Dr Chee Soon Juan's application for travel to Norway to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum in May has been rejected. The Official Assignee (OA) has, like in countless occasions in the past, banned the SDP secretary-general from going overseas.
Forum organisers have, however, asked Dr Chee to record his speech on video which will be presented during a session to highlight countries where "human rights violations are skillfully hidden by governments and thus ignored by the [international] media."
The OA's rejection makes little sense because the rationale for prohibiting bankrupts from going overseas is to ensure that they do not skip town for good and leave the creditor unpaid. There is no chance that Dr Chee will leave Singapore and not return.
Besides, it's not like Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong, who sued and then bankrupted Dr Chee, need the money. The two former prime ministers are millionaires many times over. And yet, they insist on wanting money from the SDP leader.
Thirdly, it cannot be that the OA is afraid that Dr Chee will spend his money overseas and not pay Mr Lee and Mr Goh because the Freedom Forum has stated that it will pay all of his expenses for the visit. The reason is obviously something else.
The last time the OA rejected Dr Chee's travel was November last year when he was invited to speak at the International Bar Association's annual conference in Dubai. Because of his inability to travel, he recorded his speech which was played to audience. (Watch video here.)
From that presentation, the panel chairpersons Professor Robert Stein of the University of Minnesota Law School and Justice Richard Goldstone of the Constitutional Court of South Africa have invited Dr Chee to co-author a chapter in a book dealing with the subject of the Rule of Law. Cambridge University Press has shown interest in publishing the book.
The Oslo Freedom Forum is a high level event described by The Economist as "a spectacular human-rights festival on its way to becoming a human rights equivalent of the Davos Economic Forum." Former US president Bill Clinton said that the Forum is “a unique gathering of the best minds, bravest hearts and strongest pillars of the human rights community.”
The mission of the Forum is to bring together leaders from academia, advocacy, business, media, politics, social entrepreneurship, and technology to address the world’s most challenging humanitarian issues. It has attracted wide media interest inluding news organisations like CNN, Al-Jazeera, Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, Huffington Post and so on.
This year's speakers include Mr Jimmy Wales, founder and CEO of Wikipedia and Mr Julian Assange of Wikileaks. Past speakers include Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, chessmaster and Russian democracy advocate Gary Kasparov, and former Czech Republic president (the late) Vaclav Havel.
Dr Chee will highlight in his presentation the urgent need for open and democratic debate as the socio-economic situation continues to deteriorate in Singapore. The control of the political system and the local media by the ruling party must end.
Please note that the Oslo Freedom Forum is unlike many other conferences, especially those devoted to human rights, in that we strive to offer an experience rich with audio-visual material, including dynamic onscreen presentations, short films, custom music and more. As such, we strongly encourage you to include as much visual material as possible throughout your presentation, and our creative director, Chandler Tuttle (copied on this email), is fully available to help you prepare your talk in this way.
Sophal Ear’s presentation about the Cambodian genocide from the 2010 Oslo Freedom Forum is an excellent example of a visually engaging speech. The link can be found here: http://youtube/yraS_HzdezQ
You will be featured in a session titled Spotlight on Repression, which will bring together speakers from repressed countries where severe human rights violations are skillfully hidden by governments and thus ignored by the mainstream media.
Within this theme, we invite you to give a presentation, titled The Secret of Singapore, about your work as an opposition politician in your country. Give a vivid account of the government’s monopoly on media and stifling of free speech, the harassment and imprisonment of opposition figures, and the tight control of civil society and free association. Tell us about the repression you have faced personally in your country, and tell us about what you have done to bring about change in Singapore and promote democracy and human rights.