would not be arrested if he failed to surrender himself, but "we will still investigate the case according to the law".
Chee said: "They are going to continue to charge me in court and I will just have to take it as it comes." He feared detention without trial under the Internal Security Act.
He has written a book about dissident Chia Thye Poh, who was held for 23 years without trial under the act, then subjected to nine years of restrictions on public speaking, publishing, and meeting groups of people. The final restrictions on him were lifted in November.
As for losing his right to stand for parliament, Chee said elections were meaningless without democracy.
Chee announced he hoped to speak next Tuesday in the grounds of the National University of Singapore.
Published in the South China Morning Post. Jan 6, 1999