More than one hundred friends and invited guests turned up at the Furama Hotel last Thursday evening to share the occasion of the award of Liberal International’s (LI) Prize for Freedom 2011 to Dr Chee Soon Juan.
It was a dignified affair that was full of hope and meaning as speakers talked about the future of democracy in Singapore. Several of the guests included prominent figures from the political and civil society circles who were present to honour the award recipient.
LI President Hans van Baalen presented the award to Dr Chee during the dinner and in his address called on the Singapore Government to democratise Singapore.
He said that human rights was not a Western concept and took issue with the view that Asians were not suited to democracy and its values. “Such a view,” he pointed out, ” is racist.” Human rights is a universal concept embraced by all peoples.
He related an incident which demonstrated the vindictiveness and small-mindedness of the PAP. Mr van Baalen had met Singapore’s representative to the EU who had promised to arrange a meeting with Government officials when he visited Singapore.
But when the LI President indicated that he was going to be with the SDP to present the LI award to Dr Chee, the official changed face and said that the officials were too busy to meet him.
“It is so unfortunate that the Singapore Government behaves this way, it is so unprofessional,” Mr van Baalen said.
Dr Chee Soon Juan then took the stage to give his acceptance speech after he was presented the award. He used the occasion to remind Singaporeans that the PAP Government was copying the worst aspects of the West’s greed and “crass consumerism” while rejecting the good it offers in democracy and human rights values.
He said that we have aped Wall Street and adopted a system that has shown itself to be highly unstable as banks and financial institutions wreak havoc to the international economic system, bringing much misery to the world’s citizens and stirring outrage across the world.
He also cited the growing wealth disparity in Singapore which bred resentment and instability. He repeated the SDP’s call for a more egalitarian system which he is the “moral and more effective way of organising economic society.” The video of Dr Chee’s speech will be posted on this website shortly.
Following the presentation, several speakers paid tribute to the SDP secretary-general. (Watch video here)
The Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats also presented Dr Chee with a plaque to recognise the SDP leader’s efforts to being freedom to Singapore.
Young Democrats Teo Tian Jing presented Dr Chee with a portrait of the SDP secretary-general.
The evening was not all speeches. A video montage was played as a tribute to Dr Chee. Violinist Ms Lim Hui (left) raised the mood and spirit of the evening when she played a rousing rendition of Le Marseillaise, a piece written during the French Revolution which signifies immense courage, calling for people to stand up and fight for freedom.
Ms Lim is an internationally renowned violinist who recently returned to Singapore after spending seven years in America and Japan. She studied in Eastman School of Music and has a Master’s degree in Violin Performance from Indiana University in the US. She is also the winner of several music awards and has represented Singapore at several major music festivals.
Ms Lim’s father was a member of the Barisan Socialis who was detained under Internal Security Act in the early 80s.
Her second piece was no less impactful. Ms Lim performed to a warm reception the theme from the movie The Schindler’s List – a film about the wrong and shameful acts of human beings against others.
She was accompanied by pianist Ms Jia Hwei, an accomplished pianist who has studied piano at the Royal Northern College of Music in the UK and graduated with her Masters degree in piano performance.
Check out the evening’s photos below.