Dr Chee Soon Juan has been invited to speak at this year’s International Bar Association’s (IBA) Rule of Law Symposium in Tokyo on 24 October.$CUT$
He is one of two speakers in the session on the subject of freedom of expression.
The SDP Secretary-General was also invited to speak at the IBA conference in 2011 in Dubai but could not attend because of his travel ban resulting from a lawsuit brought by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong. He sent a video instead. (Watch video here.)
Dr Chee also attended the Rule of Law Symposium when the conference was held in Singapore in 2007 and spoke from the floor during the Q&A session.
The Government had then tried to prevent the IBA from opening the Symposium to the public which would have stopped him from attending. It failed.
During the session, one of the speakers Mr S Jayakumar, then deputy prime minister and minister for law, defended the PAP’s position. Dr Chee rose to rebut the minister, pointing out the numerous abuses of the law including detaining Singapore citizens without trial.
Following the conference, the IBA prublished a report in 2008 which stated that the rule of law in Singapore “falls far short of international standards. In particular, democratic debate and media comment are extremely restricted and government officials have initiated numerous successful defamation suits against both political and media critics.”
The report also stated that “Singapore cannot continue to claim that civil and political rights must take a back seat to economic rights” but that “[i]t is imperative that Singapore now takes its place as a leader in the region…in human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
Freedom of expression in Singapore is still significantly restricted. Print and broadcast media are still run by the government. Bloggers and activists continue to be threatened with prosecution and lawsuits. The 2009 Public Order Act, allows the police to stop protests, even if it is by one individual.
The Singapore government recently banned the screening of a film about Singaporean exiles. Several protestors are currently under investigation by the police for alleged illegal assembly at the Speaker’s Corner.
Singapore is out of step with international standards on freedom of expression. Unfortunately, this puts an already conformist society even further behind in terms of cultivating an entrepreneurial and innovative culture. This will have a grave impact on the country’s economy.
Japan’s Chief Justice, Mr Itsuro Terada, will give the Introductory Remarks and Japan’s Extraordinary Minister of State and Minister of Consumer Affairs and Gender Equality, Mr Masako Mori, will deliver the Keynote Address.