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Dr Chee Soon Juan, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, and Mr Yap Keng Ho will be at the Subordinate Courts (No. 25) on 25 Oct 06 to stand trial for speaking in public without a permit.
Dr Chee and Mr Yap face eight charges each under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (PEMA) while Mr Ambalam has one charge against him. The charges are related to the occasions when the SDP was selling its party newspaper The New Democrat during the election period in April this year.
The PEMA has long been used by the PAP to prevent the opposition from communicating effectively with the people while it has a free hand in running its election campaigns through its ministers. The PEMA exempts Government-sponsored activities (including ministers’ walk-abouts) from having to apply for permission.
This is the fourth time that Dr Chee has been charged with such an offence and Mr Ambalam’s second. The SDP leaders have stated that they will continue to challenge this unjust law used by the PAP to further its undemocratic hold on power.
The charges are clearly politically-motivated. The Singapore Democrats have been selling The New Democrat for years and this is the first time that the Government has taken action which is obviously aimed at crippling the SDP’s election campaign.
The issue sold was the one that published the article The Govt’s Role in the NKF Scandal for which the Lees have sued the SDP in which the Party took the Government to task for building a non-transparent and non-accountable system that encouraged scandals like the NKF to breed.
(Some observers have remarked that it is not the NKF article that caused the crackdown but rather the photographs of Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s gaffe of forgetting to bow before the State flags during the inspection of the guard-of-honor when he visited Germany last year. (See Confused PM in Germany.)
Besides, there have been street-vendors selling all manner of goods from frying pans to medicinal herbs, and talking to potential customers all over Singapore everyday. Yet the SDP has been singled out for the offence.
Because of the blatant political motives and agenda of the Government Dr Chee, Mr Ambalam, and Mr Yap have indicated that they will not pay the fines but will instead serve their prison terms as a mark of protest.
The trial has been fixed for 25-31 Oct 06. On 30 Oct, Dr Chee has to appear in another court to answer charges of attempting to leave Singapore without permission.
On 31 Oct he has to appear in the High Court with Ms Chee Siok Chin for a pre-trial conference to set the date for the hearing for the assessment of damages in the Lees’ lawsuit.
A third hearing is set also on 31 Oct 06 in which the Attorney-General wants the Bill of Costs heard for the application Ms Chee and Dr Chee took out to strike out the Lees’ summary judgment hearing.
It seems that the next several days will be jam packed with court hearings for SDP’s leaders. (See Schedule of court cases.) Coincidence?