Dr Chee Soon Juan took the stand today when his trial resumed and accused the Official Assignee’s (OA) office of being incompetent and unprofessional.
He is charged with attempting to leave Singapore without permission because he has been made a bankrupt by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong after he failed to pay them $500,000 in damages following a defamation suit.
Led by his lawyer, Mr Alfred Dodwell, during evidence-in-chief Dr Chee told the court that in the brief time of less than a month when he applied for permission to visit Turkey for a conference, no less than six officers from the OA’s office were assigned to deal with him.
In addition, different messages were communicated to him by the officers.
For example, manager Ms Kala had told Dr Chee that her office “will examine your Income & Expenditure Statement and thereafter determine the monthly instalment you are required to contribute for the benefit of your creditors. Once you undertake to do so, the Official Assignee will consider your application to travel.”
“But in the next email,” Dr Chee explained, “Ms Kala changed her position and said that I had to make a proposal to pay Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong monthly instalments before she would approve my travel application.”
Dr Chee continued: “No where did she mention in her first email that I was the one who had to make the proposal. Yet, she had the cheek to write in her second email: ‘As we mentioned in our earlier e-mail, only after you [make a proposal to pay your creditors], we will consider your application to travel.’ This is the kind of nonsense that I have had to deal with.”
Dr Chee also pointed out that even on the day that he was due to travel, the OA’s office had still not rejected his application (which came only two weeks later).
The only way he could find out whether his application was approved or not was at the airport. “If my application was rejected, I would be turned back. Otherwise, I would proceed with my flight.”
“Up to this point, the OA’s office had been incompetent and unprofessional in its handling of the entire matter,” Dr Chee charged.
In addition, he had repeatedly indicated that he made insufficient income to pay the two former prime ministers. But the OA kept insisting that he make monthly payments before permission for him to travel would be given.
“As I understand it, bankrupts have to seek permission to travel because the OA doesn’t want them to spend money which can be used to pay their creditors,” Dr Chee said.
“In my case, I had presented evidence that my expenses were paid for my the conference organizer. I was not going to spend any of my own expenses.
“And I had made it clear that I was going to return to Singapore after the conference. Nothing was going to keep me away.
“What reason then would the OA have to not grant me permission to travel?”
The day’s proceeding ended when it was the Prosecutor’s turn to cross-examine Dr Chee. She, however, wanted time to prepare her questioning.
The hearing resumes tomorrow at 9:30 am in Subordinate Court 5.