Govt’s excuse banning Chee Siok Chin’s travel exposed

Singapore Democrats

The PAP Government’s excuse to prevent SDP’s Chee Siok Chin to travel to Stanford University has been exposed. The Official Assignee (OA) had initially rejected Ms Chee’s application to attend the Summer Fellows Program at Stanford University because Ms Chee’s trip would not benefit her creditors.

The SDP leader was declared bankrupt after she could not meet payments ordered by the High Court in a case she and two other activists took against the Government. Ms Chee had asked the courts to declare that the police had overstepped their powers when they threatened to arrest four people from protesting outside the CPF Building in 2004.

High Court Judge V K Rajah dismissed the application and ordered the activists to pay costs to the Attorney-General. This is despite the fact that only five or more persons gathered in public constitute an illegal assembly.

Upon learning the OA’s ban on Ms Chee’s travel, Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) wrote to the Minister for Law informing him that Ms Chee had been invited to deliver a public lecture and would be paid an honorarium of US$2,000.

Ms Chee then wrote to the OA’s office and informed it that she would be willing to use the honorarium to pay the Government.

However, the OA replied and still would not allow Ms Chee to travel. Worse, it refused to give the grounds for the rejection. Apparently its original decision to prohibit Ms Chee’s travel seems to be untruthful as it continues to ban the trip despite funds available to pay the Government.

Could the real reason for denying her travel be that Ms Chee would continue to learn about democracy during such fellowships and spread the word about repression in Singapore? Is this the way the PAP continues to use the state to silence its critics?

28 July 2008

Dear Mrs Chong and Ms Anu,

Re: Appeal for travel to Stanford

I refer to your response to the second appeal for my travel to Stanford University.

In your email dated 11 July 2008, you had said that the reason for the rejection of my travel application was that “none of these travels have translated into a benefit to your creditors”.

However, Mr. Michael McFaul, director of the program in a letter to the Minister for Law, had stated that I have been invited to give a public lecture whilst there and that an honorarium of US$2,000 will be given to me. This honorarium will help in benefiting my creditors. But again, you have rejected this appeal for my travel despite having been given the assurance that this trip will be translated into a benefit to my creditor.

I would like to ask for the grounds on which you have rejected this appeal as your email below was terse and does not provide me with an adequate or acceptable response.

Again, I look forward to a prompt response.

Chee Siok Chin

Official Assignee’s reply:


Dear Ms Chee

Re: Appeal for travel to Stanford

We refer to your e-mail below.

Please note that our position in this matter remains the same.

Yours faithfully
Mrs Chong Poh Yin
for Official Assignee