Dr Chee Soon Juan’s application for travel to Norway to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum in May has been rejected. The Official Assignee (OA) has, like in countless occasions in the past, banned the SDP secretary-general from going overseas.
Forum organisers have, however, asked Dr Chee to record his speech on video which will be presented during a session to highlight countries where “human rights violations are skillfully hidden by governments and thus ignored by the [international] media.”
The OA’s rejection makes little sense because the rationale for prohibiting bankrupts from going overseas is to ensure that they do not skip town for good and leave the creditor unpaid. There is no chance that Dr Chee will leave Singapore and not return.
Besides, it’s not like Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong, who sued and then banlrupted Dr Chee, need the money. The two former prime ministers are millionaires many times over. And yet, they insist on wanting money from the SDP leader.
Thirdly, it cannot be that the OA is afraid that Dr Chee will spend his money overseas and not pay Mr Lee and Mr Goh because the Freedom Forum has stated that it will pay all of his expenses for the visit. The reason is obviously something else.
The last time the OA rejected Dr Chee’s travel was November last year when he was invited to speak at the International Bar Association’s annual conference in Dubai. Because of his inability to travel, he recorded his speech which was played to audience. (Watch video here.)
From that presentation, the panel chairpersons Professor Robert Stein of the University of Minnesota Law School and Justice Richard Goldstone of the Constitutional Court of South Africa have invited Dr Chee to co-author a chapter in a book dealing with the subject of the Rule of Law. Cambridge University Press has shown interest in publishing the book.
The Oslo Freedom Forum is a high level event described by The Economist as “a spectacular human-rights festival on its way to becoming a human rights equivalent of the Davos Economic Forum.” Former US president Bill Clinton said that the Forum is “a unique gathering of the best minds, bravest hearts and strongest pillars of the human rights community.”
The mission of the Forum is to bring together leaders from academia, advocacy, business, media, politics, social entrepreneurship, and technology to address the world’s most challenging humanitarian issues. It has attracted wide media interest inluding news organisations like CNN, Al-Jazeera, Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, Huffington Post and so on.
This year’s speakers include Mr Jimmy Wales, founder and CEO of Wikipedia and Mr Julian Assange of Wikileaks. Past speakers include Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, chessmaster and Russian democracy advocate Gary Kasparov, and former Czech Republic president (the late) Vaclav Havel.
Dr Chee will highlight in his presentation the urgent need for open and democratic debate as the socio-economic situation continues to deteriorate in Singapore. The control of the political system and the local media by the ruling party must end.