Open Letter to the Delegates of the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh

November 7, 2002
Singapore Democrats

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7 November 2002

November 6, 2002

Dear Distinguished Asean Delegates,

As you gather this week to discuss the present and future of Asia, we are obliged to call your attention to the imprisonment of Singapore Democratic Party leaders Chee Soon Juan and Ghandi Ambalam. The jailing of these two democratic activists by the government of Singapore is cause for great concern to Asians working to bring greater levels of democracy, human rights and economic prosperity to our region.

Chee, who is also chairman of the Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia, and Ambalam were arrested for failing to obtain a permit to hold a public speech during a Labour Day rally. The court cited “potential law and order problems,” at the gathering of 500 people who had come to hear them speak. Before either man uttered a single word the police demanded that they leave the premises and promptly arrested them after they failed to do so immediately.

It is the duty of the government to provide for the safety of its citizens. However, a government that sacrifices freedom for security will, in the end, have neither. Chee Soon Juan and Ghandi Ambalam are victims of an overzealous and fearful government that places its need for power and control above the rights and freedoms of its people.

In the last year, the government of Singapore has arrested, fined and jailed Chee Soon Juan on repeated occasions. In August, Chee was fined for speaking without a permit, ironically enough, on Singapore’s “Speaker’s Corner.” The fine imposed by the government banned the SDP leader from running for parliament office for five years. His sentencing in October is a further attempt to discredit and intimidate any and all opposition to the ruling People’s Action Party.

The Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia calls for the support of ASEAN delegates in Phnom Penh in seeking the release of Chee Soon Juan and Ghandi Ambalam. It is in the interest of all Asian nations to protect and guarantee the basic freedoms of speech and assembly.

Sincerely,

Dr. Sunjaasuren Oyun
Vice Chair, Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia
Member of Parliament, Mongolia

Hon. Sam Rainsy
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Cambodia

Hon. Tioulong Saumura
Member of Parliament, Cambodia

Mr. Aung Niang Oo
National Reconciliation Program, Burma

Mr. Sawar Bari
Co-Ordinator, Pattan Development Organization, Pakistan

Dr. Ken Coghill
Monash University, Australia

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