Dr Chee’s contempt case and its implications for S’porean Youths

Charles Tan
31 Mar 06

Young Democrats expressed regret and anger over the action of the High Court in the sentencing of Dr Chee, the Secretary General of SDP.

In finding Dr Chee in contempt of the court, the judiciary has shown that it is “intolerant” of dissenting views.

Dr Chee has been imprisoned for contempt of court for merely expressing facts, personal observations, experiences and opinions from reputable external international bodies and law professionals among them the US States Department,
International Committee of Juries and Singapore’s ex solicitor general, Mr Francis Seow.

Henceforth, if a Singaporean can be jailed for doing the above, then one has to question what freedom of speech means, guaranteed under the Constitution. The verdict has sent a signal to Singaporeans and especially to our youths –
that being involved in Opposition and alternative politics is a dangerous affair.

Since the 90s, the government has tried to persuade a growing literate Singaporean public by trying to make them believe that Singapore is “liberalising” and giving
“youths more spaces” through government sanctioned forums, feedback channels and the news media. The sentencing of Dr Chee, as one of the few recent examples, demonstrates these calls as mere empty rhetorics.

It is in this aftermath of Dr Chee’s imprisonment that we urge our youths to stop looking the other way and start being active. There is a dire need to re-awake our political conscience comatose within our collective consciousness and speak out against injustices inherent in our political system.

If we believe in justice and equality that we recite daily in our national pledge while we are in school, then we should make the effort to realise them.

History and contemporary world affairs have shown that safeguarding democracy is not a permanent state but rather a collective effort of citizens constantly protecting its very values.

In France, its students and workers have gone to the streets to oppose the government’s decision on a new labour legislation that will allow companies to dismiss new workers under the age of 26 without valid reasons.

Students in America are proactively organizing themselves for causes. A search at
http://www.campusantiwar.net/index.php , a network of college students against the Iraqi War, revealed that two students were recently investigated for protesting against Bill Clinton at Pace University. The movement has organised a National Week of Action with other anti-war activists such as Cindy Sheehan to protest against the war.

These are but just two recent cases showing how youths in other countries have been at the forefront in acting out their democratic freedoms.

Likewise, Singapore needs its pioneers and defenders in the political arena.

We need passionate youths the likes of Mr Chia Thye Pohs and Mr Jeyaretnams, who have dedicated their lives to contributing to democracy in Singapore.

We need men and women like Dr Chee. A courageous Singaporean who has chosen to leave his family behind temporarily to be imprisonment for what he believes in, and what this country is originally founded on.

Like Dr Chee, we need to safeguard one of our most important national value. Our democratic freedom.

Charles Tan is President of The Young Democrats

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