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Robert Dahlberg, a 34-year-old New Zealander, was charged with assault and causing grievous bodily harm when he and two other foreign nationals, an Australian and a Briton, beat up four people at Suntec City in April 2010.
The three men were drunk when they attacked four taxi drivers and passengers, cutting the face and breaking the nose of one of the victims. Mr Dahlberg is reported to be awaiting sentencing but was nevertheless allowed to leave Singapore. He flew off to London and never returned.
This was no small matter. Mr Dahlberg’s case was serious enough for the offence to warrant not just a jail-term of up to 10 years but also caning. This alone would have been reason enough to ensure that the convict remained in the jurisdiction.
There is the added fact that Mr Dahlberg is a foreigner. He has a home somewhere else, presumably in New Zealand, where he could return to and not come back to Singapore. In other words, he was a flight-risk.
And yet he was allowed to leave. His bail of $25,000 is no big deal considering that he was a stock-broker. He could easily rustle up the money and skip town. The amount in exchange for an extensive period of prison time and being whipped by the rotan is a no-brainer.
Now compare this to Dr Chee Soon Juan’s case. Dr Chee has been repeatedly denied travel to other countries because of his bankruptcy status. His case is not even a criminal one as he was made bankrupt in a defamation suit brought by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong.
In addition, Dr Chee is a Singaporean and has signaled that his intention is to stay and defend democracy in his home country. His family is in Singapore and his children go to school here. He does not have a home anywhere else and has no intention of leaving Singapore.
Yet since 2008, the Government has rejected nearly 30 applications made by the SDP secretary-general to travel. The latest was an invitation by the International Bar Association to speak at its annual conference in Dubai in November this year. (Watch Dr Chee’s IBA speech here) The Official Assignee refuses to give a reason for the rejections.
How did it come to this: An accused facing charges of violent assault who is a well-to-do foreigner and therefore a flight-risk is allowed to leave the country whereas a Singaporean who is made a bankrupt by his political opponents and has every reason to remain in Singapore is not?