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Dr Chee Soon Juan was found guilty of attempting to leave Singapore without permission today. He was fined $4,000 or 3 weeks imprisonment in default.
Dr Chee will appeal the decision and the judge has given a stay of execution pending the outcome of the appeal.
The matter involved the SDP secretary-general applying for permission to attend the World Movement for Democracy conference held in Turkey in April 2006.
As a bankrupt, Dr Chee had to apply for permission from the Official Assignee (OA) every time he wanted to leave the country. He was made a bankrupt when he failed to pay Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong $500,000 in a lawsuit the two former prime ministers took against him in 2001.
When he went to the airport on 1 April 2006, Dr Chee was stopped by Immigration officials and had his passport seized. He was subsequently charged.
During the trial before District Judge Aedit Abdullah, the following were established:
Fact 1: The OA’s office admitted that even on the day that Dr Chee was due to leave for Turkey, it was still considering his travel application.
Fact 2: The Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority acknowledged that there was no way Dr Chee could have found out about the status of his application other than to present himself at the airport departure gate.
Fact 3: Dr Chee received the OA’s rejection letter only on 13 April 06, two weeks after he was due to travel.
Note: Since April 2006, Dr Chee has made 12 applications to travel. All of them have been rejected. This effectively places him under city arrest.
Opposition figure fined over bid to leave Singapore
26 Feb 07
Chee Soon Juan, a prominent opposition politician, was fined S$4,000 on Monday for trying to leave the city-state last year without permission from the government after he was declared bankrupt.
Chee, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, is an outspoken critic of the Singapore government’s political controls and curbs on free speech, and has had several run-ins with the authorities.
The opposition politician was declared bankrupt in February 2006 after he failed to make libel payments of S$500,000 to former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.
When Chee, 44, tried to leave Singapore on April 1, 2006 for five days to attend the World Movement for Democracy conference in Turkey, immigration officers at Changi Airport told him he could not leave the country, Chee’s lawyer Alfred Dodwell said.
“We are very disappointed with the decision,” of the court, Dodwell said. “It’s a case where he has clearly not taken any wilful steps in violation of law. It was an innocent mistake on his part to think that he could leave.”
Under Singapore’s laws, bankrupts who leave the city-state without permission from the government may be fined up to S$10,000 ($6,536) or jailed up to two years.
Dodwell said that Chee would appeal the decision. If he does not pay the fine, he could be jailed for three weeks.
Chee has served five jail terms since 1999 for speaking in public without a permit and for questioning the independence of Singapore’s judiciary.
Most recently, he was jailed for over three weeks after he refused to pay a S$5,000 fine for speaking in public without a permit in the run-up to Singapore’s general elections last year.
Singapore bans public speeches unless the speaker is licensed by a government official.
Chee’s party did not win any parliament seats in the May poll, but won 23 percent of the votes in the wards that it contested