Singapore Govt responds to Chee Soon Juan's commentaries published in Huffington Post

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Government, in a response on Thursday to opposition politician Chee Soon Juan's recent commentaries on a foreign media website, said he is not the weighty political figure that he makes himself out to be.

His claims that he has been silenced by local media are also false, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing.

"Dr Chee's problem is not that he has not been heard by Singaporeans. His problem is that they have," wrote Mr Chan in his letter to Huffington Post, a news website based in the United States (US).

The minister pointed out that several sociopolitical websites here - "some with as wide a reach among Singaporeans as the Huffington Post has among Americans" - have run several of Dr Chee's articles. The local press has also carried several letters by Dr Chee.

"As he has done in the past, he has looked to the foreign media for redemption, chiefly because foreign journalists don't know him as well as Singaporeans and he believes he can beguile them into believing he is the Aung San Suu Kyi of Singapore politics," said Mr Chan.

His official letter was in response to two commentaries by Dr Chee that the Huffington Post published in November and December last year.

Dr Chee argued in the article that Singaporeans had not all benefited equally from the country's free trade agreement with the US, and criticised the system of media controls in Singapore.

In a separate letter sent to The Straits Times on Thursday, Mr Chan also rebutted arguments Dr Chee made in a letter the newspaper had published in its Forum pages on Dec 18.

Dr Chee said it was not possible for poor Singaporeans to live on $1,000 a month.

Mr Chan countered that these families can afford their own flats with the help of housing grants. They also benefit from aid schemes for healthcare, transport, utilities and education.

The minister, in his letter to the Huffington Post, also noted that Dr Chee had contested unsuccessfully in three elections. They were in 1992, 1997 and 2001.

Mr Chan said the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), of which Dr Chee is the secretary-general, had once been "the leading opposition party in the country".

"But that was when it was led by Mr Chiam See Tong, a man everyone in Singapore, political friend and foe alike, regards as an honourable man," he said.

Mr Chiam had brought Dr Chee into the SDP in 1992, mentoring and promoting him, said Mr Chan.

"Dr Chee then proceeded to betray Mr Chiam, isolate him and force him out of the SDP, a party that he had founded in 1980 and had nurtured over 14 years."

The SDP has failed to win a seat in Parliament since then, although Mr Chiam himself went on to win elections repeatedly, noted Mr Chan.

He also highlighted how Dr Chee had been dismissed from the National University of Singapore in 1993 for misappropriating research funds.

"(Dr Chee) has been sued for defamation not only by ruling party politicians, a fact that he likes to trumpet in the foreign media, but also by the doyen of the opposition in Singapore, Mr Chiam, a fact that he doesn't mention because it is embarrassing," said Mr Chan.

"It is because of these and other failings that Dr Chee is a political failure - not because he was persecuted, as he likes to pretend," he added.