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Thursday, February 15, 2007

When to break the law

When To Break The Law

Thank you for your articles on the lonely Dr Chee Soon Juan struggle which otherwise we in Singapore will never get to know.

It is so hard to come by news and information that the PAP does not want publicised.

Dr Chee Soon Juan's struggle is all the lonelier because he comes under fire not only from the PAP but also NMPs, Opposition figures and academics who ought to know better, being better read and connected, and above all, knowing more of the truth than the rest of us. They should encourage him, not score debating points off him for journalists.

One Straits Times Forum Page letter writer condemned Dr Chee roundly "for defying the law". But let us examine a little more closely what that means.

Of course, we are all taught from young to hold every law sacred and not to breach any single one of which. But there are times to break the law(s) because laws are not made by God but by very human men.

Men who could hold wrong opinions as to the nature of human beings. Men who have no compunction to devising legal ways to entrench themselves in power by throwing up legal landmines and barbed wire fences to the Opposition, as we see in Singapore.

Of course, the opposite argument also follows that if a law(s) is bad, the Opposition should get themselves elected first and then try to change it in the usual way, in Parliament. But in Singapore, that has proven impossible.

Witness the by now well known tactics of absolute control of the single TV station and the single newspaper here, It can be mentioned that there is also cable TV and 'free' circulation of foreign newspapers but our beloved leaders keep statistics on all these and know that the vast majority of Singaporeans listen to only the PAP-controlled media, and few (mainly for business) have access to foreign media.

As Dr Chee rightly points out, his right to free speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. But also, as the former Vice Dean of the Law Faculty of NUS, Walter Woon, pointed out, we "effectively have NO CONSTITUTION" since the PAP has control of more than two-thirds of Parliament and can change the Constitution at will.

Calling the restrictive practices of the police in granting permits for public speeches as "procedural rather than substantive" sounds nice as a debating point but when it happens time and again, it becomes substance rather than procedure. The effect is censorship, which the PAP does not have to labour under.

Should Dr Chee have broken the law after his frustrated attempts to obtain permits?

Well, just consider this. It is entirely possible for the PAP to pass a law that makes it illegal for any voter in a general election to vote against the PAP. And to enforce that law in its very thorough way, just as it has won every libel suit against its opponents. Such a law is very possible legally, the Constitution notwithstanding.

Would you then obey such a law or dare to break it?

Do not think that that is a joke. Because the total summative effect of all the PAP's legal wiles have had that effect. (Note the Upgrading Issue in the last general election). Soon, it will not only hurt your Upgrading but perhaps also become morally, economically, socially and politically 'wrong' to vote against the PAP.

And in many ways, that day has already dawned.