Freedom of speech convicted again

May 21, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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In a brief session this morning, District Court Judge Jasvender Kaur found Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Yap Keng Ho guilty of speaking in public without a permit.

She, however, postponed sentencing because the Deputy Public Prosecutor wanted time to finalise its position on the remaining charges. Dr Chee and Mr Yap are charged a total of eight counts under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act.

All the charges relate to events during the elections in 2006 while Dr Chee and his colleagues were out selling The New Democrat to raise funds for the campaign. Today’s conviction was for the second charge.

The Judge wanted to hear the Attorney-General’s position on the remaining six charges before passing sentence. Sentencing date has been fixed for next Friday, 30 May.

Prior to this case, Dr Chee has been to prison six times: Four for public speaking, one for attempting to leave the country without a permit, and one for scandalising the Judiciary.

Without the fundamental freedoms of speech, association and assembly, it is impossible to change public policy that affect the everyday lives of the people especially in a system where the elections are controlled by the PAP.

Freedom of speech is not the abstract concept that has nothing to do with how Singaporeans live their lives. On the contrary, Singaporeans find themselves in the position where they have insufficient CPF savings, Ministers dole out to themselves huge amounts of cash, control state funds in secrecy, raise the GST without regard to the poor, etc all because Singaporeans do not have their fundamental right to speak out and oppose the Government.

The Singapore Democrats have repeatedly warned that there is a price to pay for the lack of such freedoms and democratic safeguards.