To Bush From Alliance For Reform And Democracy In Asia (ARDA)

May 4, 2002
Singapore Democrats

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May 1, 2002

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush,

Democracy activists across Asia are greatly concerned with recent actions by the Government of Singapore to silence its domestic political opposition. In particular we are concerned with the plight of the leader of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

Earlier today in Singapore, Dr. Chee was arrested by Singapore police for organizing a peaceful demonstration on the occasion of International Labour Day. The demonstration called attention to attempts by Singapore’s government to raise the national sales tax even as income disparity and unemployment are on the rise in Singapore.

Dr. Chee is also charged with libel for criticizing government policy in the course of the general election campaign in November of last year. The tactic of bankrupting political opponents with frivolous libel suits has become commonplace in Singapore as a way of silencing political opposition. Dr. Chee has been denied the right to obtain Queens Counsel for his defense, including an offer from Hong Kong democratic leader Martin Lee to represent him.

On October 29, 2001, Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew was quoted in the New York Times stating, “[Dr. Chee] is completely slippery, tricky, a liar, a flawed character.” The printing of such aspersions shows that libel laws in Singapore are applied under two sets of rules’ one for the ruling People’s Action Party and one for their opponents.

We are writing to ask that you take the opportunity of Senior Minister Lee’s current visit to Washington, DC to call for an end to the use of libel suits as a way of bankrupting and intimidating political opponents, and to demand that all charges against Dr. Chee be dropped. While Singapore has demonstrated itself to be an ally to the United States on many fronts, it has to respect free speech if it is to be counted among the world community of democracies.

Sincerely,

Hon. Dr. S. Oyun, MP
Vice Chair, ARDA
President, Party of Citizens’ Will, Mongolia

Hon. Sam Rainsy,MP
Leader of the Opposition, National Assembly, Cambodia
Chairman, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats
Steering Committee Member, ARDA

Hon. Tioulong Saumura, MP
National Assembly, Cambodia
Steering Committee Member, ARDA

Hon. Dr. Prakob Chirakiti,MP
Democrat Party, Thailand
Steering Committee Member, ARDA

Dr. Paul Scott
Professor of History
Kansai Gaidai University, Japan
Steering Committee Member, ARDA

Sawar Bari
Director
Pattan Development Organization, Pakistan
Steering Committee Member, ARDA