MHA replies to international NGO but refuses to disclose facts

December 23, 2006
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

Below is a letter the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wrote to the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (and presumably other international NGOs as well).

Notice how the MHA has omitted to mention the marking of the food trays. It also does not disclose that the lights were kept on during the night in Dr Chee Soon Juan’s cell so that he could be monitored by a CCTV because Dr Chee had “suicidal tendencies”.

The SDP will bring to the attention of these organizations the omissions and contradictions of the MHA reply.

Reply to letter from the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, 14 December 2006

The Ministry of Home Affairs replied to a letter from the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada on 14 Dec 06, which had expressed concern for Dr Chee Soon Juan’s personal health and safety in prison:

“Dr Chee was charged for speaking in public without a permit as required by Singapore law. He was tried in open court, found guilty and fined $5,000. However, he chose not to pay the fine and elected instead to go to jail. Dr Chee’s incarceration has nothing to do with him exercising his right “to publicly express his views on human rights and other governance issues”. Dr Chee is free to exercise his rights, provided he does so within the limits of the law. Dr Chee broke the law and must answer for it.

2 While Dr Chee did not declare that he was going on a hunger strike, he progressively reduced his consumption of the meals provided by the prison authorities from 26 Nov 06, and decided to stop eating his meals completely on 28 Nov 06. He stated that he could not eat the meals provided by the prison authorities because he felt nauseous when he ate the food. However, this was the same quality of food which he had been eating since his admission to prison on 23 Nov till 28 Nov 06, and which his cell-mates and other prisoners are still eating in the prison. These meals are prepared according to a nutritional schedule and are served to all prisoners. Dr Chee also refused to take any alternative food options offered to him e.g. a soft diet of porridge or vegetarian meal.

3 Prison authorities have examined the food provided and found no reason to believe that it is the cause of Dr Chee’s nausea. In order to verify the cause and significance of Dr Chee’s purported nausea, the prison doctor had asked that a blood test be conducted. However, Dr Chee adamantly refused to allow such a test to be done. Meanwhile, in order to ensure that his not eating would not jeopardize his health, the prison doctor advised that Dr Chee be put on an intravenous drip. Dr Chee also rejected the advice and refused to allow this. There is no reason for Dr Chee to distrust the prison doctor. Singapore Prisons has in fact outsourced the provision of medical services to a reputable medical practice, the Raffles Medical Group, a publicly-listed company which runs a hospital and many clinics in Singapore and Hong Kong.

4 On 3 Dec 06, the prison medical officer referred Dr Chee to Changi General Hospital for closer medical observation and to conduct the tests necessary to verify his complaints. Changi General Hospital has received the accreditation from the Joint Commission International, an independent agency that audits healthcare organizations worldwide for the safety and quality of their healthcare. About 40,000 patients, both citizens and foreigners, are admitted each year. When he was admitted, Dr Chee initially refused to eat the meals provided by the hospital. These meals are no different from the meals provided to other patients in the hospital, and are specially planned by the hospital dieticians. When the hospital doctors advised Dr Chee that he be put on an intravenous drip so that his body receives nourishment to safeguard his health, Dr Chee refused. It was only on 4 Dec 06 that Dr Chee decided to consume his meals. Dr Chee also underwent tests (including an ultrasound scan and x-ray) to ascertain his medical condition. On 5 Dec 06, Dr Chee finally allowed his blood to be taken for medical tests. The results of these tests showed that he was well and fit to be discharged. Dr Chee was thus sent back to prison on 7 Dec 06.

5 These facts show that you have been misinformed that Dr Chee’s health problems have been caused by conditions within the prison and/or the prison ward in the hospital, and that Dr Chee has not received appropriate and effective medical attention and treatment. There is no basis for these allegations. The reality is Dr Chee caused his own medical problems by refusing to eat, and had also initially refused to cooperate with medical doctors, from both the Raffles Medical Group and Changi General Hospital, who have the full authority to do everything necessary to diagnose and treat Dr Chee.”

MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

14 December 2006