Pro-democracy group in third day of sidewalk

September 18, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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Antara News
18 Sep 06

Withstanding a thunderstorm and constant scrutiny of police, an opposition party head said on Monday he wanted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to be aware of the denial of basic freedoms in Singapore.

For a second straight night, Chee Soon Juan and his six supporters tried to sleep on slabs of cardboard on the pavement surrounding a park, the only place allowed by police.

While supporters brought food and a change of clothing, six policeman accompanied each one to the park bathroom.

“What is this country coming too?” the 44-year-old Chee exclaimed as reported by DPA.

“Fear is so instilled in the people.”

With the city-state under international attack for banning 27 activists and prohibiting any outdoor protests, Chee said he planned to remain until Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong completes his speech at the official opening of the IMF and World Bank meeting on Tuesday.

The ban on 22 of the 27 was lifted, but 167 civil society groups (CSP) boycotted the event in retaliation.

“We are protesting against the denial of the rights of Singaporeans to freedom and speech and peaceful assembly,” said Chee, wearing a t-shirt proclaiming “Democracy Now.”

“These rights are crucial in helping to protect our interests, including out economic well-being,” he said.

Chee, the 44-year-old head of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), had initially planned to march on Saturday past Parliament House, the convention centre and then hold a rally.

When he or any of the others started to move, they were surrounded by police linking their arms.

Chee, a former psychology lecturer, expressed confidence the police would make any arrests with the meetings going on.

His sister, Chee Siok Chin, said she was feeling tired from lack of sleep but would not leave.

A spokeswoman said police were “engaging” Chee and his associates.

The park holds Singapore’s Speaker’s Corner, started in 2000 to give the public an opportunity to speak but rarely used.

Registering with police is required. Speakers are prohibited from discussing subjects that could ignite religious or racial violence or
threaten national security.

Police a week ago stopped Chee from handing out pamphlets urging the public to participate in the march and rally.

Chee was found guilty last Tuesday in a defamation case brought against him by the government for articles he wrote in the party’s newsletter.

He was made bankrupt earlier this year after he was unable to pay Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong 500,000 Singapore dollars (320,000 US dollars) in libel damages
stemming from the 2001 election.