20 Nov 2006

Canadian professors write CSJ protest letter

Sourced at Singapore Democratic Party site.

19 Nov 06
October 20, 2006

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister MacKay,

Re: Dr. Chee Soon Juan

We are writing on behalf of more than 55,000 academic staff at over 100 universities and colleges across Canada to express our concern about the continued persecution of Singapore scholar and democratic opposition leader Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

Singapore's government claims to be encouraging a more participatory, inclusive society, but in practice continues to use an array of laws to restrict freedom of expression. The result is a pervasive climate of fear in the country, and Dr. Chee is one of the few people in Singapore still willing to press for fundamental rights.

Dr. Chee is an academic and activist who has tirelessly promoted freedom of expression, transparency and democracy within Singapore and throughout the Asia Pacific region.

He is recognized internationally as a human rights defender and has received the Defender of Democracy Award by the respected organization Parliamentarians for Global Action. He is the author of several books, journal articles, editorials and essays, and has traveled around the world to speak out for democracy.

While in Canada in 2003, Dr. Chee met with government and several academics to discuss his struggle. Dr. Chee has been held in contempt for attempting to raise the same concerns about the independence of the Singapore judiciary that have been repeatedly raised by international observers including Amnesty International, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights First (formerly Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) and the United States Department of State. Government officials have publicly branded Dr. Chee a "liar", "cheat" and "fraud" in apparent attempts to discredit and silence him.

He has been imprisoned several times, and repeatedly prosecuted, all for non-violently exercising his fundamental human right of free expression. An accomplished neuro-psychologist, Dr. Chee has lost his university post, and his academic career has been destroyed.

He was bankrupted earlier this year, unable to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (500,000 Canadian dollars) in damages to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew for allegedly defaming them during the 2001 election campaign. His bankruptcy means he is now barred from contesting elections and holding a parliamentary seat.

We were encouraged to learn that Canada demonstrated its concern by sending a representative of the Canadian High Commission in Singapore to attend Dr. Chee's trial in March this year.

The Singapore government, however, continues to try to silence Dr. Chee. Earlier this month, he was charged with trying to leave the country without asking permission, and if convicted, could be fined thousands of dollars and jailed for up to two years.

We believe that in the face of continued persecution of Dr. Chee by the Singapore government, Canada and the international community need to do more.

We urge you to take further steps and, where possible, work with other governments to impress upon the government of Singapore that its public statements about working towards a more inclusive participatory society must hold true.

It is vital that the Singapore government desist its abuse of civil or criminal proceedings against Dr. Chee and other dissenting voices in Singapore, and lift its restrictions on peaceful exercise of free expression and other fundamental rights in Singapore.


Greg Allain James L. Turk
President Executive Director
Canadian Association of University Teachers

cc. His Excellency Vanu Gopala Menon, Permanent Representative of Singapore to
the United Nations and High Commissioner to Canada


Capt_Canuck said...

I can not believe that this letter was sent by Canadians. First off, it states that "...earlier this year, unable to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (500,000 Canadian dollars)..". I can't believe that a Canadian would not know, or at least research before sending off an important letter like this, the exchange rate to know that S$500,000 is only CAD$368,657.44.

Also I find it hard to believe that a Canadian would write something like this because it is meddling in the interaffairs of someone elses country. Us Canadians do not meddle in others affairs, unless it is a war and we are trying to be buddy buddy with the Americans. Even then we go, call it 'peace keeping' and try to make an appearance but not do any real damage.

Please, Soci, can you name the source where this letter is posted? I clicked on the 'singapore' tag at the bottom of the post but I could not open the site it sent me to.

soci said...


Anonymous said...

To Capt Canuck :

Sir, it's rather easy for you to ascertain the validity before you start casting un-belief and questioning a noble effort of some fellow person/group that seek to voice out for a fellow singaporean what many singaporean can't or blinded to reckon! We may not like the person but we cannot or should not take away any due facts, material truths and contributions from him/her by wantonly casting aspersions.

You asked for the source! It's already written there before your eyes,i.e Canadian Association of University Teachers! For your eye, I attach here the URL(http://www.caut.ca/en/about/contact.asp) where you can write or call the president to ascertain. I hope you do and be sir enough to correct or affirm your stand if need be. Please do not retort and ask other to write/call the president to because others,like me, do not have this problem! You do and the burden should lies in you since you have alleged or accused.

Don't you see one of the problem here is that most fellow countrymen have already blindly/ignorantly accepted the proposition that anyone accused is already guilty until he/she prove his/her innocence. Innately, most of us know that this is not right as it so could so often lead to abuse from the accuser.

-a fellow singaporean guest!

Capt_Canuck said...

Thank you Soci, and Anonymous, for the links that you have supplied.

Anonymous, yes I see that it is written and that it is from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, but dare I say, that anyone can type a letter, use a header and call it legit. I just get the feeling that this letter is similiar to the dying words of the great men in history. We have these great last dying words recorded in history, but who is to say that they are the real words of the person who died, or the words that the writer thinks the dying person would have said. I assure you, that when it comes to finding out the truth of a matter I dont rely on the blind believers to search for the truth, since everyone is quite happy to live in peaceful ignorance. Perhaps you are a fellow Singaporean guest who has lived in singapore so long that you have lost the curiousity and looking for proof before you believe what is written. Tell me, are you a firm believer in all that the newspapers tell you about the glory of the PAP?

Regardless, I have sent off an email to James Turk at the website that you have mentioned, thanks for the info. Will keep you posted on the authenticity of the letter based on his response.

Ghormax said...

And here is a PDF copy of the letter on the organization's website http://www.caut.ca/en/issues/international_solidarity/2006oct_can_cheesoonjuan.pdf

Capt_Canuck said...

looks by proof that the letter is legit. Though I have not received an email from the executive director himself, obviously if there is something posted on the companies website with signatures then it must be true. So for my doubt in this case, I do admit defeat and say that I was wrong.

I thank you ghormax for giving me the website with the letter on it.
I also found it nice to read the letters that the CAUT has sent Mr. MacKay over the months concerning the horrors that have been happening around the globe concerning silencing of people and mistreatment of teachers. Seems like Greg Allain and James Turk do have quite a bit to say about the world, and it is a good thing that all 55,000 teachers in 100 universities support his position.

However, I will never apologize for my curiousity and being a 'doubting thomas'. To sit back and read this letter on the internet and say "wow, it goes with what I believe therefore it must be true" blindly is about as bad as sitting back and reading a post on the internet and saying "I dont beleive that it could happen, so it must be a lie". How many read the article and believed it to be true or false without searching for truth.

I am of the state to say, leave Singapore alone and let them do what they want. The leaders of the country have proven themselves to be stubborn, mule headed people who only know what is right for the people in their country (much like Canadian politicians) and as long as the people are willing to re-elect them and pay the politicians million dollar salaries, then so be it. Their house, their rules, you dont like it, dont visit or live there.

eXodus said...

if you really feel that way, that you should just leave other people to flounder while you cast a blind eye half the globe away, then i feel YOU should come and live in singapore. Sad to say, You're as apathetic most singaporeans here.

Have you ever considered that an organisation that has held power for so long could cut off all avenues of emancipation?
As a resident of the country, i greatly applaud the efforts of the organisation . Taking the time to point this out to the international community is really much more help than the meddling you see it as.