ST wants to censor Chee’s reply on the Singapore-Burma connection

November 29, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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Dr Chee recently wrote two letters in reply to a Straits Times Forum letter by Mr Siow Jia Rui as well as to an article from Mr Joseph Koh, Singapore’s High Commissioner to Australia. The Straits Times wrote to Dr Chee regarding the matter. Below is their correspondence.

Dear Dr Chee,

I refer to your fax of Nov 25 responding to reader Siow Jia Rui’s letter,
“Chee shows he’s out to undermine S’pore” (ST, Nov 24).

We would be happy to publish your letter where it refers to points raised in Mr Siow’s letter. This being so, we are prepared to publish the following:

“Mr Siow Jia Rui argues that Singapore’s laws must be allowed to run their course and that no other country has a right to interfere. If that is that case then why was the charge for Ms Julia Bohl reduced after the German ambassador and government had mounted a diplomatic campaign on behalf of Ms Bohl, meeting several senior Singaporean ministers in the process. Within months several charges were dropped and the amount of drugs she was accused of carrying was reduced from 687g to 281g. She escaped the gallows and served about 3 years for her crime. Is this not outside interference in Singapore’s justice system?

Mr Siow continues that laws in Singapore are applied fairly across the board to Singaporeans and foreigners alike. The life of Julia Bohl, a German, was spared because of pressure from the German government. What about the life of Mr Shanmugam, a Singaporean who served in the army and did Singapore proud by winning medals in ski competitions? Ms Bohl served three years in prison but Mr Shanmugam was hanged. Is a Singaporeans’s life so cheap compared to a foreigner’s?

I have no doubt that when Singaporeans come to hear both sides of the debate, a debate that the media is determined to quash, they will reject the hypocrisy and discrimination of the PAP Government”

Yours sincerely

Kong Soon Wah
Forum Editor

Dear Mr Kong Soon Wah,

Mr Siow Jia Rui referred extensively to my interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and quoted parts of it. What he failed to do was to say that my comments were made in the context that it is hypocritical to hang Mr Nugyen Van Tuong on the one hand and to do business with Burmese druglords like Mr Lo Hsing Han on the other.

Singaporeans must read my comments in the context in which they were made, hence my laying out of the matter of the GIC’s investments in Burma.

By proposing to remove the paragraphs regarding Singapore’s investments with Burmese druglords, you not only make me look like I do not have a reply to Ms Siow’s attack that I have “aligned” myself with other countries to “undermine” Singapore, but you also take away the very essence of my letter.

Be that as it may, I am amenable to amending my letter and be more explicit about why I mention our Government’s investments in Burma.

Alternatively, if you agree to publish my second reply (in its entirety) to the article “Envoy rebuts Chee’s claims on investments”, I would be agreeable to your proposal.

In short, the facts – and my questions – regarding the PAP Government’s investments in Burma must appear in at least one of my replies. The Singapore-Burmese druglords connection cannot continue to be blacked out especially when it forms the very heart of my reply to the attacks of the PAP and its supporters. It is the crux of my case against the Government.

Sincerely,

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party


Portions of the letter that the Straits Times wants to remove are in bold.

I am not surprised that the Government-controlled media has again portrayed me as a “traitor” out to “undermine” Singapore. This is exactly the tactic the press is adopting with the flurry of letters published. (24 Nov 2005)

It merely confirms my suspicion that the Government cannot answer the questions and arguments that I and other Singaporeans have raised about the execution of small-time drug couriers. As a result, it resorts to labeling me as a traitor in the belief that if you smear the messenger, you don’t have to address the message. It’s an age-old tactic.

Singapore is reported to be the biggest business partner of Burma with US$1.5 billion worth of investments. Former US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gelbard stated that “since 1998 over half of [the investments from] Singapore have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han.”

There are reports that Lo Hsing Han now operates a deepwater port in Rangoon and a highway from the center of Burma’s poppy–growing region to the China border, facilities well-suited for exporting drugs.

Remember, the drugs that flow from Burma are ones that our youth consume. If the PAP is really concerned about the scourge of drug abuse, why did it do business with a notorious drug lord and, hypocritically, take the moral high ground by executing drug couriers many of whom are Singaporeans.

Let me ask the questions that I have been asking since 1997: Will the Government open its books so that we can verify if our GIC funds are still invested in projects linked with Lo Hsing Han? What steps has the Government taken to pressure the Burmese regime to crackdown on drug kingpins like Lo? Why does our Government continue to trade with the Burmese junta when it has been shown that the military has close ties with narco-producers like Lo?

In addition, Singapore has been fingered in the laundering of Burma’s drug money. Bruce Hawke, an expert on narco-trafficking in Burma, wrote: “The entry [of drug money] to the legitimate global banking system is not Burma but Singapore.” Is this true?

I have been raising these questions since 1997 but each time the local media assiduously blacks them out. Other arguments against the mandatory death penalty for drug peddlers raised by people like Dr Anthony Yeo, Mr J B Jeyaretnam, Mr M Ravi, Mr Alex Au, Mr Sinapan Samydorai, and Brother Michael Broughton have similarly been censored.

The same arguments were raised when a Singaporean, Mr Shanmugam s/o Murugesu, was executed in May this year. I brought up the Singapore-Burma affair then when we were fighting to save Mr Shanmugam as I am doing now for Mr Nguyen Van Tuong.

The only reason why this issue has gained more prominence now is because the Australian media, which unlike its Singapore counterpart are not controlled by the state, have seen it necessary to highlight it.

Criticising our government for killing small-time drug peddlers while doing business with drug lords is necessary. Whether it is a Singaporean or an Australian who is going to dangle at the end of the rope is immaterial. A life is a life and if we are going to take it, let us be absolutely clear of the excruciating hypocrisy that currently exists.

Ms Siow Jia Rui argues that Singapore’s laws must be allowed to “run their course” and that “no other country has a right to interfere.” If that is the case then why was the charge for Ms Julia Bohl reduced after the German ambassador and government had mounted a diplomatic campaign on her behalf, meeting several senior Singaporean ministers in the process. Within months several of the charges were dropped and the amount of drugs she was accused of carrying was reduced from 687g to 281g. She escaped the gallows and served about three years for her crime. Is this not outside interference in Singapore’s justice system?

Ms Siow continues that laws in Singapore are “applied fairly across the board to Singaporeans and foreigners alike.” The life of Julia Bohl, a German, was spared because of pressure from the German Government. What about the life of Mr Shanmugam, a Singaporean who served in the army and did Singapore proud by winning medals in ski competitions? Ms Bohl served three years in prison but Mr Shanmugam was hanged. Is a Singaporean’s life so cheap compared to a foreigner’s?

I have no doubt that when Singaporeans come to hear both sides of the debate, a debate that the media is determined to quash, they will reject the hypocrisy and discrimination of the PAP Government.

CHEE SOON JUAN
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party