Source: Kent Ridge Common, 09 June 2009
Kent Ridge Common conducted an online interview with Dr Chee Soon Juan. The SDP secretary-general talked about everything from political reform to being an activist. We reproduce the interview here.
Foreword: Dr Chee Soon Juan (CSJ) obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia and is a neuropsychologist by training. He joined the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in 1992, and subsequently became its secretary-general. He was formerly an Honorary Research Associate at the Monash Asia Institute (1997) and University of Chicago (2001), and was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy (2004). He received the Defender of Democracy Award (2003) given by the Parliamentarians for Global Action. He is the the Chairman of the Alliance for Reform & Democracy in Asia (ARDA).
Written by Ng E-Jay
07 Jan 2009
At the opening of the legal year in the Supreme Court last week, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, Attorney-General Walter Woon and Law Minister K Shanmugam launched an all-out offensive against civil rights activists campaigning for democratic change in Singapore as well as foreign media which have criticized our judiciary and the rule of law here.
In particular, CJ Chan insinuated that activists in Singapore have attempted to undermine public confidence in the courts by making “false and scandalous allegations“, and AG Woon said that “that there appears to be a campaign by certain people both here and abroad to attack the integrity and independence of the Singapore courts“, that “it is not permissible to undermine the courts and judiciary for political or ideological reasons“, that these “appear to be part of a broader campaign to force a change in our laws by extra-legal means“. (ST link)
K Shanmugam, which is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs, noted that “in the last few years, there have been people who did not like certain laws and the way they showed it was to go out there and protest“, but he countered that “the way to change the law is to get elected politically and argue in Parliament why the law should be changed“. Denouncing civil rights activists who have sought to highlight the unfairness of certain laws and how the Constitution has been violated by selective application of these laws, Shanmugam remarked that “… an aggressive small group of people think they can change those laws by going out there and protesting and the courts have repeatedly emphasized they will apply the law as it is.”
The remarks and comments made by the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, and Law Minister are consistent with the way the mainstream media has portrayed civil rights activists working for democratic change in Singapore as “radicals” who prefer to break the law and attract attention to themselves rather than work within the law and effect change by winning elections and arguing their case in Parliament — see for example this ST article by Peh Shing Huei entitled “The partitioning of the opposition”, my response to Peh’s article, and Dr Chee Soon Juan’s response to Peh’s article. This time round however, the rhetoric has been notched up to a new all-time high.