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Mr Gandhi Ambalam and Dr Chee Soon Juan walked out of prison on Saturday after serving a one-week jail term for distributing flyers that were critical of the PAP Government.
They were greeted by friends and supporters outside Changi Prison. Undaunted, the two said that they would continue to campaign for democracy and free speech in Singapore, and immediately sat down with members and supporters at a nearby coffeeshop to discuss initiatives to further the programme of the Singapore Democrats.
The PAP has long been known for its use of the law to stifle democracy and human rights in this country. But this has not stopped it from shamelessly anouncing to the world that Singapore is a democratic country.
Mr Ambalam and Dr Chee were convicted, together with Ms Chee Siok Chin, by District Judge Chng Lye Beng for assembly without a permit in 2006 when a group of them distributed flyers outside the Raffles City Shopping Centre.
The Judge agreed that it was an offence because the flyer’s content was “critical of the policies of the Government.”
Last week, the two SDP leaders indicated to Judge Chng that they wanted to serve their sentence first even though they had appealed the conviction. They indicated that they did not think that their appeal would be upheld.
So why appeal then?
Because it is important to raise the issue of the abuse of power by the Government to deny the people and the opposition their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Whatever the courts may decide, it is more than academic for judges to make their views known and to state the reasons for their judgments.
This will then be open to scrutiny by the public, both local and international.
The Singapore Democrats continue to call on the Judiciary to protect the rights and interests of the citizens of Singapore against an Executive that is bent on keeping its hold on power no matter what.
In the past High Court Judge V K Rajah (right) ruled that “domestically as well as internationally, public governance in Singapore has been equated with integrity. To spuriously cast doubt on that would be to improperly undermine both a hard-won national dignity and a reputable international identity.”
More recently, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong (left) reiterated Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s view that the rule of law must be molded according to the “political, social and cultural” values of the country.
“We cannot continue in this vein,” Mr Ambalam said, “we need to emphasize that while countries differ culturally, the rule of law and human rights are universal as spelt out by the United Nations.”
It is this claim by autocrats that the respect for human rights and the rule of law must be relative according to a country’s perceived values that have enabled governments to abuse their powers and oppress their citizens.
The SDP will stand firm on this issue and continue to fight for the democratic rights of Singaporeans.