Singapore opposition politician vows to proceed with protest

September 3, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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AFP
3 Sep 06

An opposition Singapore politician vowed to stage a protestmarch during upcoming IMF and World Bank meetings even without a required police permit.

Police said earlier Wednesday they rejected Chee Soon Juan’s application to hold the protest at next month’s meets on security grounds.

“Yes, we will go ahead… The world must know about this,” the secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party said, criticising a blanket ban on public demonstrations and other political restrictions in the city-state.

Chee, who has served three jail terms – a total of about two months – for speaking publicly without a permit, said he is prepared to risk arrest again.

“It is our right to be able to do that (hold a protest). They (police) will just have to do what they have to do. We will continue to fight for our right as citizens of this country,” he told AFP.

However he said he was exploring going to the courts over the rejection of his application.

Police would not hesitate to take the necessary action to enforce the ban on public demonstrations if anyone, including foreign nationals, was caught trying to protest without a permit, said police operations director Aubeck Kam.

Kam said Chee’s application was denied for fear it will disrupt preparations to secure more than 16,000 delegates to the September 19-20 meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Previous meetings of the IMF and World Bank have attracted large anti-globalization protests, some of them violent.

“No licence, no permit will be issued … if it is attempted to be carried out, it will be illegal,” Kam told a media briefing on security preparations for the event, the biggest that Singapore has hosted.

“We will enforce the law.”

In Singapore, public protests involving at least five people are regarded as illegal unless a police permit has been issued.

Any person who organizes or helps in organising the illegal assembly faces up to six months in jail or a fine or both.

Chee, a vocal critic of the ruling People’s Action Party, said the march was aimed at exposing the government’s curbs on free speech and what he claimed was the poverty situation in the wealthy city-state.

He was declared bankrupt in February for failing to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (318,000 US) in defamation damages to former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

Ahead of general elections in May, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew filed another defamation suit against Chee for allegedly implying they are corrupt.