When Dr Chee Soon Juan issued a statement describing his treatment when he was imprisoned from 23 Nov-16 Dec 06, the Ministry Home Affairs’ (MHA) countered with a reply that was full of contradictions, inconsistencies and outright lies. (See MHA’s statement)
Dr Chee then issued another statement in which he took the MHA to task and rebutted the Government’s response point-by-point (see below). He challenged the Ministry to substantiate the points raised by providing documents and other records it had in its possession.
After two weeks, the Government has yet to do so.
Point-by-point rebuttal to Ministry of Home Affairs’ statement issued by Dr Chee on 21 Dec 06
Point 1: Marking of food trays
MHA: It is normal Prisons procedure to record the food consumption of inmates under close watch. This procedure applies not just to Chee Soon Juan but to all such inmates.
CSJ: When the question of the marking was first raised by my wife, Ms Huang Chih Mei, and sister, Ms Chee Siok Chin, on 4/12/2006, Monday, both Mr Chandra Kumar (MHA official) and Queenstown Remand Prison (QRP) Superintendent Hoon categorically denied that prisoners’ trays were marked, unless it’s for vegetarian food. I am not a vegetarian. If it is the “normal” practice to mark the food trays of inmates under close watch, why did Mr Chandra Kumar and Mr Hoon say they had no knowledge of the marking?
Point 2: Food trays were not marked on previous occasions
MHA: For Chee especially, the marking of food trays should not be new as this procedure was applied to him when he was in prison in Oct 2002 and again in Mar 2006. He had no complaints then about the marking of his food tray.
CSJ: My food trays were most definitely not marked on previous occasions when I was imprisoned. Its clearly that the MHA contradicts itself on this point. First, it says that my food tray was marked “following Yap’s declaration that he was going on a hunger strike.” [emphasis added] But it later says that my food tray was also marked on previous occasions on Oct 2002 and Mar 2006. How can this be when Mr Yap was not even in prison when I was incarcerated in 2002 and in March this year? Also, why did Messrs Chandra Kumar and Hoon deny to my family that food trays were marked?
Point 3: Allowed to choose among unmarked trays
MHA: To address this and assure him, Chee was allowed to choose among unmarked
trays from 2 Dec 2006 but he continued to persist in not eating.
CSJ: This is not true. I repeatedly told prison officials that I did not want to continue to eat prison food until I saw my wife. QRP refused to allow my wife to see me until 4/12/2006 (eight days after I stopped eating the food in the marked trays). When I was finally allowed to see my wife on 4/12/2006 in Changi General Hospital (CGH), and after Mr Chandra Kumar gave the assurance that I could select from unmarked food trays, my fears gradually eased and I agreed to eat the food served in the hospital. The first time that I was told that I could choose from unmarked trays was 4/12/2006 (at the CGH) and not 2/12/2006 (while I was still in prison) as claimed by the MHA.
It is therefore wholly untrue for the MHA to say that although “Chee was allowed to choose among unmarked trays from 2 Dec 06 but he continued to persist in not eating.” CGH’s records would unequivocally show that I had eaten the food on the same day that Mr Chandra Kumar assured me that I could choose from unmarked trays.
Point 4: Insisting on eating home-cooked food
MHA: He also persisted in his demand that he would only eat home-cooked meals prepared by his wife. (Prisons policy, which applies to all inmates, does not allow this.)
CSJ: Again, it is not true that I insisted on eating only home-cooked food. During the hospital visit on 4/12/2006, my family was allowed to buy me some biscuits & packet drinks for me. I consumed these. I clearly indicated that I didn’t want food that was in marked trays or those handled by prison officials. To reiterate: After Mr Chandra Kumar assured that I could choose from trays that were not marked, I consumed the hospital food.
Point 5: Refusing to eat hospital food
MHA: Chee refused to eat even the meals served by the Changi General Hospital…
CSJ: As mentioned above, I ate the food served by CGH during my stay at the hospital. This is easily verifiable in the hospital records. There was even a CCTV in my hospital room recording this. MHA should produce this to prove who is not telling the truth.
Point 6: Request for medical records
MHA: Chee claimed that he and his family members have repeatedly asked for a complete set of his medical report but have not received them. This is certainly untrue. Chee only gave his consent to the authorities for his medical report to be released to his sister on 14 Dec 06.
CSJ: The facts are incontrovertible. My lawyer faxed QRP a letter on 13/12/2006 asking for the medical records. My sister, Ms Chee Siok Chin, also faxed a letter requesting for the said documents on 12/12/2006. QRP has these faxed letters and should produce them for the public to see. I, too, asked for the medical results when I returned to QRP on 7/12/2006. It is therefore yet another lie for the MHA to say that is “certainly untrue” that my family and I had repeatedly asked for the medical reports.
Point 7: No sleep deprivation
MHA: On his return from Changi General Hospital, Chee was placed in a cell equipped with CCTV. The lights at such cells are kept switched on from 6 pm to 8 am the following day…
CSJ: First, let it be noted that the prison has admitted to keeping the lights on in my cell throughout the night and morning hours (6 pm to 8 am the following morning). I repeatedly complained to the prison doctor and psychiatrist that the lights at night were keeping me awake and that this was affecting me tremendously. There is a reason why we all turn off the light when we sleep at night – our bodies respond differently to light and darkness. Keeping the lights on during sleeping hours for a prolonged period (in my case, for a straight nine nights) deprives one of proper rest and this affects one’s health.
Point 8: Prison needs to monitor inmates with suicidal tendencies
MHA: [The lights are left on] for visibility to enable prison officers to monitor inmates under close supervision, including those with suicidal tendencies or who may cause self-inflicted injuries.
CSJ: The MHA needs to come up with more credible answers. Suggesting that I had “suicidal tendencies” or “may cause self-inflicted injuries” is complete and utter rubbish. Psychiatrists at QRP and CGH have examined me, and if the results indicated that I was suffering from any “suicidal tendencies”, they should produce it. Obviously, the turning on of the lights at night is just an excuse to deprive me of sleep and affect my psychological health. Is it not possible for the prison to use an infra-red camera to do the recording with the lights off?
If the prison is really monitoring inmates who have “suicidal tendencies” or “may cause self-inflicted injuries”, why did it not similarly monitor Mr Yap Keng Ho who had announced publicly that he was conducting a hunger strike while imprisoned?
Point 9: Sleeping without trouble with lights on
MHA: Prison officers observed that Chee’s cell-mates slept without trouble. At his request, Chee was also given valium and was observed to have rested at least 6 to 7 hours each night. This was recorded by the CCTV camera.
CSJ: My cell-mates and I had great difficulty sleeping with the lights on. As mentioned, I repeatedly requested the prison doctor, psychiatrist and Superintendent to turn off the lights at night. It is silly for the MHA to continue to argue that my cellmates and I “slept without trouble” for more than a week under bright lights when everyone knows that our biological functions and circadian rhythms are disturbed when the lights are on at night.
Point 10: Books were not taken away as punishment
MHA: When he was referred to the hospital, Chee brought with him 7 books for his reading while in hospital. On his return, these 7 books were required to be subjected to security screening. This is a standard security procedure for all items, books included, which are brought in from outside into the prison.
CSJ: These seven books were among the 32 books that I had first brought with me to the QRP when I was first taken to prison 23/11/2006. At no time did the seven books leave the sight of prison officials to and from CGH.
Point 11: Refusing medical assistance in prison
MHA: Between 25 Nov 06 and 4 Dec 06, Chee resisted blood tests (to establish the cause of his purported nausea) and medical assistance from the prison medical officer and the doctors of Changi General Hospital.
CSJ: I only refused to have invasive measures that required needles to be inserted into my body. This would include the drawing of blood by a syringe and application of IV drips. During the said period, I repeatedly requested to be allowed to see my family before I would consent to such invasive procedures. The prison, however, adamantly refused to allow me to see my family. However, I continued to allow my blood pressure to be taken, my ECG to be recorded, and urine samples to be taken.
At CGH I also agreed to all non-invasive procedures to be conducted on me (two CT-scans, an ultra-sound scan, two X-rays, and urine samples). I allowed blood to be drawn after I was allowed to see my family.
Records in QRP and CGH would back up my account of the matter. Would the MHA make public these medical records so that the truth can be ascertained once and for all? By refusing to disclose these facts, the MHA is trying to cover up the truth.
Point 12: Strangely resumed eating at CGH
MHA: Then just as strangely as Chee had stopped eating on 28 Nov 06, Chee abruptly resumed eating his meals on 4 Dec 06. He ate his dinner ordered from a menu of choices at Changi General Hospital.
CSJ: There was nothing strange about my resuming to eating the food at CGH. I have said all along that I wanted to see my wife first before I would resume eating. I consumed hospital food when my wife was allowed to see me on 4/12/2006. That was also the day when Mr Chandra Kumar promised us that there won’t be any more markings on my food either in CGH or QRP.
Point 13: Deciding to eat when returned to prison
MHA: On his return to prison, and when he was placed in a cell under CCTV observation, Chee decided to eat prison meals and behaved well enough to be eligible for remission of his sentence.
CSJ: I started to eat prison food after assurance from Mr Chandra Kumar and Superintendent Hoon that there won’t be any more markings on my food. I was also threatened that my yard time, family visits, and even consultation with lawyers would be denied if I did not eat the prison food.
From the above it can be seen that the MHA’s statement is riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions and outright lies. The Government should provide documents and recordings that it has in its possession to reveal the truth rather than make statements that it can neither substantiate nor prove