For immediate release
Urgent: Dr Chee Soon Juan’s health deteriorates in prison
28 Nov 06, SDP
Dr Chee Soon Juan was visited by his sister Ms Chee Siok Chin this afternoon at the Queenstown Remand Prison. They met to discuss their lawsuit brought on by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Mr Lee Hsien Loong.
During the brief half an hour meeting, Dr Chee revealed that he had not eaten since the morning of Monday 27 November. This was because every time he ate what was served to him, he would feel nauseous and dizzy and then throw up. Normal sounds such as the jangling of the guard’s keys and even the sound of his cell mate urinating are amplified causing him massive headaches. He has not been able to sleep and has been taking valium to help him rest. Dr Chee has also lost a considerable amount of weight.
A close friend of ex-remisier Mr Boon Suan Ban who was committed to Institute of Mental Health (IMH) last year, had revealed that the latter was given medication for schizophrenia even though he did not suffer from that ailment. Mr Boon had taken legal action against the close friend of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and former Chief Justice, Mr Yong Pung How. It was only when he proceeded with the case that he was then committed to the IMH.
There were speculations that the late Mr Lim Chin Siong, the leader of the now-defunct political party, Barisan Socialis who was imprisoned by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in 1963, was given drugs during his confinement. The once spirited Mr Lim came close to taking his own life whilst in prison.
In an open letter to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s former president, the late Mr Devan Nair who had a fall out with the former, said that he came under “heavy sedation from 125 mgs of valium daily” for 10 days, administered by the medical staff, enough medication to “dope an elephant”.
The above cases give real cause for concern and suspicion for the enormous discomfort that Dr Chee is presently experiencing.
Dr Chee Soon Juan, Mr Gandhi Ambalam and Mr Yap Keng Ho were sentenced to prison for making a speech in public without a permit. The three men have not seen each other since they were taken into prison.
Friends from the Singapore Democratic Party have made numerous requests to the prison authorities to see Mr Yap Keng Ho. We understand that Mr Yap is on a hunger strike and we have made urgent requests to see him to ascertain his condition. The prison authorities have been cold and callous about this and have been dragging their feet on the matter.
Mr Gandhi Ambalam has a heart ailment and his family has not received news on how he is doing since the first visit to him.
Dr Chee also revealed that the Attorney General’s Chambers are proceeding with the other seven charges on him and Mr Yap for the same offence that both men are now serving sentence for. Their pre-trial conference comes up on 4 January 2007.
Dr Chee and Ms Chee are to attend another pre-trial conference on the assessment of damages in the suit brought on by the Lees in the mid January 2007.
These are in addition to another trial of Dr Chee for attempting to leave Singapore without a permit. Dr Chee has to attend court on 21 December 2006, almost immediately after he is released from serving the current jail term. It seems likely that he has to serve another sentence soon after his release from the current one.
These three men are prisoners of conscience. Their incarceration is politically motivated by the ruling party, if not the Singapore Government. They have not committed any crime. They are victims of a dictatorial regime that is desperate to cling on to power.
Family and friends are extremely concerned that the authorities are trying to psychologically destabilize the men and play mind games on them to discourage them from furthering their act of civil disobedience against repressive laws in Singapore.
Although Dr Chee is not on a hunger strike, the prison authorities interpret his abstinence from taking the food they give him as such act, and will punish him by depriving him of family visits and “yard-time”. The family will request to the prison authorities to allow him food brought from home.
The actions taken against Dr Chee, Mr Gandhi and Mr Yap by the Singapore Government are deplorable.
We call on our fellow Singaporeans to express their support by writing to the authorities to show their concern for the three.
To our friends in the international community, we ask that you write to the Singapore Government to visit Dr Chee, Mr Gandhi and Mr Yap to ensure that their physical and psychological conditions do not worsen during their imprisonment.
Postscript: On 2 Dec 2006 (Sat), the pro-PAP govt newspaper, Straits Times, published a report which took up half a page, in which the government rejected what SDP had said in its press release above. Here’s what the newspaper reported………..
Chee treated ‘same as other prisoners’
The Singapore Democratic Party has questioned the treatment of three of its members in prison. Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the Ministry of Home Affairs has rebutted its allegations, saying they are ‘baseless, malicious and seek to undermine the reputation of the Singapore Prison Service’
By Zakir Hussain
Dec 2, 2006
The Straits Times
Ten days ago, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan, party member Gandhi Ambalam and supporter Yap Keng Ho chose to go to jail rather than pay fines for speaking in public without a permit.
They had addressed a crowd illegally in Yishun on April 22 this year.
On Tuesday, the SDP said in a press statement that Chee’s health was deteriorating in prison and questioned the treatment in prison of the three men.
Yesterday, the Home Affairs Ministry (MHA), which oversees the Prison Service, said the SDP statement ‘contains grave falsehoods and serious allegations attacking the integrity of the Singapore Prison Service’.
The SDP alleged that Chee’s health had deteriorated in Queenstown Remand Prison and implied that it might have been deliberately caused by prison authorities drugging him.
It said Chee was experiencing ‘enormous discomfort’ and ‘even the sound of his cell mate urinating’ was ‘causing him massive headaches’.
He told his sister, Ms Chee Siok Chin, who had visited him on Tuesday, that he had not eaten for a day ‘because every time he ate what was served to him, he would feel nauseous and dizzy and then throw up’.
The SDP added that Chee had been deprived of family visits and ‘yard time’ by prison authorities for not eating.
In an e-mail reply to queries from The Straits Times, an MHA spokesman said: ‘The facts expose the mischief of these insinuations.’
MHA noted that Chee, Yap and Gandhi had undergone a thorough medical check-up when they were admitted, as part of a routine admissions procedure.
On Nov 25, Chee complained of nausea and giddiness to prison staff and he was given medical attention and medication.
‘Like any other prisoner, Chee receives medical attention if he has any complaint of illness,’ MHA said, adding that Chee had not been deprived of family visits or yard time.
‘On the contrary, he has been making full use of his daily yard time to jog and exercise,’ it added.
Chee has also been eating his meals since admission, although he has selectively reduced his consumption and did not eat some meals, MHA noted.
‘On the occasions that he did not consume his meals, he explained to the warden that he did not want to eat or had no appetite.’
The ministry also noted that Chee’s sister had visited him on Nov28 and she had made no complaint about either his illness or ill-treatment to prison staff.
The SDP statement had also alleged that prison authorities were ‘cold and callous’ in not letting Yap’s friends visit him to ascertain his condition, as they understood that Yap was on a hunger strike.
It also said that Gandhi had a heart ailment and his family had not received news on him since their first visit.
MHA pointed out that Chee, Yap and Gandhi ‘are treated no differently from other inmates’.
They are given access to basic amenities and appropriate health care, and visitation rights by family members.
‘Since admission, Yap has in fact been consuming the fruit and drinks which are provided with the regular meals he is given daily.
‘He has also been chewing the rest of the food, and spitting some out,’ MHA said.
‘Yap’s family has not requested to visit him in the prison,’ the ministry added.
The SDP also said the three men were ‘prisoners of conscience’, whose ‘incarceration is politically motivated by the ruling party, if not the Singapore Government’.
They had ‘not committed any crime’ and were ‘victims of a dictatorial regime that is desperate to cling on to power’, the party claimed.
Replying, MHA said: ‘Chee, Yap and Gandhi were charged and tried in open court and were found guilty of having committed an offence.
‘They were fined $5,000, $2,000 and $3,000 respectively. However, they chose not to pay the fine and elected instead to go to jail in lieu of the fine.
‘Chee, Yap and Gandhi are therefore in prison because they deliberately sought this situation – their incarceration is a product of their own political motivation.’
Chee is serving five weeks in default of his fine, while Yap is serving 10 days and Gandhi, three weeks.
The SDP also said the men’s family and friends were ‘extremely concerned that the authorities are trying to psychologically destabilise the men and play mind games on them’.
This, it said, was ‘to discourage them from furthering their act of civil disobedience against repressive laws in Singapore’, calling the actions taken against Chee, Gandhi and Yap by the Government ‘deplorable’.
In dismissing the claims as baseless and malicious, MHA also noted that the Prison Service ‘has over the years been recognised by its international counterparts to be efficient, transparent and committed to the well-being of the inmates under its charge.’