Below is the media release of the New York-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (www.lchr.org)
NEW YORK Dr. Chee Soon Juan, a leading opposition politician in Singapore, was released from a Singapore jail Saturday, Nov. 9. Dr. Chee had been held for five weeks on charges stemming from a peaceful May 1 rally he organized in front of the presidential palace.
The rally called for democratic reforms and the implementation of fair labor practices for Singapore workers.
Dr. Chees arrest fits into a larger pattern of political suppression in Singapore. In the last three years, Dr. Chee has been in and out of jail three times as the authorities have tried to stifle his ability to galvanize support for his views. Others who have spoken out against the government, have also faced defamation law suits, fines and jail.
The law has been twisted in Singapore to serve those in power and put a muzzle on those who speak out, said Neil Hicks, a spokesperson for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.
In cracking down on their critics, the government often cites security concerns, but the goal of these repressive policies is not a safer Singapore, added Hicks. The goal is to severely restrict the amount of political space that Singaporeans can operate in.
Despite the crackdowns some democracy activists and opposition politicians have vowed to continue to speak out. You got to let them [the authorities] know youre willing to pay the price and bear whatever it takes to win freedom for your country, Chee said as he left prison on Saturday.
A formidable array of legislation restricts the ability of Singaporeans to enjoy fundamental human rights and deters independent voices from advocating for democratic reforms and fair labor conditions. For democracy to move forward in Singapore these laws need to be repealed and the authorities must stop harassing those who seek to promote human rights and their political beliefs peacefully.