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Abuse of power claim by Chee


South China Morning Post February 23, 1999
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Singapore

OPPOSITION leader Chee Soon Juan yesterday accused the ruling party of abusing power as he took the stand to defend himself against a second charge of giving an illegal public speech.

The trial of Chee, secretary-general of the tiny Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), resumed with Chee claiming a system requiring permits to be issued for talks in public places was a means for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) to maintain control.

"It's got absolutely nothing to do with procedural matters, the so-called potential for public disorder, but everything to do with political control and the abuse of power by the ruling party using legalistic and procedural means," Chee told the court.

Chee, 36, a neuropsychologist, was earlier convicted of a similar charge and served a week in prison after refusing to pay a fine of S$1400. He said he was prepared to go to jail again.

Chee reiterated yesterday that he and his party had repeatedly applied for permits to speak in public places only to be told by officials "on more than one occasion" that the requests "will not be granted".

"This being the case, your Honour, it makes the entire case, this entire system of making us apply for permits when the police have no intention of approving the application or making it impossible for us to organise events effectively, a total farce," he said.

Chee, along with SDP assistant secretary-general Wong Hong Toy, is on trial for speaking without a permit on January 5 in the Raffles Place business district.

Chee has pleaded not guilty.

The judge allowed as evidence in Chee's defence a letter by the spokesman of the Ministry of Home Affairs, published in the Straits Times on January 28, which stated that public speeches of a political nature or those that touched on race, language and religion, could only be made indoors.

"If I'm doing something which a PAP member of parliament is doing, and there is no difference in circumstances, then to charge me for that is not prosecution but persecution," Chee said.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow, when a verdict is expected.

Published in the South China Morning Post. Feb 23, 1999

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