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Minister hits out at Huffington Post for giving Chee ‘undeserved space’

SINGAPORE — In a sharply-worded statement, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing has responded to the Huffington Post’s publication of two articles by Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Chee Soon Juan saying the website gave Dr Chee “considerable but undeserved attention and space”.

Dr Chee Soon Juan. TODAY file photo

Dr Chee Soon Juan. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Two articles by opposition politician Chee Soon Juan published in The Huffington Post have drawn a sharply worded response from Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, calling out the American news website for giving the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general “considerable but undeserved attention and space”. 

The two opinion pieces, Without Freedom There Is No Free Trade and Free The Singapore Media And Let The People Go, were published on Nov 13 and Dec 11 last year, respectively. 

The articles criticised the Singapore Government for violating human rights through its trade processes and for its control over the media, which Dr Chee said “have put reason and 
intellectualism to sleep”.
 
In the letter addressed to the site, Mr Chan did not address the opinions expressed by Dr Chee, but took issue with the website’s decision to publish the articles. “You perhaps believe he is a weighty political figure in Singapore. He is nothing of the kind,” said Mr Chan. 

Describing Dr Chee as a “political failure” who had stood for and lost three elections, Mr Chan said: “The party he now leads, the Singapore Democratic Party, was once the leading opposition party in the country. But that was when it was led by Mr Chiam See Tong, a man everyone in Singapore — political friend and foe alike — regards as honourable.”

While it was Mr Chiam who brought Dr Chee into the SDP fold in 1992, Dr Chee later forced him out of the party. “Since then, the SDP hasn’t won a single seat in Parliament, although Mr Chiam went on to win elections repeatedly,” Mr Chan said.

He also pointed out that while Dr Chee “likes to trumpet in foreign media”, the SDP secretary-general had been sued by ruling-party politicians and did not mention that he had been sued by Mr Chiam “because it is embarrassing”.

Dr Chee’s dismissal from the National University of Singapore — where he was a psychology lecturer — in 1993 for misappropriating research funds and other misconduct, including secretly recording conversations with university staff, as well as his 1996 conviction of perjury by Parliament for submitting false statements all point to his failure as a politician, the minister said.

“It is because of these and other failings that Dr Chee is a political failure — not because he was persecuted, as he likes to pretend (to be),” said Mr Chan. 

“His party is now one of the weakest political parties in Singapore principally because voters do not regard its leader as an honourable man.”

Mr Chan noted that Dr Chee, who was disqualified from contesting the past two General Elections because he was declared a bankrupt in 2006 for failing to pay damages for libel to 
former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, has been campaigning to redeem himself in the public eye.

“As he has done in the past, he has looked to the foreign media for redemption, chiefly because foreign journalists don’t know him as well as Singaporeans and he believes he can beguile them into believing he is the Aung San Suu Kyi of Singapore politics,” Mr Chan said. 

While Dr Chee has claimed that he has been forced to publish in foreign media as he has been silenced in local channels, Mr Chan noted that several sociopolitical websites in Singapore had run several articles by Dr Chee, while some of his letters had been published in the local press. 

“Dr Chee’s problem is not that he has not been heard by Singaporeans; his problem is that they have,” said the minister. 

The SDP was unable to respond as of press time.

MR CHAN'S LETTER TO THE HUFFINGTON POST IN FULL:

Your website has given Dr Chee Soon Juan considerable but undeserved attention and space. You perhaps believe that he is a weighty political figure in Singapore. He is nothing of the kind.

Dr Chee has stood for elections thrice – and lost badly all three times, once receiving just 20% of the vote. 

The party he now leads, the Singapore Democratic Party, was once the leading opposition party in the country. But that was when it was led by Mr Chiam See Tong, a man everyone in Singapore, political friend and foe alike, regards as an honourable man.

Indeed, it was Mr Chiam who brought Dr Chee into the SDP in 1992. He mentored the younger man and promoted him. Dr Chee then proceeded to betray Mr Chiam, isolate him and force him out of the SDP, a party that he had founded in 1980 and had nurtured over 14 years. Since then the SDP hasn’t won a single seat in Parliament, though Mr Chiam himself went on to win elections repeatedly.

In 1993, Dr Chee was dismissed from the National University of Singapore for misappropriating research funds and for other serious misconduct, including surreptitiously recording conversations with university staff.

He has been sued for defamation not only by ruling party politicians, a fact that he likes to trumpet in the foreign media, but also by the doyen of the opposition in Singapore, Mr Chiam, a fact that he doesn’t mention because it is embarrassing.

And in 1996, Dr Chee and three of his associates were convicted of perjury by Parliament tor submitting false statements to a Special Parliamentary Committee. This is the equivalent of Congress convicting someone of perjury, a most serious offence.

It is because of these and other failings that Dr Chee is a political failure -- not because he was persecuted, as he likes to pretend.  His party is now one of the weakest political parties in Singapore principally because voters do not regard its leader as an honourable man.

Dr Chee was disqualified from contesting the last two General Elections because he was declared a bankrupt in 2006 for failing to pay damages for libel to former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. He was discharged from bankruptcy in 2012 after the former Prime Ministers agreed to accept a reduced sum in damages. Since then Dr Chee has been campaigning to redeem himself in the public eye in preparation for the next General Election.

As he has done in the past, he has looked to the foreign media for redemption, chiefly because foreign journalists don’t know him as well as Singaporeans and he believes he can beguile them into believing he is the Aung San Suu Kyi of Singapore politics.  Dr Chee, however, claims he is forced to publish in the foreign media because he has been silenced in the Singapore media.

But this is false. There are several socio-political websites in Singapore, some with as wide a reach among Singaporeans as the Huffington Post has among Americans. They have run several articles by Dr Chee. The local press also has carried several of Dr Chee’s letters.

Dr Chee’s problem is not that he has not been heard by Singaporeans. His problem is that they have.

Sincerely,

Chan Chun Sing

Minister for Social and Family Development, Singapore

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