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The PAP Government has stopped Ms Chee Siok Chin from attending a democracy leadership programme at Stanford University in the US.
Ms Chee was one of only 27 candidates selected from 500 applications to attend the Stanford Summer Fellows on Democracy and Development which will take place from 28 Jul – 15 Aug 08.
The Official Assignee’s (OA) office rejected Ms Chee’s application to travel to Stanford. Ms Chee was adjudicated a bankrupt in Aug 07 after she was ordered to pay cost over a court case challenging the Government on the Constitutional rights of the four persons who had protested in front of the CPF building.
Since then, she has been making regular payments to the benefit of her creditors and has submitted necessary forms and documents requested by the OA’s office. As a bankrupted person, she has to apply to the OA’s office for leave to travel out of the country.
In the past year, the OA’s office had granted her permission to leave Singapore on several occasions when she had to attend international conferences and meetings.
But now the OA says that “none of these travels have translated into a benefit to your creditors” and rejected her application to go to Standford.
Professor Larry Diamond, a director of the programme, had indicated to Ms Chee earlier this year when the two met at World Movement for Democracy conference in Ukraine that he looked forward very much to her attending the fellows programme. Professor Diamond is the author of The Spirit of Democracy of which he presented a copy to Ms Chee.
Ms Chee appealed to Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, stating that the fellowship was crucial for her as part of her research for a book which she is planning to write. “Part of the earnings from the sales of the book will then be made to the benefit of my creditors,” she informed the Mr Shanmugam.
The Ministry responded thus: “We regret to inform you that the decision to reject your travel application remains. The OA is not persuaded that your attendance at the fellowship program in Stanford University would result is any substantial additional benefit to your creditors.”
A few questions arise from the matter:
1. What right does the Government have to restrict Ms Chee’s travel to Stanford University for educational and research purposes?
2. Is she allowed to travel out of the country only when it monetarily benefits the Government?
3. Since when does the Government have a right to hold a citizen or anyone else ransom?
Dr Chee Soon Juan has also been prevented from leaving Singapore since Apr 06 and is effectively under city-arrest. All his travel applications to attend conferences overseas have been rejected by the OA’s office, including applications to see his ailing father-in-law in Taiwan as well as to attend to a patient in Malaysia for his professional work as a neuropsychologist.
It seems apparent that the PAP is anxious about democracy advocates garnering international support for political reform in Singapore. Ms Chee has been an effective speaker on behalf of Singapore’s democracy campaign in the international community. (Read here and here)
By imposing travel restrictions on the Singapore Democrats’ leaders, the Government is attempting to stymie the party’s global networking efforts. The ruling party seems determined to stop the spread of the word of the democracy movement that is growing in Singapore.
Letter from Stanford University
Dear Ms. Chee,
Congratulations! We are delighted to inform you that you have been chosen to participate in the Stanford Summer Fellows on Democracy and Development Program, which will take place July 28 – August 15, 2008, at Stanford University.
The pool of applicants was extraordinarily competitive. We received more than 500 applications for 27 slots and an overwhelming part of candidatures reflected outstanding civic records. It was extremely difficult to reach admissions decisions and we are happy to say that the group of finalists is made up of people with truly remarkable achievements and significant policy-making roles in their countries.
An official electronically signed acceptance letter, which should serve as invitation for visa purposes, will be e-mailed next week. We would encourage you to initiate the appropriate visa arrangements, including scheduling a visa interview at your closest US consulate or embassy, as soon as possible.
Additional information about travel arrangements and program orientation will be sent in mid April.
We look forward to response to our offer for participation in the SFDD Program. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.
Once again, congratulations and best wishes in the months ahead! We look forward to welcoming you to California.
Associate Director, CDDRL