An American playwright, Garrett Hughes, recently penned a short “scene” that took place when Dr Chee Soon Juan was imprisoned in 2006. The work is a finalist in a writers’ competition in Rochester, New York in December 2008. The author has intentions to develop the scene into a full play.
by Garrett A. Hughes
December 3, 2006. A jail cell in Singapore, where Dr. Chee Soon Juan is being held.
Jailer Dr. Chee, your dinner.
Dr. Chee No thank you.
Jailer You look very pale. If you don’t eat, you will become sick.
Dr. Chee I am already sick.
Jailer Dr. Chee, please eat your dinner.
Dr. Chee I am afraid that if I eat, I will die. Do you want me to die?
Jailer No. I simply want you to eat your dinner.
Dr. Chee They are one and the same.
Jailer You haven’t eaten since November 26th.
Dr. Chee Do they ask you to keep records?
Jailer I am required to take notice of the status of your health.
Dr. Chee Do you take the same notice of other prisoners?
Jailer I am required to do my professional duty.
Dr. Chee How long have you been doing your professional duty?
Jailer Almost ten years.
Dr. Chee Do you ever form an opinion of the prisoners in your care?
Jailer Some are cooperative and some are uncooperative.
Dr. Chee Have you ever recommended caning for a prisoner?
Jailer I am required to report behaviour that is uncooperative and disruptive.
Dr. Chee Do you know that those are the same reasons for which I have been incarcerated?
Jailer I am aware that you refused to pay a fine of $5000 which, in the judgement of the court, was appropriate for the offense.
Dr. Chee For speaking in public.
Jailer For violating the Public Entertainments and Meeting Act.
Dr. Chee For speaking in public without a permit. Article 14 of our constitution guarantees freedom of speech, association and assembly.
Jailer But the law requires a permit.
Dr. Chee This dichotomy doesn’t seem to bother you.
Jailer The law is the law. Your application was rejected on the grounds that your speaking in a public gathering would lead to law and order problems.
Dr. Chee Has my speaking in public ever lead to law and order problems?
Jailer The law was created to prevent potential problems.
Dr. Chee The law was created to stifle public disagreement with the policies of the people in power.
Jailer The People’s Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959. The people have spoken.
Dr. Chee It is difficult to speak against the people in power without facing fines or arrest. It is impossible to make and distribute media contrary to government opinion.
Jailer We reserve the right to take into account the concerns and values of the majority of Singaporeans. We must not upset the balance of Singapore’s multiracial society. We would all be at a loss.
Dr. Chee I see that you are familiar with the statements of the Ministry of Information. You know what they call that kind of talk in the free world – propaganda.
Jailer Why do you persist? You know that your efforts fall on deaf ears.
Dr. Chee They are only so deaf as will not listen. They are only so blind as will not see.
Jailer Singapore is the jewel of Southeast Asia. There are many wealthy people living in Singapore. Even I am able to afford a maid and a gardener.
Dr. Chee That brings us to why I am here.
Jailer I do not understand.
Dr. Chee Of that I am certain.
ENDRead the completed one-act stage play:
Dr Chee – the War of the Words (A Shambolic Exercise in One Act)