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Dr Chee Soon Juan’s appeals to the Judiciary to protect the freedom of speech of Singaporeans has again failed. High Court Judge Steven Chong this morning upheld Dr Chee’s convictions for speaking in public without a permit.
The SDP leader was sentenced to $20,000 fine or 20-weeks imprisonment in default. Dr Chee was given until 10 Feb 11 before beginning his jail term.
In his submissions, Dr Chee had argued that the system was abused by the PAP and laws were being used by the ruling party to deny the opposition and civil society from exercising their political rights.
With civil liberties, the opposition and the people are prevented from publicly discussing and bringing pressure to bear on the PAP to protect their economic rights.
Shorn of their rights, Singaporeans today find themselves in a helpless position even as they find their jobs threatened and their wages decline. They continue to remain at the mercy of a Government whose greatest priority to take care of the elite.
Elections by itself is not going to protect the people from an exploitative regime, especially in an electoral system as controlled as the one in this country. Without the ability to congregate in public to protest, the PAP is under no pressure to listen to the people. It will continue to do as it pleases.
But this is the tragedy with authoritarian governments. They get so comfortable oppressing the people that they lose touch with reality and misjudge society’s mood. Until its too late.
Political freedoms allow people to hold their governments accountable and, in so doing, help political systems to develop and evolve peacefully. But when citizens are denied their rights, systems stagnate and eventually erupt in undesirable and violent ways.
Unfortunately, instead of opening up and giving the people room to express themselves politically, the PAP is continuing to clamp down on society – both online and off. The continued denial of permits to NGOs like Transient Workers Count Too to conduct a public procession and the gazetting of The Online Citizen are two recent examples.
Judge Chong’s decision to convict Dr Chee today is yet another nail in democracy’s coffin in Singapore.