John McCain’s letter; Chee’s reply

December 10, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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Senator John McCain’s letter

United States Senate
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510-0303
December 4 2003

Dear Distinguish Members of Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia:

More than six months have passed since Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy colleagues were brutally attacked and imprisoned by Burmas ruling military junta. Yet Suu Kyi and nearly three dozen and other NLD members remain imprisoned or under house arrest. While the junta may believe it can wait out the international community, and think that we have all long forgotten the May crackdown, I want you to know that I have neither forgotten the events of May 2003, nor the election of May 1990.

The strong stand of the United States following the May 30th crackdown is part of a firm and long-standing US commitment to Burmas pro-democracy struggle. However, the US does not stand alone in supporting the NLDs legitimate mandate to govern Burma, or in reminding the junta of this fact. Other democrats around the world, including Burmas neighbors, share the commitment to the struggle for democracy in Burma.

Burmas neighbors must let the junta know that they too are still waiting for the release of Suu Kyi and more than 1,200 other political prisoners languishing in Burmas prisons. They too are still waiting for recognition of the results of the 1990 elections and a peaceful transfer of power to the NLD. They too can clearly see the juntas fear of Aung San Suu Kyi, who embodies the peaceful aspirations of the Burmese people for a better life.

As prominent Asian democrats, your strong support for democratic forces in Burma is critical. I urge you to continue to keep the struggle for a free Burma alive in your countries and with your governments. The junta may be able to ignore our voices individually, but it cannot drown out or ignore the voice of the international community in support of the freedom that is the Burmese peoples birthright.

Sincerely,
John McCain
United States Senate

Dr Chee Soon Juan’s reply

9 December 2003

The Hon. John McCain
Senator
United States of America

Dear Senator McCain,

On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia (ARDA), I thank you for your letter dated 4 December 2003 in which you so forcefully and eloquently expressed your support for Aung San Suu Kyi and the pro-democracy forces in Burma as well as for ARDAs efforts to contribute to the democratization process there.

Unfortunately, the ruling SPDC has many good friends in Southeast Asia one of which is the Singapore government. While you wrote that the strong support of Asian democrats is critical and urged us to keep up the struggle for a free Burma alive in [our] countries and with [our] governments, the ruling Peoples Action Party (PAP) in Singapore has prevented us in doing this by banning all public discussion of the matter.

I had applied for a police permit for a public forum (which the law requires in Singapore) to discuss the subject Democracy in Burma How can Asians help? The police rejected the application saying that the proposed event would be contrary to the public interest. There was no further explanation. I then wrote to the Minister of Home Affairs, asking him to reconsider the decision to ban the forum. I received an even more curt reply stating the my appeal has no merits.

We then organized a press conference in place of the forum. Among some of the graver issues which I raised were:

1. Singapore governments investments in Burma that Mr Robert Gelbard, former US Assistant Secretary of State, said have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han.

2. Allegations from experts on Burmas narco-trade that drug money is entering Singapore.

3. Reports from Janes Intelligence Review and other experts that arms are being sold by and/or shipped through Singapore to Burma.

Not only does the banning of the forum deny Singaporeans the right to free speech but it also prevents Singaporeans from getting information that can be used to hold Singapores ruling party accountable for its actions. The total control of Singapores media by the PAP, as evidenced by the complete black out of the issues that I raised above, further shows how the lack of democracy in Singapore brings succour to the dictators in Burma.

Singaporeans have lived under an authoritarian one-party state for more than forty years. Democracy is far from our midst even though it is close to our minds and hearts. It is this desire for freedom that I ask you to strongly register your concerns with the Singapore government for its undemocratic behaviour and continued suppression of the human rights of Singaporeans which, in turn, prevents us from helping our Burmese friends. I hope that you will monitor the repressive nature of the Singapore government and to use your good office to bring pressure to bear on the PAP to respect democracy and human rights. The collusion between autocrats in Southeast Asia is an affront to freedom-loving peoples all over the world. It must be stopped.

Your leadership and commitment to democracy in Asia is of utmost importance and I thank you for it. Your solidarity with our cause is greatly valued and we look forward to more support from the visionary role that you play.

Sincerely,

Chee Soon Juan
Chairman
Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia
and
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party