Soon Juan and Siok Chin are in jail

This post on the interesting and bolshie website confirms that the Chees are in jail in Singapore. The news-blog reports a lively protest outside the prison on Friday night:

The candle-light vigil for Dr Chee Soon Juan at the Queenstown Remand Prison last Friday night ended with a difference.

Departing from the normal, the more than 30 SDP members, supporters and activists sang the song “We shall overcome” with gusto as bewildered guards inside prison gates were startled and stared with a sense of loss at the group outside.

The emotionally charged number reverberated through the still night, prompting the impromptu choir to go for an encore.

Dr Chee is serving 12 days in prison for a contempt-of-court offence.

His sister, Chee Siok Chin, is also in prison for the same offence. [read]

It’s time to step up demands for their release and for the dropping of all charges of contempt and defamation against the brother and sister activists.

There’s also a wonderful post by Dr Chee’s wife, Huang Chih Mei

Singapore, my home too

We were on our flight back to Singapore from Taiwan. I picked up a complimentary copy of the Straits Times before boarding the plane. My eldest daughter glanced at the front page and read out loudly, “Papa, 12 days; Korkor, 10 days…are they going to jail, again?”

I quickly surveyed those fellow passengers nearby, no one seemed to raise an eyebrow. I presumed they were either tourists or Singaporeans who were not quite on the radar of this island’s political watch. For me, I was apprehensive that we were just in time to send them off to prison the next day.

Our kids are great, especially the eldest one who was born when her father was in jail. My then gynecologist was a bit fazed for a moment after sewing me up and looking for the new father for the customary congratulations. He ended up shaking my hand.

We have our kids late, but we always feel thankful that they came at the right time – just when things are getting more difficult and challenging for us, they are best in keeping things in perspective for us.

Read the full article: Singapore, my home too

I think we’ve ignored the suppression of free speech in Singapore for far too long – about 30 years too long. I’m not quite sure why this is. I’ve been to Singapore a few times over the past 10 years and it always strikes me as a very Western place for Asia. The long British rule is still apparent in everything from the ridiculously expensive Raffles’ bar to the uniforms of the cops who are everywhere. The food, faces and humidity are very Asian, but the mood of the place seems to be hybrid.

The last time I was there, July 2007, I met a couple in one of the many roadside seafood stalls. We chatted quite openly, but they said that such conversations could not normally happen among their friends because everyone is far too cautious to speak up about politics and social issues.

The couple said that Singapore parties – even among the relatively liberal and mixed middle class – are stilted affairs where the conversation is about consumption, not controversy. I had a beer or two with them and they appreciated the change to speak out.

An academic i spoke with told me that in her university department the government plants were suspected if not confirmed. She said that the climate made it hard to have a frank exchange of views, which would make the life of a scholar very difficult.

These are just brief anecdotes and the observations of an outsider, but I think they’re relevant because they put the extraordinary bravery of the Chees and their supporters in perspective.

In a country where just having an opinion can get you into trouble, speaking out and then facing another jail term, while your children and family can only worry about you in relative silence and isolation, is the action of a hero.

I salute Soon Juan and Siok Chin, I stand by them on the principle of freedom of expression and speaking truth to power, even if it makes you unpopular.

I know little about the politics of the Singapore Democratic Party that the Chees support, but even from my limited knowledge, anything’s better than the continuation of the current regime of ruthless thugs in suits.

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