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Singapore Democratic Party’s Chee Siok Chin was invited to attend an inaugural conference to establish an international women’s democracy network. The event was organized by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington, DC in March 2006.
There were approximately 50 other participants in this landmark event, including women participants from Asia, Africa, Middle East, Latin America, and the US.
Speakers at the conference included the former Canadian prime minister, Ms Kim Campbell; former Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain, Ms Ana Palacio, and the US Undersecretary for Global Affairs, Ms Paula Dobriansky.
A special session to celebrate International Women’s Day was held at the White House. President George W. Bush and the First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush addressed the participants. In his 15-minute long speech, Mr. Bush paid tribute to women the world over for their invaluable contributions to society. This was followed by a reception at the White House.
Ms Chee then gave an interview to the bureau chief of the Malaysian Bernama News Agency about the political scene in Singapore.
Ms Chee met with former prime minister Ms Kim Campbell and gave her a brief update about the PAP Government’s persecution of opposition politicians. The former Canadian prime minister expressed that the news was ‘disturbing’ and asked for more information.
The participants spent two days discussing how they could encourage women to participate in the democratization process in our respective regions. Ms Chee spoke about the difficulty of recruiting people into civil societies and political parties in Singapore due to the government’s oppressive stance against dissenting voices.
The participants were then invited to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to commemorate International Women’s Day.
Ms Chee was also able to schedule side meetings with US Congressional staff to keep them appraised of the situation Singapore. She also met with the officials from the State Department as well as representatives of the various NGOs based in Washington, DC.
Ms Chee’s trip adds to the growing effort by the SDP to garner international support for the democracy movement in Singapore.