This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.
Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Ghandi Ambalam were both found guilty for all the charges brought against them in Singapores subordinate court today.
They were fined $4,500 (or 5 weeks in prison) and $3,000 (or 4 weeks in prison) respectively.
They both chose to go to jail instead of paying their fines.
[Statement by Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Ghandi Amablam]
The judges decision did not surprise us. We had expected it. Our arrest and conviction clearly demonstrate continued repression in Singapore through the use of unjust laws.
We had chosen May Day (1 May 2002) to hold a public rally because it was an important occasion for workers to commemorate the occasion (as workers in other countries all over the world do every year). Even this is not tolerated by the PAP.
What chance therefore do the workers in Singapore have of organizing themselves, and protecting their rights and interests? This is especially relevant given the present economic climate as well as the bleak long-term outlook for Singapores economy. While the rich continue to get richer in Singapore, including PAP ministers who draw million-dollar salaries, the poor dont even have their right to protest against the exploitation and economic injustice they face.
It is not possible for Singaporeans to express their views once every four or five years in elections. This is because the electoral process in Singapore is designed to ensure that the PAP retains its overwhelming control of Parliament every time. Besides elections is only one part of the democratic process. Political rights such as free speech are other essential elements of a democracy without which elections become a meaningless exercise.
Laws put in place by the PAP to ensure that citizens cannot openly congregate and pressure the government to serve the peoples interests instead of its own, are not only unjust but also unconstitutional. Furthermore, these laws are applied selectively against the opposition but not the PAP.
It is therefore the duty of every citizen to challenge the government when it implements such oppressive laws. Throughout history democracy leaders have defied unjust laws imposed by their governments by deliberately breaking them in acts of civil resistance. Examples are Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, and Kim Dae Jung, who were considered criminals and imprisoned for breaking unjust laws during their time. Today, they have become international leaders and beacons of hope for democracy throughout the world.
Oppression in Singapore must also be met with disciplined and mature civil resistance. We have chosen to go to prison because our conscience dictate that we cannot look the other way when unjust and oppressive laws continue to be wielded against the defenseless and poor in our country. The PAP must know that the SDP will not sit back and watch it exploit Singaporeans for its own gain.
Chee Soon Juan