Proposed Correction to Press Release

Posted by Kevin Liew under Letters on 15 March 2000

I refer to Think Centre's Press Release "Think(ing) towards a National Human Rights Commission - Venturing into Uncharted Waters" by Anbarasu Balrasan.

I disagree with the negative phraseology in the opening paragraph regarding Dr. Chee of the SDP.

You wrote:

"Dr Chee Soon Juan painted a pessimistic and hopeless future for human rights in Singapore and surprised everybody. Whether it was a tactic to capture the headlines or simply to embody that he was 'beyond human rights' remained unclear." PAP-like talk: "tactic to capture headlines". Correct me if I am wrong, but he did seemingly start off his speech with an apparently 'pessimistic' view of setting up a human rights (as opposed to "human rights" as a value or ideal which he has always been fighting for) in Singapore at the present moment of time.

Giving a quick pat on NUS Professor Val Winslow's right shoulder with his left hand, Dr. Chee told the audience in his introduction that he was somehat not as optimistic as Winslow. BUT, to say that "Dr Chee Soon Juan painted a pessimistic and hopeless future for human rights in Singapore" is totally erroneous. If you are referring to human rights as a value or an ideal or goal to be reached and respected, then it would be incorrect and contradictory to follow up your details of what Dr. Chee covered with:

"However, Dr Chee has been a steadfast fighter for human rights and was jailed for attempting to speak without a licence. His ." "Futile" at this point of time, as in now, today. Given all the evidence that he has presented, you would be, as you correctly say it, "venturing into uncharted waters". However, given the fact that Think Centre is operating as an "independent" organisation, you could very well be successful in this venture.

"The question and answer sessions covered a wide scope from political apathy right up to a comparative study of human rights. However, the most interesting question was posted when one of the members of the audience asked whether having Dr Chee on the human rights study committee would be a liability. It was a valid question especially when Dr Chee himself alleges that there is a media black out on him." It may have sounded like a 'good' question but it certainly wasn't a "valid" one (let alone an informed one!) given Dr. Chee's international credentials as a human rights political activist cum politician. Regardless of what Singaporeans (whose only source of news on Dr. Chee is gotten from the government controled media) think of Dr. Chee, he would not be a liability unless you choose to see him as such, given the stigma the PAP has labeled on him. Instead, a human rights organisation which has him on its Board would greatly enhance its standing in the eyes of the international community. Without him on board, the Singapore human rights organisation, unless it is a branch of Amnesty International and the like, would be seen as merely just another government front to use the name of "human rights" as a political tool.

On the "media blackout", it was not just an 'allegation' but a FACT. I had seen a program on CNBC a few years ago featuring Dr. Chee. It never was mentioned at all in Singapore's media. Were the examples given by Dr. Chee enough? No? Then check out the stations that interviewed him. CNN and most American media outlets sell video-tapes and transcripts of certain programs they air, provided of course that the events did not take place decades ago...

Forgetting Dr. Chee for a moment, why hasn't dear Lydia Lim from the ST gotten her report (assuming she has written one!) published in the ST as she has successfully gotten one in last year's Sunday Times? There was a "media blackout" on this human rights Forum by Think Centre too! Apart from the plain-clothes policemen and the 150 people, who else in this island of 3.8 million knows what went on that evening? Never mind those who have the Internet, let alone access P21, SFD or SW on a regular basis!

If Think Centre or anyone / organisation is willing to take steps to form a credible human rights body / Commission in Singapore, I am sure that Dr. Chee and the SDP would be pleased to work along with this plan and to see to it that this becomes a reality for all Singaporeans.

Thank You and I wish Think Centre all the best in its undertakings.

Show some love,

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