The government-controlled local media reported today morning on MHA’s 20 Dec 2006 response to Chee Soon Juan’s 18 Dec 2006 statement. You will find the report by TODAY below. The Straits Times also has a report out but I can’t find it online for now. Needless to say, both reports are similar. So reading one is the same as reading the other.

First here’s the latest from Chee Soon Juan….

Point-by-Point rebuttal to Ministry of Home Affairs’ statement

21 Dec 06

Below is a reply by Dr Chee Soon Juan (CSJ) to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) statement dated 20 December 2006.

Point 1: Marking of food trays.

MHA: It is normal Prisons procedure to record the food consumption of inmates under close watch. This procedure applies not just to Chee Soon Juan but to all such inmates.

CSJ: When the question of marking was first raised by my wife, Ms Huang Chih Mei, and sister, Ms Chee Siok Chin, on 4/12/2006, Monday, both Mr Chandra Kumar (MHA official) and Queenstown Remand Prison (QRP) Superintendent Hoon categorically denied that prisoners’ trays were marked, unless it’s for vegetarian food. I am not a vegetarian. If it is the “normal” practice to mark the food trays of inmates under close watch, why did Mr Chandra Kumar and Mr Hoon say they had no knowledge of the marking?

In this connection, the food trays of Chee’s associates, Yap Keng Ho and Ghandi Ambalam were also marked to allow Prisons to monitor their food intake. This was done following Yap’s declaration that he was going on a hunger strike.

Point 2: Food trays were not marked on previous occasions

MHA: For Chee especially, the marking of food trays should not be new as this procedure was applied to him when he was in prison in Oct 2002 and again in Mar 2006. He had no complaints then about the marking of his food tray.

CSJ: My foodtrays were most definitely not marked on previous occasions when I was imprisoned. On this point, the MHA first says that my food tray was marked “following Yap’s declaration that he was going on a hunger strike.” [emphasis added] But it later says that my food tray was also marked on previous occasions on Oct 2002 and Mar 2006. How can this be when Mr Yap was not even in prison when I was incarcerated in 2002 and in March this year?

Point 3: Allowed to choose among unmarked trays

MHA: To address this and assure him, Chee was allowed to choose among unmarked trays from 2 Dec 2006 but he continued to persist in not eating.

CSJ: This is not true. I repeatedly told prison officials that I did not want to continue to eat prison food until I saw my wife. QRP refused to allow my wife to see me until 4/12/2006 (eight days after I stopped eating the food in the marked trays). When I was finally allowed to see my wife on 4/12/2006 in Changi General Hospital (CGH), and after Mr Chandra Kumar gave the assurance that I could select from unmarked food trays, my fears gradually eased and agreed to eat the food served in the hospital. The first time that I was told that I could choose from unmarked trays was 4/12/2006 (at the CGH) and not 2/12/2006 (while I was still in prison) as claimed by the MHA.

It is therefore wholly untrue for the MHA to say that although “Chee was allowed to choose among unmarked trays from 2 Dec 06 but he continued to persist in not eating.” CGH’s records would unequivocally show that I had eaten the food on the same day that Mr Chandra Kumar assured me that I could choose from unmarked trays.

Point 4: Insisting on eating home-cooked food.

MHA: He also persisted in his demand that he would only eat home-cooked meals prepared by his wife. (Prisons policy, which applies to all inmates, does not allow this.)

CSJ: Again, it is not true that I insisted on eating only home-cooked food. During the hospital visit on 4/12/2006, my family was allowed to buy me some biscuits & packet drinks for me. I consumed these. I clearly indicated that I didn’t want food that was in marked trays or those handled by prison officials. To reiterate: After Mr Chandra Kumar assured that I could choose from trays that were not marked, I then started to eat the hospital food.

Point 5: Refusing to eat hospital food.

MHA: Chee refused to eat even the meals served by the Changi General Hospital…

CSJ: As mentioned above, I ate the food served by CGH during my stay at the hospital. This is easily verifiable in the hospital records. There was even a CCTV in my hospital room recording this. MHA can easily produce this to prove who is not telling the truth.

Point 6: Request for medical records.

MHA: Chee claimed that he and his family members have repeatedly asked for a complete set of his medical report but have not received them. This is certainly untrue. Chee only gave his consent to the authorities for his medical report to be released to his sister on 14 Dec 06.

CSJ: The facts are incontrovertible. My lawyer faxed QRP a letter on 13/12/2006 asking for the medical records. My sister, Ms Chee Siok Chin, also faxed a letter requesting for the said documents on 12/12/2006. QRP have these faxed letters and should produce for the public to see. I myself asked for the medical results when I returned to QRP on 7/12/2006. It is therefore yet another lie for the MHA to say that is “certainly untrue” that my family and I had repeatedly asked for the medical reports.

Point 7: No sleep deprivation.

MHA: On his return from Changi General Hospital, Chee was placed in a cell equipped with CCTV. The lights at such cells are kept switched on from 6 pm to 8 am the following day…

CSJ: First, let it be noted that the prison had admitted to keeping the lights on in my cell throughout the night and morning hours (6 pm to 8 am the following morning). I repeatedly complained to the prison doctor and psychiatrist that the lights at night were keeping me awake and this affected me tremendously. There is a reason why we all turn off the light when we sleep at night – our bodies respond differently to light and darkness. Keeping the lights on during sleeping hours for a prolonged period (in my case, for a straight nine days/nights) deprives one of proper rest and this affects one’s health.

Point 8: Prison needs to monitor inmates with suicidal tendencies.

MHA: [The lights are left on] for visibility to enable prison officers to monitor inmates under close supervision, including those with suicidal tendencies or who may cause self-inflicted injuries.

CSJ: The MHA needs to come up with more credible answers. Suggesting that I had “suicidal tendencies” or “may cause self-inflicted injuries” is complete and utter rubbish. Psychiatrists at QRP and CGH have examined me, and if the results indicated that I was suffering from any “suicidal tendencies“, they should produce it. Obviously, the turning on of the lights at night is just an excuse to deprive me of sleep and affect my psychological health. Is it not possible for the prison to use an infra-red camera to do the recording with the lights off?

If the prison is really monitoring inmates who had “suicidal tendencies” or “may cause self-inflicted injuries“, why did it not similarly monitor Mr Yap Keng Ho who had announced publicly that he was conducting a hunger strike while imprisoned?

Point 9: Sleeping without trouble with lights on.

MHA: Prison officers observed that Chee’s cell-mates slept without trouble. At his request, Chee was also given valium and was observed to have rested at least 6 to 7 hours each night. This was recorded by the CCTV camera.

CSJ: I and my cell-mates had great difficulty sleeping with the lights on. As mentioned, I repeatedly requested the prison doctor, psychiatrist and Superintendent to turn off the lights at night. It is silly for the MHA to continue to argue that I and my cellmates “slept without trouble” for more than a week under bright lights when everyone knows that our biological functions and circadian rhythms are disturbed when the lights are on at night.

Point 10: Books were not taken away as punishment.

MHA: When he was referred to the hospital, Chee brought with him 7 books for his reading while in hospital. On his return, these 7 books were required to be subjected to security screening. This is a standard security procedure for all items, books included, which are brought in from outside into the prison.

CSJ: These seven books were among the 32 books that I had first brought with me to the QRP when I was first taken to prison 23/11/2006. At no time did the seven books leave the sight of prison officials to and from CGH.

Point 11: Refusing medical assistance in prison.

MHA: Between 25 Nov 06 and 4 Dec 06, Chee resisted blood tests (to establish the cause of his purported nausea) and medical assistance from the prison medical officer and the doctors of Changi General Hospital.

CSJ: I only refused to have invasive measures that required needles to be inserted into my body. This would include the drawing of blood by a syringe and application of IV drips. During the said period, I repeatedly requested to be allowed to see my family before I would consent to such invasive procedures. The prison, however, adamantly refused to allow me to see my family. However, I continue to allow my blood pressure to be taken, my ECG to be monitored and gave urine samples.

I also agreed to all non-invasive procedures to be conducted on me (two CT-scans, an ultra-sound scan, two X-rays, and urine samples). I allowed blood to be drawn after I was allowed to see my family.

Records in QRP and CGH would back up my account of the matter. Would the MHA make public these medical records so that the truth can be ascertained once and for all? By refusing to disclose these facts, the MHA is trying to cover up the truth.

Point 12: Strangely resumed eating at CGH.

MHA: Then just as strangely as Chee had stopped eating on 28 Nov 06, Chee abruptly resumed eating his meals on 4 Dec 06. He ate his dinner ordered from a menu of choices at Changi General Hospital.

CSJ: There was nothing strange that I started eating the food at CGH. I have said all along that I wanted to see my wife first before I would resume eating. I consumed hospital food when my wife was allowed to see me on 4/12/2006. That was also the day when Mr Chandra Kumar promised us that there won’t be any more markings on my food either in CGH or QRP.

Point 13: Deciding to eat when returned to prison.

MHA: On his return to prison, and when he was placed in a cell under CCTV observation, Chee decided to eat prison meals and behaved well enough to be eligible for remission of his sentence.

CSJ: I started to eat prison food after assurance from Mr Chandra Kumar and Suprintendent Hoon that there won’t be any more markings on my food. I was also threatened that my yard time, family visits, and even consultation with lawyers would be denied if I did not eat the prison food.

Conclusion

From the above it can be seen that the MHA’s statement is riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions and outright lies. The Government should provide documents and recordings that it has in its possession to reveal the truth rather than make statements that it can neither substantiate nor prove.

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Chee’s charges, ministry’s reply by TODAY

Thursday • December 21, 2006

Politician Chee Soon Juan was released from prison last Saturday – his five-week jail term ending one-and-a-half weeks early for good behaviour.

The Singapore Democratic Party chief, who opted to go to jail rather than pay a $5,000 fine for speaking in public without a permit, has since released a three-page statement to the media, accusing the Government of treating him poorly in prison.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has refuted Chee’s latest claims. Here are the key points made by both parties.

Marked food trays

Chee SAID: The food served to him in prison made him nauseous and dizzy, and distorted his “auditory senses”. He noted that his food tray had been marked, and said the symptoms stopped when he skipped a couple of meals. He asked the Government to explain why his tray had been marked with an “S”.

THE MHA SAID: It is normal prisons procedure to record the food consumption of all inmates under close watch. It said that it had also monitored the food intakes of Chee’s associates, Yap Keng Ho and Ghandi Ambalam, following the declaration by Yap that he was going on a hunger strike. It said that it had done the same when Chee was in prison in Oct 2002 and again in March this year. He had not complained then, said the MHA.

Medical reports

Chee SAID: He and his family members claim to have repeatedly asked for a complete set of his medical reports, but are yet to receive it.

THE MHA SAID: Chee only gave his consent for the authorities to release his medical report to his sister on Dec 14. The medical report is currently being prepared by a Raffles Medical Group medical officer and should be ready for collection in two weeks, subject to payment of a fee.

Lights in the cell

Chee SAID: The light in his cell had been kept on the “entire night and morning”, which made sleep impossible. It affected his health and his ability to eat. This he claimed went on for the last nine nights of his imprisonment, after he had returned from the hospital. He added that complaints to the prison doctor and psychiatrist had fallen on deaf ears.

THE MHA SAID: Chee initially slept in a cell with cell-mates, where the lights were turned off at night. After he complained of sleeping problems, he was given the sleeping aid valium by the medical officer, and was observed to have slept well. On his return from hospital, the MHA said that Chee had been kept in a cell equipped with CCTV, where the lights are kept on from 6pm to 8am to enable prison officers to monitor inmates under close supervision, such as those with suicidal tendencies or intent to injure themselves. It said that prison officers observed that Chee’s cellmates slept without trouble. At his request, Chee was also given valium and was observed on CCTV to have rested at least six to seven hours each night.

His books

Chee SAID: In his statement, he asked why his books had been taken away when he returned from hospital. He said that when he asked for them, he was told that they had been taken away for censoring. He pointed out to officials that they were the same books he had brought into prison, and said he received no explanation on why censoring was required.

THE MHA SAID: Chee had brought a total of 32 books with him to prison, far more than any other prisoner. These 32 books were permitted. When he was sent to the hospital, Chee took with him seven books. On his return, the MHA said that the seven books were required to be subjected to security screening — standard procedure for all items brought in from the outside.

In their own words …

Chee SAID:

If I am treated no differently from other inmates, why was my food tray marked when others’ were not? Also, why did the prison refuse to turn off the lights in my cell when the lights in other cells were switched off at 9pm every night? Let me add that I do not believe for a moment that the prison officials acted on their own initiative. Like everything else regarding the Opposition, decisions are made at the People’s Action Party Government level and, in this instance, it should not try to pass the blame on to the Prison Service.

THE MHA SAID:

Chee’s incarceration is a result of his own doing and political motivation — he broke the law and was convicted with due process but chose to go to jail instead of paying the fine. Chee’s insinuations about being the victim of some food conspiracy by the authorities are ridiculous and a product of his own mischief.

The facts about Chee’s conduct and actions in prison show that no one has made him nauseous; the medical tests done in the hospital showed that he was fit to return to prison. Instead, what is clear is that Chee’s purported “ailment” in prison served only to provide an expedient story for his associates and foreign supporters to faithfully distort and exploit for political mileage. In the end, this was what really happened with Chee in prison.

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