Singapore, 14th October 2014 – The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Secretary-General Dr Chee Soon Juan will speak at this year’s International Bar Association’s (IBA) Rule of Law Symposium in Tokyo on 24 October.
He is one of two speakers in the session titled Freedom of Expression, a principle the IBA considers “a fundamental norm of democracy and the rule of law.”
Dr Chee was invited to speak at the conference in 2011 in Dubai but could not attend because of his travel ban resulting from a lawsuit brought by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong which caused him to be made a bankrupt. He sent a video instead.
The SDP leader has also been imprisoned and fined on several occasions for criticising Singapore’s judiciary and conducting protests in Singapore.
“I am looking forward to sharing the importance of freedom of expression in combating oppression and promoting the rule of law in the global setting,” said Dr Chee. “It is important for the international community to work to foster freedom of expression and in so doing empower the masses rather than ust the rich and powerful.”
In Singapore, freedom of expression is still significantly restricted. Print and broadcast media are still run by the government. Bloggers and activists continue to be threatened with prosecution and lawsuits. The 2009 Public Order Act, allows the police to stop protests, even if it is by one individual. The Singapore government recently banned the screening of a film about Singaporean exiles. Several protestors are currently under investigation by the police for allegedly illegal assembly at the Speaker’s Corner.
“Singapore is out of step with international standards on freedom of expression,” Dr Chee said. “Unfortunately, this puts an already conformist society even further behind in terms of cultivating an entrepreneurial and innovative culture. This will have a grave impact on the country’s economy.”
In 2008, the internationally recognised IBA published a report on Singapore which stated that the rule of law in Singapore “falls far short of international standards. In particular, democratic debate and media comment are extremely restricted.” The report also stated that “Singapore cannot continue to claim that civil and political rights must take a back seat to economic rights” but that “[i]t is imperative that Singapore now takes its place as a leader in the region…in human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
Japan’s Chief Justice, Mr Itsuro Terada, will give the introductory remarks and Japan’s Extraordinary Minister of State and Minister of Consumer Affairs and Gender Equality, Mr Masako Mori, will deliver the Keynote Address.