Barely two months into his prime ministership, Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s authoritarian style has raised its ugly head (not that it was ever buried to any degree).
On 30 September 2004, members of public were unpleasantly surprised when they entered the public gallery of Courtroom 2 to listen to Dr Chee Soon Juan make his application to recall Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong to the stand for the hearing to assess damages.
The police demanded the names and ID card numbers of each and every one of those who were there. This is by no means a routine affair. Members of the public have a right to attend any hearing they so wish if the matter is conducted in an open court, and Dr Chee’s matter was supposed to be a hearing open to the public. It doesn’t make sense for people to provide their identity to do something that is conducted in public domain.
So why this necessity to take down the identity of listeners? Security? Couldn’t be because everyone entering the Supreme Court whould have to undergo a security check and be screened by a metal detector. How would taking down names help to increase security?
The only reason one can put this down to is political harassment. The Government obviously don’t want Singaporeans to come and listen to the court proceedings for themselves. And one can only conclude that it is because the matter involves Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Dr Chee brought this matter up with the judge, Mr Kan Ting Chiu, and asked if it was normal for the police to be taking down names of those seated in the public gallery. Mr Kan replied that it was not normal practice but Dr Chee’s is not the only case that police ask for identities. That sure makes one feel a lot better, doesn’t it?
This police behaviour not only reminds one of those paranoid and insecure regimes in countries like Vietnam or North Korea, but also pooh-poohs the nonsense about a more “open” society that PM Lee Hsien Loong is allegedly ushering in. It’s always easy to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of Singaporeans but at the end of the day, it is the deeds that say the most.