Singapore politician plans May Day protest walk across nation

27 Apr 07

A Singapore opposition politician will attempt a two-day walk across the island nation to draw attention to the plight of Singaporean workers on May Day, a fellow activist said Thursday.

Chee Siok Chin told AFP that she and her brother, Chee Soon Juan, would attempt the 150-kilometre (93-mile) journey beginning Sunday. They aim to finish by Tuesday, international labour day or May Day.

Chee Soon Juan is secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and is one of a few in Singapore to have spoken out against the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled since 1959.

He has had numerous battles with the authorities but his sister said they “are trying not to infringe on any laws” during their walk, which would involve fewer than five people.

Public protests of five or more people in Singapore require a police permit.

The SDP party website said the walk aimed to focus on “the exploitation of Singapore’s workers by the government,” which plans to raise the goods and services tax while increasing salaries for government ministers.

The pay rises sparked rare public fury in the conservative city-state where the government has acknowledged a widening income gap.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s salary is to rise from 1.62 million US dollars last year to more than two million US dollars but he said he would donate the increase to “suitable good causes.”

Chee Siok Chin said the walk would take them through the public housing estates where most Singaporeans live. They plan to start from a park in the centre of the city before heading to the island’s west, then north, to the far east, and back to the park.

Chee Soon Juan was declared bankrupt early last year after being unable to pay libel damages won by Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew and another former prime minister, Goh Chok Tong.

Chee Siok Chin and other supporters successfully carried out a protest march in December to mark international Human Rights Day. They marched in groups of four and were not stopped by police although plainclothes men trailed them.

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