Updated : Apr 2012
"You can get anything you want in Singapore. You can travel, you can bring it in. You can – you can organize what you want. You can say anything you want, and all sorts of things are said and debated in Singapore." - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, interview with Charlie Rose, Aug 2005
"No group is oppressed, suppressed or depressed. Instead we have a political culture that values integrity, meritocracy and fairness." - Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, speech at the 50th anniversary of the ruling People’s Action Party, Nov 2004
Oct 1994: In connection with a commentary he wrote in the International Herald Tribune stating how judiciaries in some Asian countries are compliant to ruling powers, the police questions US academic Dr Christopher Lingle for possible contempt of court and criminal defamation. He and the local printer are subsequently fined by the court for "scandalising the judiciary," and ordered to pay the Government legal costs totalling in excess of $100,000. Lingle has not returned to Singapore to face the charges.
Dec 1994: Although the International Herald Tribune had published an apology for the above-mentioned article, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew files a civil libel suit against the paper, who subsequently agrees to pay SM Lee US$213,000 in damages plus costs.
Dec 1994 : Novelist Catherine Lim's column in the Straits Times is suspended after Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong publicly reprimanded her for two articles which suggested that the PAP Government may be out of touch with ground sentiments. "If you land a blow on our jaw, you must expect a counterblow on your solar plexus," said Goh, who added that Lim must enter the political arena if she wants to continue airing her views. Lim subsequently apologises.
Feb 1995: The police mounts a major crackdown codenamed "Operation Hope," raiding private homes where Jehovah's Witnesses members are holding prayer meetings. Officers seize bibles, religious literature, documents and computers, and bring charges against 69 members, resulting in jail terms for many of them. A month later, 73-year-old grandmother Yu Nguk Ding is arrested for carrying two "undesirable publications" – one of them a bible printed by the group. She chooses to spend a week in jail rather than pay a fine.
Jul 1995 : PM Goh Chok Tong, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, win a libel suit against the International Herald Tribune for an article published in 1994, which suggested that the younger Lee was appointed to his post on account of his father. The High Court awards a record judgment of $950,000. The Asian Wall Street Journal, Asiaweek, and the Far Eastern Economic Review remain gazetted in 1995.
Nov 1995: Parliament censures the Singapore Democratic Party and its leader Dr Chee Soon Juan for allegedly endorsing attacks on the judiciary made by Chee's fellow panelists, dissident Francis Seow and academic Dr Christopher Lingle, at a forum held at Williams College in the USA. Government leaders say that the failure of Chee and other SDP leaders to contradict the attacks made by Seow and Lingle constitute positive assent by "clever omission."
Jul 1996: The Singapore Broadcasting Authority issues a broad set of internet regulations. Prohibited material is defined as "objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public morality, public order, public security and national harmony." Authorities underline that the Sedition Act also covers the internet.
Aug 1996: The Government denies the Singapore Democratic Party its request to produce and distribute video tapes on the grounds that visual images can be used to evoke emotional rather than rational responses. Moreover, according to the Government, the use of videos allows political parties to sensationalise or distort information to capture the maximum attention of the viewer.
Dec 1996: Parliament levies fines in excess of $36,000 against Dr Chee Soon Juan and three other SDP members, ruling that they had committed perjury and other offences during the proceedings of a Special Parliamentary Committee examining government health care subsidies.
Dec 1996/Jan 1997 (General Elections) : Despite the ruling People's Action Party being returned to power on nomination day when the opposition fails to field candidates in 47 of the 83 seats, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong threatens to turn constituencies into slums lest the electorate voted the PAP.
The Elections Department, under the direct command of the Prime Minister's Office, redraws electoral boundaries. Amongst others, residents of Braddell Heights in central Singapore suddenly find themselves registered as voters under Marine Parade, a constituency on the east coast helmed by PM Goh. Group Representative Constituencies (GRC) increases from four to between four to six seats.
The opposition National Solidarity Party team is disqualified from Tampines GRC after one candidate is found to have his name struck off the electoral rolls for not voting in 1991.
The Workers' Party complains to the police that PM Goh and other PAP leaders were speaking to voters inside a polling station on polling day, an act deemed illegal under the Parliamentary Elections Act. But the Attorney-General rules that the PAP ministers were inside the polling stations as opposed to "loitering" on the outside, so no offence was committed.
Name-calling by the PAP dominated hustings as Workers' Party candidate Tang Liang Hong is labelled an "anti-Christian, anti-English-educated and Chinese-language chauvinist." But it isn't the PAP men who were to be sued. A group of senior PAP leaders – PM Goh Chok Tong, SM Lee Kuan Yew, DPM Lee Hsien Loong and eight other MPs – sue Tang for allegedly defaming them in a police report which he had filed to seek police protection. Citing death threats, Tang flees to Malaysia shortly after the election results were announced. He has remained in exile since.
For producing the police report at the election rally, Workers' Party leader JB Jeyaretnam is also sued. All in all, PAP leaders file a total of 21 defamation suits against both Tang and Jeyaretnam.
The PAP wins 81 of the 83 seats, securing 65% of the total votes.
Jan 1997: While on their way to meet Tang Liang Hong in Johor Bahru, Mrs Tang Liang Hong and her daughter are stopped by immigration officers at the causeway exit, and her passport is confiscated. On their return home, they find a group of lawyers representing PM Goh Chok Tong, SM Lee Kuan Yew other PAP leaders waiting to serve 13 worldwide Mareva Injunctions to freeze their assets. Shortly after, Inland Revenue officials enter their house, carting away documents and articles. A similar raid is carried out at Tang's office in the city.
Apr 1997: PAP leaders cancel Mrs Tang Liang Hong's passport because her name appears as a co-trustee in one of Tang's documents. The PAP leaders fear they may be unable to recover damages from Tang if she is to be allowed to leave Singapore.
July 1997: Political prisoner Chia Thye Poh is allowed to travel to Germany to study but not allowed to make any public statements or address public meetings. He also needs written permission to take part in any political activity or be a member, adviser, helper, official or participant in any organisation or association. Chia, previously an opposition Member of Parliament, was detained without trial in 1966 at the age of 26.
Aug 1997: The Government demands that the Foreign Correspondents' Association cancel a speech by Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. The group's executive committee accedes to the demand.
Aug 1997: The Internal Security Department (ISD), Singapore's secret police, is alleged to have burglarised the home of an US academic helping political exile Tang Liang Hong take up a fellowship at a university. The break-in, which appeared to be aimed at finding computer files and other records listing people interested in Singapore affairs, is investigated by local police and the FBI. According to a US State Department's human rights report on Singapore, it is "widely believed that the authorities routinely conduct surveillance on some opposition politicians and other critics of the Government." The same report also states that the ISD is believed to run a network of part-time informants in the US, Australia and other countries.
Sept 1997: JB Jeyaretnam is found guilty of defaming PM Goh Chok Tong at an election rally where he had told the crowd police reports were filed against PM Goh and his PAP colleagues. He is ordered by Judge J. Rajendran to pay $20,000 in damages plus legal fees. After a subsequent appeal by PM Goh, the damages awarded are increased five-fold, to $100,000.
Nov 1997: The High Court orders political exile Tang Liang Hong to pay the PAP leaders $4.53 million in accumulated damages.
1997/98: Two persons are detained in 1997 and four in 1998 under the Internal Security Act (ISA), all for alleged espionage. Of these six, two remain in detention at the end of 1998. The names of the six detainees remain undisclosed.
1998: Commenting on JB Jeyaretnam in a book by Straits Times' journalists, SM Lee Kuan Yew says, "Put it this way. As long as Jeyaretnam stands for what he stands for - a thoroughly destructive force - we will knock him. There are two ways of playing this. One, you attack the policies; two, you attack the system. Jeyaretnam was attacking the system, he brought the Chief Justice into it. If I want to fix you, do I need the Chief Justice to fix you? Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac."
Feb 1998: Tang Liang Hong is declared bankrupt by the High Court after failing to pay $739,976 in damages and interests owed to PAP leaders. Assets belonging to him and his wife are seized. In addition, he is charged with thirty-three counts of tax evasion and there is presently an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
Mar 1998: The Films Act is amended to ban political films and videos. The Government justifies the ban as protecting politics from sensationalism, innuendo, and inaccuracy. The legislation defines a party political film as one "made by any person and directed toward any political end in Singapore", or one that contains "partisan or biased references on any political matter."
Mar 1998: The Government asks foreign TV stations to restrict coverage of political parties that do not have a wide following. "If we are not careful, foreign broadcasters, like foreign newspapers, can undermine some of our important social and other policies," the Straits Times quotes Information Minister George Yeo.
July 1998: The Government passes the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act, the Electronic Transactions Act and the National Computer Board (Amendment) Act. Under the amended CMA, the police now have lawful access to data and encrypted material in their investigations. Under the ETA, the police are given broad powers to search any computer for proof of an offence without a warrant.
Sept 1998: The Undesirable Publications Act is amended to include CD-ROMS, sound recordings, pictures, and computer-generated drawings, and to raise the fine for distribution or possession of banned publications. The Government also publicises a list of banned English-language publications, which is made up primarily of sexually-oriented materials, but which also includes some religious and political materials.
Nov 1998 : Political prisoner Chia Thye Poh is granted an unconditional release. He has spent 22 years, six months, two weeks and four days in jail, mostly in solitary confinement, and another nine years in Sentosa under strict restrictions. "The best years of my life were taken away just like that without a charge or trial. As a victim of the notorious Internal Security Act, I sincerely call on the government to abolish the Act," says Chia.
Dec 1998: JB Jeyaretnam and Workers' Party are ordered by the High Court to pay five PAP MPs and members of a committee who organised the first Tamil Language Weekly in 1995, $265,000 in defamatory damages plus legal costs for a 14-day trial.
Feb 1999: SDP leader Dr Chee Soon Juan is jailed twice for giving two speeches at Raffles Place without a licence. For both convictions he is fined a total of $3,900 but chooses instead to serve two prison terms of 7 and 12 days respectively. Chee's colleague, Wong Hong Toy, is also imprisoned for 12 days for adjusting the microphone and the volume of the speaker. Amnesty International names both men prisoners of conscience.
Mar 1999: The ten members of the Tamil Language Weekly files a petition with the High Court to wind up the Workers' Party after it fails to pay over $500,000 in libel damages and legal costs.
Mar 1999: Dr Chee Soon Juan is fined for selling his book 'To Be Free' without a permit. He pleads not guilty to the charge as book stores and vendors had refused to sell his books.
May 1999: JB Jeyaretnam and Dr Chee Soon Juan apply to register Open Singapore Centre as a political association, and is told by an official that the application will have to be sent to the Internal Security Department for clearance.
May 1999: After a law student complained to the police that someone with an account in the Home Affairs Ministry had hacked into her computer, the Ministry discloses that it had secretly scanned the computers of more than 200,000 SingNet and SingTel Magix customers, ostensibly for viruses. Singnet apologises to its customers, and says the security check has since been abandoned.
According to a recent US State Department's human rights report on Singapore, the "Internal Security Department and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Board, have wide networks for gathering information and highly sophisticated capabilities to monitor telephone and other private conversations and conduct surveillance. It is believed that the authorities routinely monitor telephone conversations and use of the internet. The law permits government monitoring of internet use."
May 1999: In a Straits Times interview, Minister George Yeo warns Singaporeans: "We have had occasions to tell women's magazines not to get involved in partisan matters. If we did not do this, every political party will use women's magazines to get their views across. I do not think that is healthy for Singapore. If you are a civic organisation, whether you are an organisation, if you want to get yourself involved politically, please get into the political arena and not hide behind a religious group, a tuition class, or a theatre troupe."
Aug 1999: The police rejects two applications by Dr Chee Soon Juan to hold public rallies because the venues are outdoors, and according to the police there is "a potential for trouble" and public "inconvenience". In a reply, Chee says officials and MPs from the PAP "routinely give political speeches in outdoor areas."
Sep 1999: Mrs Tang Liang Hong loses her appeal for damages from PAP leaders, whom she claimed had caused her financial loss. The Court of Appeal also finds that she is not entitled to damages for mental distress and anxiety.
Sep 1999: Elected President Ong Teng Cheong resigns but not before criticising the Government, who had told him it would take "52 man-years" to provide details of Singapore's financial reserves. In rapid succession, Parliament passes four constitutional amendments to grab back some of the powers that were vested in the Elected President. In a news conference, Ong says that some ministers and public officials had treated his office as a "nuisance." "The elected presidency was Lee Kuan Yew's initiative. He came out with the idea way back in '82, '83," says Ong, who is succeeded by former intelligence chief SR Nathan, who ran unopposed.
May 2000: Parliament passes the Political Donations Act. Apart from disallowing political organisations from receiving foreign funding, the Act also prohibits anonymous contributions of more than $5,000 in any financial year. The Home Affairs Minister has the freedom to define which civil societies are political in nature and thus bound by the law.
Sep 2000 : The Government launches Speakers' Corner in downtown Hong Lim Park. Users are required to register with the nearby police post, and are prohibited from using audio-amplication equipment, or speak on racial and religious issues.
Nov 2000: Following a four-hour standoff at the Drama Centre, police arrest the president of a theatre company after she tries to rehearse a banned play about marital violence in the local Indian Muslim community. Ms S. Thenmoli, who heads the Agni Kootthu theatre group, is eventually given "a stern warning in lieu of prosecution."
Dec 2000: A Radio Corporation Singapore (RCS) radio report on a Human Rights Day event at Speakers' Corner is re-edited after the first report went on air containing comments by JB Jeyaretnam and a letter by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Shortly after, a spokesperson for RCS says that the journalist Fauziah Ibrahim has "resigned."
Dec 2000: Police arrest and later charge 15 Falungong practitioners for conducting a protest which sought to draw attention to the arrest and killing of Falungong members in China. The group did not seek a permit, asserting that police had not responded to their previous applications. Seven of the group are eventually sentenced to four weeks in jail for refusing to hand over placards to the police.
Jan 2001: JB Jeyaretnam is declared bankrupt after missing by one day the deadline for a $23,450 payment to eight claimants, all of whom were members of the organising committee of the Tamil Language Weekly who had sued him. As a bankrupt, Jeyaretnam is effectively disqualified from elections.
Feb 2001: Police call up two activists from the Open Singapore Centre and Think Centre for questioning in connection with a Human Rights Day event at Speakers' Corner, pointing out that "it is one thing to have a group of people gather to hear a person or persons speak; but quite another when people come together for a specific cause, and in the process, they chant slogans, display placards and show gesticulations, such as clenching of fists. Police treat such actions as indicative of a demonstration or of disorderly behaviour."
Feb 2001: Police reject a permit application by Think Centre who wanted to protest outside a radio station to mark World Press Day.
Feb 2001 : The Public Entertainments and Meetings Act is revised to double the fines for holding a public talk or delivering a political speech without a police permit from $5,000 to $10,000.
Mar 2001: The Government names Open Singapore Centre and Think Centre political associations and renders them ineligible to receive foreign funding. "An organisation which is not registered as a political party but carries out activities to influence the domestic political process should logically also be prohibited from accepting foreign donations," says the Government.
Apr 2001 : Police summon political discussion group Roundtable members Kevin Tan and Zulkifli Baharudin for questioning following an event in November to discuss freedom of assembly. Police are investigating whether the event provided public entertainment without a licence.
Apr 2001: Parliament passes a law that allows punishment of foreign news broadcasters deemed to be "engaging in the domestic politics of Singapore." The rules are similar to those imposed on the foreign print media in 1986.
Apr 2001: Government officers raid Ngee Ann Polytechnic and confiscate film equipment and tapes after three lecturers made a documentary about JB Jeyaratnam. The three are told that they can be charged in court if they proceeded with a planned screening of the film at the Singapore International Film Festival. They subsequently comply by submitting written apologies for making the film and withdrawing it from the festival.
July 2001 : JB Jeyaretnam loses his Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) seat in Parliament after losing a final appeal against a bankruptcy order. He has been subjected to lawsuits, fines and jail throughout his political career, and is estimated to have paid more than $1.6 million in damages and costs so far. Three months later, he resigns from the Workers' Party.
Aug 2001: Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng warns that Singapore may face the chaos that hit Indonesia after the fall of Suharto if there are too much emphasis on democracy, human rights and press freedom. "We do ourselves a great disservice if we import unthinkingly and wholesale fashionable and hollow abstractions. So do not believe those few Singaporeans who tell you that with democracy, human rights and press freedom a hundred flowers will bloom and Singapore will prosper," says Wong.
Aug 2001: Parliament passes new laws to restrict political campaigning on the internet. All political websites are to register with the authorities. Non-party political websites are not allowed to campaign for any party, including the display of party banners and candidate profiles.
Aug 2001: Sintercom, a popular political discussion website, shuts itself down after eight years due to pressure by the Government to register as a political site.
Aug 2001: The Singapore Democratic Party calls off a planned political rally after a permit from the police came just four days before the event. "Approval for political rallies is rare in the strictly-governed city-state where the government has been accused of restricting freedom of speech," reports newswire AFP.
Oct 2001: Despite earlier promises to allow overseas voting, Parliament passes a bill to suspend overseas voting for citizens in the coming general elections, citing security concerns due to ongoing US military strikes in Afghanistan.
Oct 2001 (General Elections): Snap elections are called 17 days before polling day – the shortest in Singapore's elections history. Parties are given 9 days to campaign. Election deposits for each candidate are increased to $13,000, up from $5,000 in 1997.
A Workers' Party team of candidates is disqualified by the Elections Department from contesting after submitting incomplete forms, resulting in the opposition contesting barely one-third of the total number of seats, the lowest since 1968.
Under the New Singapore Shares scheme implemented before polling, Singaporeans are given between $200 and $1,700 worth of shares which could be converted to cash. Non-party political websites are prohibited from political campaigning, while exit polls and appeals for funds over the internet are banned.
Restrictions are also imposed on campaigning via mobile text messaging service. Citing terrorist scares, police ban lunchtime rallies in the central business district.
Dr Chee Soon Juan of the SDP is labelled a "cheat, congenital liar and political gangster" by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Defamation suits follow, and again it isn't Lee who got sued. Chee is sued by both PM Goh Chok Tong and SM Lee for questioning an alleged $17 billion loan to former Indonesian President Suharto in 1997.
15 men and a woman are arrested for alleged "rioting" after an opposition rally. The police say the arrests occurred after about 200 people had gathered at a roadside and waved flags in support of the Singapore Democratic Alliance. The crowd held up traffic and tapped on windows of passing cars, the statement adds.
The PAP wins 75.3% of the total votes, securing 82 out of 84 seats, with 55 seats uncontested by the opposition.
The US State Department's human rights report on Singapore's electoral system notes that "the PAP completely controlled key positions in and out of government influenced the press and courts, and limited opposition political activities."
Nov 2001: Police arrest internet critic Robert Ho Chong in his home after the 51-year-old former journalist posted articles before the general elections urging opposition candidates to enter polling stations, just as PAP leaders did in the 1997 elections. The police classify Ho's article as an attempt to incite violence or disobedience to the law that is likely to lead to a breach of peace.
Dec 2001: The ISD detains without trial 15 suspected Jemaah Islamiah members; 13 of whom are ordered subsequently to serve preventive detention for a period of two years; the other two are released with restrictions on their travel. In August of 2002, additional terrorist suspects are detained. The Government does not allow human rights monitors to visit detainees held under the Internal Security Act.
Jan 2002: The Government criticises Muslim website fateha.com for postings which allegedly condones violence. Acting Information Minister David Lim calls for fateha.com to be registered as a political website. "Spreading anything that goes against the public interest, public order or national harmony would be in breach of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority's Code of Practice," reports the Straits Times.
Jan 2002: The Ministry of Education suspends four 6-year-old girls after their Muslim parents refused to heed school warnings regarding the headscarves ban in public schools. One subsequently returns to school in June, and another moves to Australia in July. The parents of the other two challenge the ban, and attempt to engage Malaysian lawyer Karpal Singh to present their case. However, immigration authorities refuse to grant an application for Singh's employment permit.
Feb 2002: Dr Chee Soon Juan's application to admit Queen's Counsel Stuart Littlemore to represent him in the defamation suit brought by PM Goh Cok Tong and SM Lee Kuan Yew is rejected by the High Court. The court demands that he post a $10,000 bond before appealing against the ruling.
Apr 2002 : Reneging on his election campaign pledge to form an "alternative policies group" in parliament by lifting the party Whip for 20 PAP MPs, PM Goh Chok Tong rebuffs PAP MP Tan Soo Khoon's call to give backbenchers more freedom to vote, "If you sing Jailhouse Rock with your electric guitar when others are playing Beethoven, you are out of order. The whip must be used on you." .
May 2002 : A planned May Day rally outside the Istana State compound is aborted after Dr Chee Soon Juan and Gandhi Ambalam were whisked away into a police van moments after they arrived at the scene. The police had earlier rejected Chee's application to stage the 'People Against Poverty' rally on the grounds that it might disrupt law and order.
May 2002: The court again rejects Dr Chee Soon Juan's bid to have Queen's Counsels Martin Lee and William Henric Nicholas represent him in his legal battle against PM Goh Chok Tong and SM Lee Kuan Yew. Judicial Commissioner Tay Yong Kwang rules that the cases are "not complex" enough to warrant the admission of QCs. Both Mr Lee and Mr Goh are represented by Senior Counsel and PAP MP Davindar Singh.
Jun 2002: UnionWorks' Mandarin radio station is fined $15,000 for adding "injections of personal remarks and observations by the newsreader, which were unwarranted in normal news bulletins," says the Singapore Broadcasting Authority.
Jul 2002 : Dr Chee Soon Juan is charged and convicted with violation of the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act for speaking at the Speakers' Corner in February to criticise the government's enforcement of the headscarves ban in public schools. The $3,000 fine imposed on Chee means that he cannot stand in a parliamentary election for five years.
Jul 2002: The police again raid internet critic Robert Ho's home and seize his computer for two articles posted on a web forum. On the same night, fateha.com's owner Zulfikar Mohamad also has his computer carted away by police for an article which raised the issue of nepotism. Ho later complains that authorities compelled him to stay in a mental facility for more than a week. Both men are investigated for criminal defamation but have not been charged. Zulfikar has since left for Australia.
Aug 2002: Bloomberg news service publicly apologise and agree to pay $595,000 in damages to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew for an internet-distributed column which alleged that Ms Ho Ching, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife, was promoted to the senior position in government investment firm Temasek Holdings because of her relationship with the senior leadership.
Aug 2002 : The Court rules that there will be no trial for the defamation suits brought by PM Goh Chok Tong and SM Lee Kuan Yew against Dr Chee Soon Juan over the latter's questioning of an alleged $17 billion loan to former Indonesian President Suharto. In a summary judgment pronounced by the registrar, Chee is found guilty of defamation.
Sep 2002: Ho Peng Kee, the PAP's second organising secretary, dismisses a proposal by groups such as the Feedback Unit and Roundtable for an independent electoral commission to oversee the running of general elections. The Elections Department comes directly under the command of the Prime Minister's Office.
Oct 2002: Dr Chee Soon Juan is charged under Public Entertainment and Meetings Act for holding an unauthorised 'People Against Poverty' rally on Labour Day outside the Istana. Chee is fined $4,500 and his colleague Gandhi Ambalam $3,000. Chee chooses to serve a 5-week prison sentence rather than pay the fine. Amnesty International notes the detentions "typify a pattern of unreasonable restriction on public gatherings and on the free expression of opinion".
Oct 2002: In response to calls to allow bar-top dancing in pubs, Minister of State Vivian Balakrishnan tells Parliament, "If you want to dance on the bar top, some of us will fall off that bar top. Some will die as a result. Usually it is a girl with a short skirt who's dancing on it, who may attract some insults from other men. The boyfriend starts fighting. Some people will die. Blood will be shed for liberalising the policy."
Nov 2002: A report by the Asian Human Rights Commission cites that Dr Chee Soon Juan is being "incarcerated in a poorly ventilated 7 foot x 15 foot cell with two other prisoners. Having been assigned to a straw mat next to the toilet "bucket", he sleeps only two to three hours each night. Dr Chee is afflicted with nausea and dizziness, and he lost 10kg of weight during his first ten days of incarceration."
Dec 2002: Police reject an application by JB Jeyaretnam to hold an anti-GST march on the grounds of maintaining "law and order", and in spite of Jeyaretnam's assurance that "no one will be carrying any sticks or shouting anything, except perhaps the slogan 'Say No to GST.'"
Dec 2002 : Muhamad Ali Aman, recently appointed leader of the Singapore Democratic Alliance, is expelled by his union after refusing to resign over ties with the opposition. He is a branch chairman of a union which comes under the purview of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), an affiliate of the PAP Government. Following Aman's dismissal, Melvin Tan, a member of the Workers' Party, resigns from his union post.
Feb 2003: Six Singaporeans who responded to a worldwide call to stage public demonstrations against the war in Iraq are arrested by police after they arrived outside the US Embassy. Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng tells the media that "the government does not authorise protests and demonstrations of any nature."
In a speech, US Ambassador Franklin Lavin says of the arrests, "I don’t see why a group of people who want to stand in front of my Embassy and tell me they don't agree with a policy of my country should not be able to do so. The right of peaceful expression of opinion is an important element of a successful society."
Feb 2003: The Ministry of Defence disallows a woman to open her home to the public for an anti-war candle-light vigil because her rented home is located within the Seletar Army Camp. An army spokesman tells the press that "certain activities are not allowed within that area." When queried about venues outside army jurisdiction, police spokesman Philip Mah says, "When you have an assembly of five or more people in a location where the public can have access to, a permit is required under the law."
Apr 2003: The police deny the Open Singapore Centre its application to hold a march to mark Labour Day. The OSC applied for the march to take place starting at the Ministry of Manpower and ending in front of Parliament House, where a rally would take place.
Sept 2003: In an interview with the Straits Times, SM Lee Kuan Yew dismisses opposition Members of Parliament Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Khiang, "If we had considered them serious political figures, we would not have kept them politically alive for so long. We could have bankrupt them earlier."
Sept 2003: Think Centre's application for a proposed display of dolls to mark Children’s Day at Raffles Place and Stamford Road is rejected by the police on grounds of "law and order considerations".
Oct 2003: Information Minister Dr Lee Boon Yang publicly censures London-based writer Michael Backman over the latter's article in Today, which said that Singapore maintains "the old-fashioned, outmoded trappings of a Third World dictatorship." Lee tells the Singapore Press Club audience that Backman "had clearly crossed the line and engaged in our domestic politics." He adds that one rule "that remains firmly in place is the requirement that foreign journalists stay out of Singapore's politics."
Nov 2003: Following a report in Today of a speech by SM Lee Kuan Yew describing his ordeal with the health care system in UK after his wife had suffered a stroke there, the editorial team of Today are allegedly summoned to Lee's office to be reprimanded. Val Chua, the journalist who wrote the story, is reportedly suspended from news reporting.
Nov 2003: The police reject three applications by a White Ribbon Campaign group to stage outdoor events to mark International Day Against Violence Against Women. Police first deny the group a permit for a march – and later turn down its application to hold a children's drama presentation – because such events could threaten "law and order". The group then apply to hold an outdoor children's choir performance, which is also rejected.
Nov 2003: The Computer Misuse Act is amended to allow government agencies to patrol the internet and swoop down on hackers suspected of plotting to use computer keyboards as weapons of mass disruption. Violators of the Act such as hackers can be jailed up to three years or fined up to $10,000. A PAP MP describes the Act as "the cyberspace equivalent of the Internal Security Act." An online poll by internet portal Yahoo Singapore shows that 70 percent of respondents feel the new laws give the authorities too much power, and are afraid of being watched.
Nov 2003 : Labour Minister Ng Eng Hen accuses the Air Line Pilots' Association-Singapore of being "self-serving and confrontational" after its members voted to sack its entire leadership over controversial wage cuts imposed by Singapore Airlines. The Government then announces it will amend the Trade Unions Act in a bid to restrict members' rights.
"(SIA) Pilots believe they are special, they got huge egos, I am told .I can assure you that in Singapore, when we decide that they are breaking the rules of the game, the unspoken rules as to how we survive, how we have prospered, then either their head is broken or our bones are broken," SM Lee Kuan Yew tells an audience at the World Brand Forum.
Dec 2003: The Government bans a public forum entitled "Democracy in Burma: How can Asians help?" In a terse reply, the police state that the application by the Open Singapore Centre was rejected because the "proposed event is likely to be contrary to the public interest."
Mar 2004: The Government revokes the permanent residency of SIA pilot Captain Ryan Goh after the Ministry deemed him an "undesirable" immigrant. SM Lee Kuan Yew had previously singled him out as "the instigator" to get the previous leaders of the pilots union sacked.
Mar 2004: Drama group The Fun Stage's planned series of talks and forums on gay representation, entitled 'The Lover's Lecture Series', is denied a permit by the Public Entertainment Licensing Unit, who says the talks involving academics, critics and theatre practitioners are "contrary to the public interest."
Apr 2004: Gay rights group People Like Us' second bid to register itself as a society is rejected. Its first application was turned down in 1997. According to the Societies Act, groups may be turned down because they are likely to be used for purposes "prejudicial to public peace, welfare and good order," or are likely to act against "national interests."
Aug 2004: In a televised address after being sworn in as the country's third Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong says, "Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas, or simply be different. We should have the confidence to engage in robust debate. Ours must be an open and inclusive Singapore."
Aug 2004: In his new political office as Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew tells an international audience at the Global Brand Forum that "political reform need not go hand in hand with economic liberalisation." He then invokes the ghost of Deng Xiaoping, saying, "He took over, and he said: 'If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it.'"
Aug 2004 : PM Lee Hsien Loong announces in his first National Day Rally speech that indoor talks will no longer require licensing, ending a four-decade-old ruling. However, a police statement qualifies that the exemption does not include foreign speakers, and that talks must not cause feelings of hostility between different races and religions. In further "refinements" to licensing requirements, police added that permits will also be waived for a host of sports and cultural activities, including street soccer, martial arts, spinning tops, pottery-making, hoola-hoops, stilt-walking, skateboarding and juggling.
Sept 2004 : Despite amending the law to allow certain interest groups to register on a fast track, the Government announces that the following will not be included – groups whose activities relate to human rights, political rights, civil rights, animal and environmental rights, gender issues, religion, ethnicity and martial arts.
Sept 2004: The Economist pays $390,000 in damages plus legal costs to PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew for an article which mentioned "a whiff of nepotism" on the appointment of the Prime Minister's wife, Ho Ching, as chief executive of Temasek Holdings. Sept 2004: The Government extends for another two years the detention of 17 suspected Jemaah Islamiah members held under Internal Security Act. Eighteen other suspected members remain under ISA detention.
Nov 2004: The Court of Appeal upholds a High Court decision to deny the application by JB Jeyaretnam to be discharged from bankruptcy. His liabilities are estimated at more than $600,000.
Dec 2004: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew issues a stern warning to foreign media against meddling in Singapore's politics. In a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association, Lee says, "We are not that daft. We know what is in our interest and we intend to preserve our interests and what we have is working. You are not going to tell us how to run our country."
Dec 2004 : Police reject an application by a Hong Kong-based gay website to hold a Christmas party as "the event is likely to be organised as a gay party which is contrary to public interest."
Jan 2005: The Internal Security Department arrest two Singaporeans for alleged involvement in terrorist groups, bringing the total number of ISA detainees to 36.
Mar 2005: The High Court dismisses a defamation lawsuit by Dr Chee Soon Juan against MM Lee Kuan Yew. Chee filed the counter suit in 2001 after Lee had called him a "political gangster, a liar and a cheat".
Mar 2005: Police reject an application by a local gay Christian support group to hold a concert because the Media Development Authority said that the show would "promote a homosexual lifestyle."
Mar 2005: Chief Justice Yong Pung How sues his former remisier, Boon Suan Ban, for defamation because Boon had apparently pestered the Chief Justice on an outstanding financial matter when Yong was the chairman of a bank. Boon is acquitted because he is of "unsound mind", but is subsequently ordered to be detained at the Institute of Mental Health at the President's pleasure. In June, the Chief Justice orders all court files relating to the case to be sealed.
Mar 2005: The police reject an application by JB Jeyaretnam for a march to protest the Government's decision to allow casinos to be built, saying it would disrupt civil order.
Apr 2005: The Government bars Amnesty International's Tim Parritt from speaking at a public forum entitled "Death penalty and the Rule of Law in Singapore". The police justify the ban by saying that it does not need a foreigner to lecture it on its criminal justice system.
May 2005 : 24-year-old student Chen Jiahao receives an email from State executive Philip Yeo who threatens to sue Chen for making disparaging remarks in his blog about A*Star, a government agency that Yeo headed. Chen, who writes under the moniker AcidFlask, apologises and subsequently shuts down his website.
May 2005: Filmmaker Martyn See is investigated by the police for making a film, entitled 'Singapore Rebel', that documented the political career of Dr Chee Soon Juan. See is forced to withdraw the film from the Singapore International Film Festival after authorities warned that he could be jailed for up to two years, or fined up to $100,000 if it were screened.
May 2005: Two Falungong practitioners are imprisoned for handing out videos and gathering in public without permit. Singapore Falun Buddhist Society spokeswoman Diana Wang says in a statement that Singapore is the only country outside China that brings charges against Falungong practitioners for carrying out "truth-clarification" activities.
May 2005: US activist Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan is denied entry and deported from Singapore. The government says that he has been banned indefinitely for interfering in the nation's domestic politics. Yeshua had been invited to conduct a non-violence workshop for local activists.
May 2005: In its annual report, Amnesty International criticises Singapore for its highest per capita rate of executions in the world, and for its "broad array of restrictive laws" that curtail the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Jun 2005: After a four year run, the annual 'Nation Party', billed as "Asia's most acclaimed gay and lesbian private party", is denied a permit by the police, who says the event would be "contrary to public interest." Organiser Fridae.com says the ban is "a direct contradiction to previous calls for embracing of diversity." The event moves to Phuket, Thailand.
Jun 2005: Police warn would-be protesters at the Olympic vote held in Singapore that they will be arrested. A group of small businesses had threatened to stage protests against London's bid for the 2012 Olympics.
Jul 2005: Police attend and videotape Dr Chee Soon Juan's book launch on non-violence. They also seize a video disc and take down the particulars of the speakers. No charges are filed.
Aug 2005 : Police threaten organisers of an anti-death penalty concert that it will not issue the required permit if a photograph of hanged trafficker Shanmugam Murugesu were not removed from the concert posters. The police justifies the condition on grounds that the posters would glorify an executed person. The concert is eventually held after the posters were removed.
Aug 2005: About 40 police officers, some in anti-riot gear, are sent in to break up a silent protest by four activists who stood outside the CPF Building holding placards depicting the non-transparent nature of government institutions such as the CPF, GIC and HDB. Minutes after the protesters dispersed peacefully, police seized t-shirts and placards for investigation.
Aug 2005: President SR Nathan is returned unopposed after the Presidential Elections Committee had declared three other applicants ineligible under a stringent criteria.
Aug 2005 : Filmmaker Martyn See is questioned for the second time by the police and asked to surrender his video camera and six existing tapes used as part of his banned documentary. Police also call up blogger Jacob George and filmmaker Tan Pin Pin for questioning in connection to See's making of the film.
Sep 2005: Police launch investigations into cardboard cut-outs of white elephants that were displayed in front of an unopened train station. The cartoons are believed to be placed by government grassroots leaders in protest against the non-opening of the Buangkok MRT station. No charges are filed.
Sep 2005: FinanceAsia.com, an Asian online publication, issues an apology and agrees to pay an unspecified amount of damages and legal costs to PM Lee Hsien Loong, SM Goh Chok Tong and MM Lee Kuan Yew for an article about the Lee family and Temasek Holdings.
Oct 2005: Two bloggers who posted racist remarks online are sentenced to jail under the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law used by the British to fight communist insurgency, and invoked for the first time since independence. 27-year-old Benjamin Koh Song Huat is jailed for one month, while 25-year-old Nicholas Lim Yew is given a nominal one day jail and fined a maximum $5,000. In the same month, sedition charges are also brought against another blogger who allegedly posted inflammatory remarks about Muslims. The district court places the 17-year-old student on probation.
Oct 2005: PM Lee Hsien Loong tells the Foreign Correspondents Association that Singapore will not adopt a Western liberal democracy with a multi-party system in the next 20 years.
Oct 2005: Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng announces in parliament that people who are arrested in Singapore have no right to immediate legal counsel. Giving the accused access to lawyers during investigations could impede police work, says Wong.
Oct 2005: Senior lecturers at Warwick University in the UK vote against setting up a branch campus in Singapore due to concerns about limits on academic freedom. Financial Times notes that it is believed to be the first time a foreign university has rejected the conditions set by Singapore.
Oct 2005: The outgoing US ambassador to Singapore criticises the Government's restrictions on free speech in a rare public rebuke. Ambassador Franklin Lavin says Singapore's 20th-century political model may prove inadequate for the 21st century, warning that the government "will pay an increasing price for not allowing full participation of its citizens."
Nov 2005: The Government criticises Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for giving it low marks on press freedom. RSF has ranked Singapore at 140 out of 167 countries. SM Goh Chok Tong defends the local media by echoing Lee Kuan Yew’s 1959 statement to the foreign press, "You are not going to teach us how we should run the country. We are not so stupid. We know what our interests are and we try to preserve them".
Nov 2005: Information Minister Dr Lee Boon Yang tells Parliament that the ban on satellite TV in homes is still valid as "we must remain vigilant against external influences which may seek to split and divide our society."
Nov 2005: The Government bars servicemen from posting unauthorised accounts and pictures of military life on the internet. The order is issued after blogger Benjamin Lee posted over 100 pictures featuring army mates resting during a military exercise in Australia.
Dec 2005: The Government rejects appeals from the United Nations, two Popes, human rights organisations and the Australian government to spare the life of Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van, who is executed after being convicted of smuggling heroin through Singapore's Changi Airport. More than 400 prisoners have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, the highest per capita rate of execution in the world, according to Amnesty International.
Dec 2005: The Media Development Authority orders Benny Lim, a theatre director, to remove all references to the death penalty in his play.
Dec 2005: High Court Judge VK Rajah dismisses an originating motion filed by three activists - Chee Siok Chin, Yap Keng Ho and Monica Kumar - against the Home Affairs Minister and the Police Commissioner, for acting unlawfully in breaking up their silent protest outside the CPF Building in August. Judge Rajah rules that citizens have no right to stage protests because this would undermine the stable and upright stature of Singapore.
Jan 2006: US billionaire philanthropist George Soros tells a local audience that the city-state could not be an open society as long as its leaders use libel suits against opposition politicians. "The use of libel can be a tremendous hindrance to freedom of expression. Obviously, Singapore doesn't qualify as an open society," says Soros.
Jan 2006: The police warn a group of schoolgirls that the wearing of t-shirts en masse might be misconstrued by some as an offence under the law. The students had planned to help raise money for charity by selling white elephant T-shirts at the Buangkok MRT station's inauguration ceremony.
Jan 2006: Singapore is singled out by a rights group for its denial of individual rights. The Asian Human Rights Commission describes the city-state as a place where "freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the capacity to assert one's rights do not exist at all."
Jan 2006: Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng tells parliament that the Government will not hesitate to cane and imprison protesters who commit violent acts during the IMF and World Bank Meetings to be held in Singapore later in the year.
Jan 2006: The Economist apologises to MM Lee Kuan Yew and agrees to pay unspecified damages for statements in the magazine's obituary on Devan Nair, Singapore's former president. "We apologise to Mr Lee for having published them, and we unreservedly withdraw them. We have agreed to pay Mr Lee damages and to indemnify him for all costs incurred by him in connection with this matter," says the magazine.
Feb 2006: In a summary judgment, Dr Chee Soon Juan is declared a bankrupt by the High Court after he failed to pay $500,000 in libel damages awarded to MM Lee Kuan Yew and SM Goh Chok Tong. "Not only did I not have legal representation but I also did not get a trial. It is well-known that Singapore has detention without trial. Now it seems that we also have defamation without trial," says Chee.
Mar 2006: Dr Chee Soon Juan is convicted of contempt of court for a statement he made at the above bankruptcy hearing in which he alleged that the judiciary is not independent and fair, especially in cases involving opposition politicians. In sentencing Chee to one day in jail and a $6,000 fine, Justice Lai Siu Chiu says that "this is probably one of the worst cases that has come before the court for scandalizing the judiciary." Chee refuses to pay the fine and serves eight days in prison.
Mar 2006: Facing debts of more than $500,000 owed to government leaders, veteran opposition leader JB Jeyaretnam's attempt to annul his bankruptcy ahead of general elections is crushed when the court ordered him to pay additional costs. This is the second consecutive elections in which he has been disqualified.
Mar 2006: In a letter to the Straits Times, the Home Affairs Ministry says that "former communists" cannot be allowed to rewrite history. It is in response to a public talk given a month earlier by two former political prisoners, Tan Jing Quee and Michael Fernandez, who were detained under the ISA during the 1960s for alleged involvement with communists, charges that both men have denied. In the public talk, both described mental and physical torture while under detention.
Apr 2006: Speaking in Parliament, Senior Minister of State Balaji Sadasivan issues a warning that anyone using the internet to "persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues" about Singapore during election periods will be breaking the law. Following the Singapore Democratic Party's launch of their podcast a year before, the Minister says the new rules would also apply to podcasting.
Apr 2006: Customs officers at the airport impound the passport of Dr Chee Soon Juan as he was leaving for a democracy forum in Turkey. Under the law, bankrupts need to obtain permission for overseas travel. Chee says he had complied with an earlier demand from bankruptcy officials to submit a breakdown of his monthly income and expenditure so that it could determine how much he could pay MM Lee Kuan Yew and SM Goh Chok Tong for defamation damages of $500,000.
Apr/May 2006 (General Elections): In the lead up to the elections, the Government announced a $2.6 billion "progress package" cash handouts to the electorate. A month before hustings, a blanket ban on political podcasts was imposed. Elections were announced three weeks prior to polling date, and campaigning period are again limited to 9 days.
One day after announcement of the election date, lawyers for PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew issue a letter of demand to the Singapore Democratic Party over an article in the party's newsletter that drew parallels between the financial scandals of charity foundation NKF and the government. The Lees allege that the article characterised them as "dishonest and unfit for office." Nine out of the eleven executive members of SDP apologise and pay damages.
Two days before nomination, the Elections Department warn SDP that it will take action if they did not remove audio files and podcasts from the party's website. Within hours, SDP suspends its podcast service.
As an undischarged bankrupt, Dr Chee Soon Juan is prohibited from campaigning. At his party's rallies, police physically prevent him from getting on stage.
A photo, taken by a blogger, of a teeming crowd at a Workers' Party rally, spreads widely on the internet, forcing the hitherto reluctant print media to publish pictures of crowds at opposition rallies.
While addressing the crowd at a PAP rally, PM Lee Hsien Loong is quoted by the press, "Suppose you had 10, 15, 20 opposition members in Parliament. Instead of spending my time thinking what is the right policy for Singapore, I'm going to spend all my time thinking what's the right way to fix them, to buy my supporters' votes."
The media coverage of the campaign is dominated by the PAP's attack on Workers' Party candidate James Gomez, who on nomination day chastised an election official for mishandling a form. Gomez later issues a public apology. But while leaving the country for work overseas after results were announced, he is arrested and interrogated for alleged offences of criminal intimidation and providing false information. He is eventually given a stern warning in lieu of prosecution.
The PAP win 66.6% of the votes, capturing 82 out of 84 seats, with 37 seats uncontested by the opposition.
In its annual report, Freedom House states that "Singapore is not an electoral democracy.. The ruling PAP dominates the political process, using a variety of methods to handicap opposition parties.. And the country lacks a structurally independent election authority."
May 2006: SDP member Chee Siok Chin files a summons in the High Court asking to declare the election results void. In her affidavit, Chee alleges that the PAP had used cash to induce voters and hence secure electoral victory. Chee also wants the High Court to declare the ban on podcasting during election period as unconstitutional. Judge Andrew Phang dismisses her application.
Jun 2006: PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew apply for summary judgment in their defamation suits against Dr Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin. Both had refused to apologise to demands over the allegedly defamatory article in SDP's party newsletter. The duo submit 14 witnesses to the courts in their defence.
Jun 2006: Fresh charges are brought against Dr Chee Soon Juan and two SDP members for unlicensed public speech during the lead-up to the elections. Chee is slapped with eight counts of violating the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act, which states that "any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion" requires a licence and violators are liable to a fine of up to $10,000.
Jun 2006 : In an official visit to New Zealand, PM Lee Hsien Loong tells reporters that the Singapore government has "no reason to want to restrict any democratic or political rights of opposition politicians or leaders." He adds, "You can make speeches, you can publish articles, you can put things up on the internet, you can speak. We have a speakers' corner which is highly underutilized. And contest elections."
Jun 2006: A 21-year-old blogger receives a stern warning but escapes possible imprisonment after posting cartoons mocking Jesus Christ on his blog. He was investigated by the police under the Sedition Act, which carries a prison term of up to three years or a $5,000 fine.
Jul 2006: A regular column by a well-known blogger "Mr Brown" is suspended after the Government criticised his piece about the high cost of living. K. Bhavani, a press secretary to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, writes to the paper stating that "it is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the government.. If a columnist undermines the government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics."
Jul 2006: The police announces that in the interest of security, all outdoor demonstrations will be banned during the upcoming IMF-World Bank Meetings in Singapore. Instead, an indoor venue will be set up for registered civil groups.
Aug 2006 : The Government gazettes five international publications - Far Eastern Economic Review, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Newsweek and TIME magazines - as "offshore newspapers". Under section 23(3) of the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act, offshore newspapers are required to appoint a legal representative in Singapore. They will also have to post a security deposit of $200,000. The Government calls it "a privilege, and not a right, for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore. They do so as foreign observers of the local scene and should not interfere in the domestic politics of Singapore."
Aug 2006: An application by local theatre company Agni Kootthu to stage a play is first approved, and then rejected by authorities on the same day. The Media Development Authority states that the play "undermines the values underpinning Singapore's multi-racial, multi-religious society, and portrays Muslims in a negative light."
Aug 2006: PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew files a defamation suit against the publisher and editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review for an article published in July under the headline 'Singapore's Martyr: Chee Soon Juan', in which Chee criticised the government's handling of the NKF charity scandal.
Aug 2006: After 15 months of investigation, filmmaker Martyn See is given a "stern warning" in lieu of prosecution for making a documentary about Dr Chee Soon Juan, His film, 'Singapore Rebel,' remains banned.
Aug 2006: A group of international lawyers write to MM Lee Kuan Yew to urge the Government to stop the prosecution of the Falungong spiritual group. Police earlier charged nine followers for participating in an illegal assembly on Orchard Road. The lawyers ask the Government "to show true evidence that it is a legitimate democracy and an independent country that is not subject to the requirements of the Chinese government."
Sept 2006: In a summary judgment held in chambers, Judge Belinda Ang awards the defamation case involving the SDP's article to PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew. The matter is conducted without the legal representation for defendants Dr Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin, as their lawyer M. Ravi had fallen ill.
Sept 2006: Three animal rights advocates, two women and a man, are deported after police say they responded to a caller who found them "behaving suspiciously." The trio from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, say in a statement that they had planned to stand outside a local KFC restaurant, each wearing nothing but a banner reading "Naked Truth: KFC Tortures Chicks."
Sept 2006 (IMF-World Bank Meetings): 21-year-old artist Seelan Palay is arrested by police over a plan to distribute flyers ahead of the IMF-World Bank meetings. Palay had earlier initiated an online campaign to capture photos of "400 Frowns" in protest against government policies.
A group distributing flyers outside Raffles City Shopping Centre urging people to attend a protest rally are stopped by police, who also seize the material. Among them in the group is Dr Chee Soon Juan.
The Government bans the entry of 19 foreign civil activists on grounds of security, invoking a rare rebuke from the IMF-World Bank, who says that Singapore violated the terms of its agreement to host the event. Indian activist Wilfred D'Costa alleges he was questioned, detained and deported back to India by Singapore authorities while enroute to attend a parallel protest on the island of Batam. Civil groups claim the Singapore government deported 48 activists from 16 countries.
The police cordon off an area for protest in the Suntec City Convention, which included numerous regulations. Accredited protesters can shout but are not allowed to use bullhorns or other sound amplifiers to disrupt proceedings. Meanwhile, 10,000 security personnel and several road blockades line the shopping plaza outside. Police say tough security measures are necessary because Singapore is a high-profile "terrorist" target.
At a forum attended by international delegates, MM Lee Kuan Yew acknowledges that there is growing support for opposition parties among Singapore's voters, but the office of the elected presidency has been put in place to prevent a profligate opposition government from touching the national monetary reserves. "Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it," Lee adds.
A small group of local protesters, led by Dr Chee Soon Juan, who planned to stage a pro-democracy march from Speakers' Corner to Parliament House, is prevented from doing so by the police who warns them if they proceeded it would be an illegal assembly. A three day stand-off ensues, after which Chee reads out a statement that "the world now knows the extent of the repression in Singapore, and hopefully this will translate into pressure on the Singapore government to reform the system."
Sept 2006: Jaya Gibson, a British journalist and practitioner of the Falungong, is deported by authorities. Gibson was returning to Singapore where he was assigned to cover the trial of two Falungong practitioners, who has been accused in connection with a banner they displayed outside the Chinese embassy.
Oct 2006: The Government bans the sale and distribution of the Far Eastern Economic Review after the publication failed to appoint a legal representative in Singapore and pay a $200,000 bond. Its editor Hugo Restall says that "the timing and substance of this move were in our view no coincidence. It followed hard upon our refusal to apologize and pay damages."
Oct 2006: Human rights lawyer M. Ravi is suspended from practice for a year due to rude behaviour to a district judge in 2003. "I hope that.. one year later, when you come back, you will become a lawyer that we want to see in this court," says Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong in pronouncing the suspension.
Nov 2006: The court sentences a 16 year old male to 24 strokes of the cane. Maria Dass Pandi Rasan was convicted of robbing two taxi drivers.
Nov 2006 : Dr Chee Soon Juan is convicted and jailed for five weeks after refusing a pay a fine of $5,000 for speaking without a permit during the run-up to the elections. Also jailed are Yap Keng Ho and Gandhi Ambalam, who refuse to pay fines of $2,000 and $3,000 respectively. Seven similar charges remain pending for Chee and Yap.
Dec 2006 : Dr Chee Soon Juan is referred to Changi General Hospital after the medical doctor at the Queenstown Remand Prison reportedly found traces of blood in his urine. His sister Chee Siok Chin says that the prison food had made him feel "nauseous and throw up." A police statement deny any ill-treatment, stating that Chee had refused to eat after five days, and had "demanded to be treated differently from other inmates".
Dec 2006: Falungong practitioners Ng Chye Huay and Erh Boon Tiong are convicted for protesting outside the Chinese Embassy. On refusing to pay fines, they are jailed 15 days and 10 days respectively. Erh's wife later reportedly expressses concern about her husband's specially marked food tray and his state of health.
Dec 2006: A group of activists commemorate Human Rights Day by staging a 'Freedom Walk' from Speakers' Corner to Queenstown Remand Prison. Press reports note that the march went largely unheeded by the Christmas shopping crowd on Orchard Road, and that police in plain clothes trailed the group and filmed them with video cameras. The group included the wife and children of Dr Chee Soon Juan.
Dec 2006: After his release, Dr Chee Soon Juan rebuts on SDP's website 13 points raised by Home Affairs Ministry, which had said that all proper procedures were accorded to him whilst in prison, and that markings on food trays were "normal Prisons procedure to record the food consumption of inmates under close watch." Chee replies that his trays were not marked during his previous prison terms, and that when queried, the prison Superintendent had denied any such markings unless the food was vegetarian. The Ministry has not replied to Chee's rebuttals.
Dec 2006: A book of Asian celebrity photographs by Singapore-born photographer Leslie Kee is banned by the Media Development Authority on grounds that the book features full frontal male nudity, revealing genitals and pubic hair.
Jan 2007: Former Solicitor-General and exiled dissident Francis T. Seow publishes a book entitled 'Beyond Suspicion: The Singapore Judiciary' under Yale Publications. In an earlier article, he cited that the per annum salary of Singapore's Chief Justice was more than the combined stipends of the Lord Chancellor of England, the Chief Justices of the United States, Canada and Australia. He added that "the prime minister uses the courts as a legal weapon to intimidate, bankrupt or cripple the political opposition, and ventilate his political agenda."
Jan 2007: The British High Court absolves English neurologist Simon Shorvon of charges of professional misconduct while in Singapore. In 2003, Shorvon was the lead researcher at the Singapore's National Neurology Institute but left Singapore after the Singapore Medical Council found him to be in breach of ethical guidelines. The charges against Shorvon are filed by Dr Lee Wei Ling, who succeeds Shorvon in his post. Dr Lee is the daughter of MM Lee Kuan Yew and sister of PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Jan 2007: Despite international clemency appeals, the Government hangs two African men on charges of drug trafficking. Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, a 21-year-old Nigerian man, and Okeke Nelson Malachy, a 35-year-old stateless man, are hanged in Changi Prison. In his judgement, Justice Kan Ting Chiu notes that "there was no direct evidence that [Amara Tochi] knew the capsules contained diamorphine." Notwithstanding, Kan pronounces that "Tochi should have known and therefore he is guilty".
Feb 2007: Pop star Madonna's 'The Confessions Tour: Live from London DVD', which features the singer performing a song while suspended from a giant mirrored cross, is banned by the Media Development Authority.
Feb 2007: The High Court refuses an application by the Far Eastern Economic Review to throw out the defamation case filed against them by PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew. The court also disallows FEER's lawyer, Australian Tim Robertson, permission to sit in on the hearing because Robertson had allegedly made comments critical of Singapore's decision to hang a convicted drug trafficker.
Feb 2007: Dr Chee Soon Juan is found guilty and fined $4,000 of trying to leave the country without permission in April 2006. Chee says he will appeal the decision.
Feb 2007: The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts tells an art gallery that it could not display a four-meter high painting of a nude woman in the public atrium of the ministry's building. Nude or erotic artworks "should not be displayed in venues which are easily accessible to general audiences, including children and youths," says the Ministry.
Mar 2007: The Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) holds a public rally near Parliament House to commemorate World Consumer Rights Day. Photos on their website show dozens of participants holding placards in a "nation-wide march" that feature "thousands of participants". It is not known if a police permit had been obtained. CASE is helmed by a PAP Member of Parliament and the rally includes a ministerial guest-of-honour.
Apr 2007: Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng tells parliament that 39 people are being detained without trial under the ISA for alleged involvement in terrorism and espionage. Wong adds that 10 of them are members of the Jemaah Islamiyah group who were arrested in December 2001.
Apr 2007: 'Zahari's 17 Years', an interview film chronicling the experiences of former political detainee Said Zahari, is banned by the Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts, who says that "the government will not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past, to exploit the use of films to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the Government." The film is directed by Martyn See, whose first film 'Singapore Rebel' remains banned.
Apr 2007: In a dialogue with the Young PAP, MM Lee Kuan Yew expresses his views on censorship, "We have created a society which is totally educated. You are all able to go on the Internet. So all this censorship and so on makes no sense to me. We cannot stop this. If we stop this, we stop the progress. We are marginalised."
Apr 2007: Authorities censor two films at the Singapore International Film Festival because of their explicit sexual content and religious symbols. Danish animated film Princess is withdrawn after the Media Development Authority demanded the deletion of "religiously offensive" scene. Local film Solos is censored because of "explicit homosexual lovemaking scenes including scenes of oral sex and threesome sex", says MDA.
Apr 2007: In the same week that the Government announces pay hikes for its ministers, the police ban seven foreigners, including members of the European Parliament, from speaking at a public forum organised by the Singapore Democractic Party. Danish politician Anders Samuelson alleges he was threatened with arrest. The forum proceeds with speakers from the SDP, while the foreign delegation remain silent. In a statement, the Government says that "Singapore's politics are reserved for Singaporeans."
Apr 2007: Two days before May Day, Dr Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin embark on a 150 kilometres walk around the island to raise awareness of poverty and underpaid workers in Singapore. A blogger reports the presence of plainclothes police during the walk but there are no arrests.
May 2007: After making payments of $233,255 to the Official Assignee, veteran opposition leader JB Jeyaretnam is given a discharge from bankruptcy. He is therefore eligible to resume his profession as a lawyer, travel abroad without permission, and contest the next election. "I intend to form a new party to give Singaporeans a chance again," says the 81-year-old.
May 2007: The SDP reports that police have called up 15 people over two cases of illegal public assembly and procession during the IMF-World Bank protest at Speakers' Corner and the 'Freedom Walk' to Queenstown Remand Prison.
Jun 2007: The Government announces the arrests of five suspected Islamic militants under the ISA in late 2006, including 28-year-old law lecturer Abdul Basheer, whom the government describes as "self-radicalised (whose) views were shaped by the radical discourse that he avidly looked up on the internet." The statement also announces the release of five detainees.
Jun 2007: Renowned playwright Alfian Sa'at is dismissed from his relief teaching job by the Ministry of Education, who says he does not "best meet the organisation's requirements". Sa'at says the dismissal was not motivated by poor performance, but could be a result of his writings which touched on socially and politically sensitive issues such as homosexuality and Singapore-Malaysia bilateral relations.
Jun 2007: Far Eastern Economic Review's application to use a British Queen's Counsel to represent the magazine is rejected by Judge Tan Lee Meng, who rules the defamation suit filed against FEER by government leaders is "not sufficiently difficult and complex" and will not require the services of a Queen's Counsel.
Jun 2007 : Five practitioners of the Falungong are fined $1,000 each for an illegal public assembly in an Orchard Road underpass in 2005. They refuse to pay the fine and are jailed 7 days in default.
Jul 2007: Former Chief Justice Yong Pung How is appointed a director of the Singapore Press Holdings, whose chairman is former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tony Tan.
Jul 2007: Immigration officers at the Woodlands Checkpoint stop a vehicle driven by Francis Yong, vice-chairman of the the SDP, and seize a poster of PM Lee Hsien Loong holding aloft his salary. Yong is later called up by the police who warn that "bringing in or displaying the photo of the person with his salary is against the law."
Aug 2007: A permit application by the Workers' Party to hold a cycling event for its 50th anniversary is rejected by the police. Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee tells parliament that "the East Coast Park is a recreational park (and) not meant to be used by a political party to promote its cause." He adds, "You may be well-behaving but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, and therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid."
Aug 2007: A fortnight-long gay pride festival has ten of its items banned. After disallowing a photo exhibition featuring gay kissing, the Media Development Authority bans a reading of a story on grounds that the content "had gone beyond good taste and decency in taking a disparaging and disrespectful view of public officers." A licence to hold a gay rights forum featuring a retired Canadian law professor is cancelled by the police who said the event was "deemed contrary to public interest." Plainclothes police show up alongside the Singapore River to tell the organisers of 'Pink Run' that it would constitute an illegal assembly if they go ahead with the event. About 40 joggers who had turned up elect to jog separately instead, while police film them using video cameras.
Aug 2007: The court declare SDP members Chee Siok Chin, Monica Kumar and supporter Yap Keng Ho bankrupts after they failed to to pay about $24,000 in legal costs which was incurred after the trio challenged a move by police to disperse a peaceful protest outside the CPF Building in 2005.
Aug 2007: Parliament passes a law that requires prior written approval from a licensing officer before any private investigative work can be carried out on political figures.
Sep 2007: Dr Chee Soon Juan begins serving a three-week prison term after he failed to pay a $4,000 fine upon conviction for attempting to leave the country without permission. "It's ridiculous that they even flagged a fine on a bankrupt," says his sister Chee Siok Chin. Chee was charged in 2006 after being stopped at the airport from attending a democracy forum in Turkey.
Sep 2007: Police reject a permit by the Substation Arts Centre to hold an outdoor flea market near the Fort Canning Tunnel that would have included booths run by 19 civil society groups, including Cat Welfare Society, Vegetarian Society and two gay support groups. The event is subsequently held without the outdoor booths and the civil society groups.
Sep 2007: Five activists stage a walk from Speakers' Corner to Queenstown Remand Prison to mark the first anniversary of the IMF-World Bank protest of 2006. The SDP website reports that group "were accosted by a group of police who made a feeble attempt to physically block us from moving ahead."
Sep 2007: In its first major penal code amendments in 22 years, the Government amends the law to allow oral and anal sex in private between consenting heterosexual adults, while gay sex remains banned. The revised penal code also stipulates that an assembly of five or more people will be illegal if the group's common objective is to commit "any offence", broadening the definition from mischief and trespass.
Sep 2007: Days after his release from prison, Dr Chee Soon Juan and two party colleagues station themselves outside the Myanmar Embassy to collect signatures in protest against the military junta's bloody crackdown of protesters in Myanmar. Despite initial warnings from the police that it would constitute an illegal assembly, online news website The Online Citizen reports that by evening, about 400 people, mainly Burmese expatriates, have turned up to sign the petition. There are no reports of arrests.
Oct 2007: A newswire reports that a group of expatriate women living in Singapore had worn red T-shirts in a public gathering as part of a global action to support the democracy movement in Myanmar. About ten Caucasian women were pictured standing on Waterloo Street listening to a speech. There are no reports of police investigation.
Oct 2007: The police reject an application by the SDP to march from the Istana to the Myanmar Embassy in protest against the violent crackdown in Myanmar.
Oct 2007: A group of four protesters, led by Dr Chee Soon Juan, is swiftly arrested by police on Orchard Road, across the road from the Istana. The four were holding placards with the words "No Deals, No Arms, with the Junta" and "Free Burma" in protest against the Government's trade ties with the military junta.
Oct 2007: Police ban an outdoor peace concert in support of the people of Myanmar. The three-hour event was co-organized by the Substation Arts Centre and Timbre Bar, who are advised by police to hold the concert indoors. "Political and cause-related events are assessed to have a higher potential to stir emotions and controversy (and) may lead to law and order concerns," say the police.
Oct 2007: One week after his arrest, Dr Chee Soon Juan is back on the same spot opposite the Istana to stage a one-man protest against the Government's arms deals with Myanmar. Lasting five days, the protest is not stopped by authorities.
Oct 2007: The Financial Times apologises and agrees to pay unspecified damages to PM Lee Hsien Loong and his father MM Lee Kuan Yew over an article which implied the elder Lee was instrumental in securing his son's appointment as prime minister. "We admit and acknowledge that these allegations are false and completely without foundation," says the paper.
Oct 2007: The International Bar Association's decision to host its annual meeting in Singapore provokes opposition from critics. Amnesty International calls on the 3,000 delegates of IBA to condemn the misuse of the law in Singapore. A newswire report notes that Dr Chee Soon Juan drew applause at the meeting when he spoke about his imprisonment, and quoted Subhas Anandan, the president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers, as saying that he would "represent murderers, thieves and even terror suspects but would avoid acting for dissidents." In an earlier speech, Law Minister Professor Jayakumar said that "internationally our legal system and judiciary have been held in high esteem by the World Bank."
Nov 2007: Police reject an application to hold a protest outside the Shangri-la Hotel where delegates of the Asean Summit are scheduled to meet. The SDP, which submitted the application, say the protest was intended to call on Asean member states to take concrete measures to promote democracy in the region.
Nov 2007 (Asean Summit Meetings): In defiance of a ban, three international students stage a short march in protest against Asean leaders' "tacit" approval of Myanmar's fatal crackdown on demonstrations. A newswire reported that the three were followed by 19 reporters and photographers in the area of the Asean Summit, which was protected by 1,000 armed police and soldiers. "A lot of people wanted to come, but they were afraid of the repercussions," says Daniel Babiak, a student from the National University of Singapore, which had earlier warned the students about Singapore's laws.
Four Singaporeans belonging to a group called Sg Human Rights are barred by police from entering the Shangri-la Hotel. They had planned to deliver a greeting card bearing the image of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The card is eventually handed to a representative of the Asean Secretariat.
Enroute to the Shangri-la Hotel, two members of the SDP are stopped and bundled into an unmarked police vehicle. Chee Siok Chin and John Tan are then driven around for 40 minutes before police release them on Orchard Road. Tan's video recording of the incident is posted on youtube. No charges are filed.
In the biggest public protest in recent memory, about 50 Myanmar expatriates gather on Orchard Road and hold a large banner that read: "Listen to Burma's Desires, Don't Follow Junta's Order". A protest spokesperson tells the assembled reporters that the show of force was to put pressure on Asean and Myanmar to effect the immediate release of jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The brief protest disperses without incident after police warned protesters they could be in violation of the law.
Dec 2007: In a statement, Amnesty International says a total of 22 members of Jehovah's Witness are understood to be detained in Armed Forces detention barracks, all as conscientious objectors. AI adds that they regarded all such detainees as prisoners of conscience. In 1972, the Government banned the religion on the grounds that it was prejudicial to public welfare and order.
Dec 2007: The UN General Assembly passes a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, with the ultimate aim of abolishing capital punishment. It votes 104 in favour and 54 against with 29 abstentions. Opposition to the resolution is led by Singapore, who accuses countries in favour of the moratorium of trying to impose their values on the rest of the world.
Jan 2008: Artist Seelan Palay completes a solo five-day hunger strike outside the Malaysian High Commission in protest against the Malaysian Government's detention of five leaders of ethnic Indian group Hindraf. Wearing a placard around his neck that said, "Give them fair trial," Palay was briefly warned by police that he would be flouting the law. No arrest or charges are filed.
Jan 2008: A choir that planned to sing a list of complaints about life in Singapore cancels its performances after the Media Develpment Authority banned its foreign members from singing. The 60-member Complaints Choir, a concept that originated from two Finnish artists, was originally licensed to perform at Speakers' Corner but authorities say the licence is conditional because the lyrics touch on "domestic affairs", and it preferred only Singaporeans take part. The performance is eventually moved indoors and a video recording uploaded on youtube.
Jan 2008: Police reject an application by the SDP to protest outside Parliament House to mark World Consumer Rights Day.
Mar 2008: About 20 Singaporeans, including young children, protest outside Parliament House against the rising cost of living. Led by Dr Chee Soon Juan, the protesters, carrying placards and wearing red T-shirts that say "Tak Boleh Tahan", proceed to stage a procession towards the Istana, but are arrested outside a shopping mall. Video footages show police dragging the protesters by force from an interlocked group and bundling them into vehicles. 18 of them are later charged with participating in an illegal assembly and public procession without a permit.
Apr 2008: Discharged from bankruptcy, JB Jeyaretnam announces the formation of the Reform Party. "We are not allowed to exercise the fundamental rights given to us in the Constitution," says Jeyaretnam, who promised a party based on human and political rights, and whose objective was to effect "a complete and thorough change in the way this country is run."
Apr 2008: Hundreds of Myanmar nationals, many wearing red t-shirts with the word "No", gather outside the Myanmar embassy to cast referendum votes on the country's proposed new constitution. Plainclothes police are seen on standby but there are no reported arrests.
May 2008: Five Singaporeans, holding aloft a series of banners with messages such as "Censored News Is No News" and "Newspapers and Printing Presses Act = Repression", stand outside the Singapore Press Holdings building to mark World Press Freedom Day. There are no reported arrests.
May 2008: Officers from the Board of Film Censors, assisted by the police, enter the Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel to seize a film which was undergoing its private premiere. Witnessed by about a hundred guests including foreign diplomats, organisers hand the DVD copy of the film to officials. Entitled "One Nation Under Lee", the documentary was made by artist Seelan Palay and its premiere hosted by the SDP. Palay is currently under investigation for exhibition of a film without licence.
May 2008: An unnamed 24-year-old blogger is arrested in his home after police received two complaints about allegedly racist comments posted on his blog. The New Paper reports that his comments were directed at a fellow passenger on the MRT. A police statement says they "take a serious view of such irresponsible blog postings in a multi-racial society like Singapore and will expend all efforts in tracking the perpetrators."
May 2008: PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew are cross-examined by Dr Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin in a hearing to determine defamation damages awarded to the Lees. Newswires report that the Chees, who were representing themselves, had most of the questions objected to by Lee's lawyer Davinder Singh on the grounds of irrelevance and upheld by the judge, who had earlier granted an application by Singh to impose a time limit on the cross-examination. The case marks the first time any PAP leader is cross-examined by a political opponent in open court.
Jun 2008: In a separate case, Dr Chee Soon Juan and activist Yap Keng Ho are found guilty by the Subordinate Court of speaking without a permit during the run-up to the 2006 elections. Chee is fined $5,000, or five weeks in jail in default, while Yap is fined $2,000, or 10 days in jail. Bails of $5,000 are granted for both men, who face six similar charges.
Jun 2008: US lawyer and blogger Gopalan Nair is arrested in his hotel by plainclothes police officers and held in a police lock up for five days. The 59-year-old former Singapore citizen had written on his blog that the judge in the Lees' defamation case against the Chee siblings was "throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders," and further challenged Lee to sue him for his remarks. Nair is charged with insulting a high court judge.
Jun 2008: Dr Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin begin serving prison terms of 12 and 10 days respectively after being convicted of contempt of court over their cross-examination of PM Lee and MM Lee. Judge Belinda Ang says that such misbehaviour, if unpunished, will diminish the dignity of the court. Reform Party's leader JB Jeyaretnam appears in court as Chee's lawyer but later withdraws when Ang declines his application for more time to prepare his case. The Straits Times notes it is the stiffest sentence ever meted out for such an offence.
Jul 2008: In a 72-page report on Singapore, the human rights arm of the International Bar Association expresses concern about limitations on the freedoms of expression, assembly, and the press, and of the independence of the judiciary. "As one of the world's most successful economies, Singapore should be a leader in human rights and the rule of law, and should now have the confidence and maturity to recognise that this would be complementary, not contradictory, to its future prosperity," says the IBA.
Jul 2008: In a statement, the Law Ministry rebukes a Wall Street Journal editorial on the above IBA's report, stating that "Singapore cannot allow those who carry no responsibility for Singapore's future to dictate its political and legal systems. Singaporeans know that they have a noncorrupt government and an independent judiciary. They live in one of the top five most transparent countries in the world, with the freedom to express their views, oppose the government and take part in free and fair elections."
Jul 2008: Dr Chee Soon Juan's application to reconvene the hearing for the assessment of damages in the case involving PM Lee Kuan Yew and MM Lee Kuan Yew is rejected by Judge Belinda Ang. The basis for Chee's application was the claim by MM Lee that the president of the International Bar Association had sent a letter to the Law Society of Singapore praising the country's justice system. It turned out that no such letter existed.
Jul 2008: The Official Assignee's office rejects Chee Siok Chin's application to attend a democracy leadership programme at the Stanford University in US. As a bankrupt, Chee has to apply for permission to travel out of the country. The SDP says that she has been making regular payments to the benefit of her creditors and was granted leave on past occasions.
Aug 2008: In a statement, the Myanmar expatriate community expresses concern that many of their members who had been active in protests against the military junta's crackdown of civilians a year earlier have been denied renewal and extensions of their visas by Singapore authorities. A police spokeswoman says that "foreigners who work or live here are expected to at least respect the law and local sensitivities in Singapore." The statement from the community adds that there is no evidence that those affected has ever committed any offence in Singapore.
Aug 2008: In his National Day Rally speech, PM Lee Hsien Loong pledges more openness by relaxing the rules for political films and allowing demonstrations in Speakers' Corner. "The overall thrust of all these changes is to liberalise our society, to widen the space for expression and participation. We encourage more citizens to engage in debate, to participate in building our shared future.. If you compare today with five years ago or 10 years ago, it's much more open today."
Aug 2008: Three sets of charges - of attempting to stage an illegal procession, of assembly without a permit for distributing flyers and of unlawful assembly outside Parliament House - are filed against seven members and supporters of the SDP for activities during the the IMF-World bank meetings in 2006.
Aug 2008: In what is described as "an extraordinary move", Judge Woo Bih Li recommends to the lawyers for PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew to broaden the charges of their defamation suit against the Far Eastern Economic Review so as to allow for greater penalties. The Lees' lawyers duly oblige.
Aug 2008: Following the death of PAP Member of Parliament Dr Ong Chit Chung, a motion is tabled in parliament to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act to allow by-elections to be called in a Group Representation Constituency when a member vacates his seat for any reason. The move is rejected by PM Lee Hsien Loong, who reasons that "the vacancy does not affect the mandate of the government."
Sep 2008: The government eases restrictions on Speakers' Corner by allowing Singapore citizens to hold demonstrations without having to obtain a police permit. The management of the park is handed over to the Nataional Parks Board, which states that users should register with the board online, and that placards, banners, effigies and self-powered handheld amplification will be allowed. Issues of race and religion remain outlawed. "There will be no conscious monitoring," say the police. In the first month after the new ruling, 31 registrations for activities are made.
Sep 2008: US lawyer Gopalan Nair is sentenced to three months prison after being found guilty of insulting a high court judge in a blog entry. Nair tells reporters he has no regrets, "I only wrote a blog. I didn't go out and kill anybody." While in prison, he is convicted on a separate charge of contempt of court, but is let off with a warning by the judge.
Sep 2008: News portal The Online Citizen reports that the Nanyang Technological University has pulled the plug on two stories on the school's student newspaper. Both articles are reports of the Singapore Democratic Party's visit to the campus. A professor of its communications and information faculty say the stories were killed because "there was a feeling of concern over the use of student media to publicise and promote the unsolicited views of an uninvited person to the campus."
Sep 2008: Reform Party's leader JB Jeyaretnam, 82, passes away due to heart failure. In a condolence letter, PM Lee Hsien Loong says, "He sought by all means to demolish the PAP and our system of government. Unfortunately, this helped neither to build up a constructive opposition nor our Parliamentary tradition. Nevertheless, one had to respect Mr JB Jeyaretnam's dogged tenacity to be active in politics at his age." Jeyaretnam's son, Kenneth, eventually assumes leadership of the Reform Party.
Oct 2008: A group from the Nanyang Technological University gathers on Speakers' Corner to protest the censorship of its student newspaper. With a banner that reads "Responsible Press For Students", student speakers tell a group of 70 people that the event is called to stand up for media freedom.
Oct 2008: The High Court orders the Singapore Democratic Party, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin, to pay PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew a total of $610,000 in damages. Judge Belinda Ang says the libel was exacerbated by the Chees' cross-examination which were "meant to discredit, insult, embarrass and humiliate" the two government leaders. The ruling may bankrupt the SDP and force it out of existence, says a statement on the party's website.
Nov 2008: John Tan, the assistant secretary-general of the SDP, is suspended from his position as lecturer at the James Cook University. A letter handed to Tan states that "the Management has received information that the Attorney-General has applied to court for contempt proceedings to be instituted against you. A student has also given some feedback on this matter, expressing some concerns." Tan has been lecturing there for four years.
Nov 2008: The publisher of the Wall Street Journal Asia is found in contempt of court over two editorials and a letter that "implied that the judiciary is subservient to Mr Lee and/or the PAP and is a tool for silencing political dissent." The charges were initiated by Attorney-General Walter Woon who said the articles "impugned the impartiality, integrity and independence of the Singapore Judiciary."
Nov 2008: Three activists who had showed up in court donning t-shirts depicting kangaroos in judges robes during the cross-examination of PM Lee and MM Lee by the Chee siblings are convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to prison. Isrizal Bin Mohamed Isa and Muhammad Shafi'ie each receive 7-day jail sentences, while John Tan a 15-day sentence. The Attorney-General had earlier argued for a harsh penalty, noting that "calling the judicial system a kangaroo court is the worst insult one can hurl against it." The defendants are also each ordered to pay $5,000 in legal costs.
Dec 2008: After his release from prison, Gopalan Nair writes from the United States on his blog that he will be withdrawing all undertakings and apologies made while under Singapore custody, and proceeds to repost all the articles which he had removed while in Singapore. Nair is barred from entering Singapore without approval from authorities.
Jan 2009: In its annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties, Freedom House says Singapore's ranking is downgraded "due to the politically motivated handling of defamation cases, which cast doubt on judicial independence." Its report also notes that "despite his expressed desire for a 'more open society,' Lee Hsien Loong has done little to change the authoritarian political climate."
Jan 2009: Wearing red t-shirts and holding a banner that read 'Stop ill-treatment of Burmese activists', two protesters stood for an hour outside the Ministry of Manpower before being handcuffed and escorted into police vehicles. The two were protesting against the non-renewal of visas to some Myanmar expatriates, whom the Government says are "not welcomed in Singapore". The two Singaporeans, Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong, are being investigated for the offence of criminal trespass.
Jan 2009: A man in his forties is arrested for vandalism after he scribbled "Hi Harry Lee. I love you." on a wall outside Parliament House. The Straits Times reports that uniformed guards were seen running out of Parliament House to wrestle the man to the ground. "Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is called Harry by some of his family and old friends," notes the paper.
Feb 2009: In a written reply to parliament, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng says 366 people have been detained in the last five years under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, which allows for detention without trial. Wong adds that it is only used as a last resort when a serious crime has been committed and a court prosecution is not possible because witnesses are not willing or afraid to testify in court.
Feb 2009: Four people hold a quiet protest march from Little India to the British High Commission in an appeal for British help to end the war in Sri Lanka. "It was the British colonial government that arranged for Tamils to move to Sri Lanka so it's responsible," says V Thamizhmaraiyan, who led the march. The Straits Times also quotes him as saying that he has the support of many Tamils in Singapore but they did not join the march because they feared arrest.
Feb 2009: In its second incident in two weeks, about 150 retrenched Bangladeshi migrant workers gather in front of Ministry of Manpower to urge the government to give them work and help retrieve overdue pay from previous employers. "We are going to see a lot more of it - they are being shortchanged," says a spokesperson for a migrant workers advocacy group. There are no reports of arrests in both cases.
Mar 2009: Following an earlier ruling that had found the Wall Street Journal guilty of contempt of court, the High Court additionally fines Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page, $10,000 for the same offence. It also says she must pay the same amount in legal costs. "The public interest in protecting the Singapore judiciary from unwarranted attacks has been adequately served," says the Attorney-General.
Mar 2009: The Government amends the Films Act to allow for certain political films on condition that they do not contain dramatisation, animation, unscripted reality and scenes of illegal activities. A seven-member advisory board is formed to vet such films.
Apr 2009: Parliament passes the Public Order Act, which requires that all "cause-related" demonstrations, including those staged by one person, to seek a police permit. It also contains a new prohibition on the filming of security force operations and actions. Another provision empowers the police, under a so-called "move on" order, to force anyone to leave public areas if their actions are considered "disorderly".
Apr 2009: The Singapore International Film Festival is forced to withdraw six foreign films after censors demanded cuts to five of them that depicted homosexuality and "prolonged and explicit lesbian sex". The sixth film, about Palestinian women imprisoned for suicide bombing-related activities, is disallowed.
Apr 2009: The Government retains the ban on the film 'Zahari's 17 Years', saying that the Minister has not changed his position. The film was banned in 2007 for its alleged "distorted and misleading portrayal" of Said Zahari's detention under the ISA. Its filmmaker Martyn See had resubmitted it to the authorities following the recent amendments to the Films Act.
Apr 2009: More than 100 construction workers from China gather outside the Ministry of Manpower to complain about unpaid wages and cancellation of their work permits. Some workers report that police had warned them they were illegally trespassing on government property. No arrests are reported.
May 2009: A licence for a scheduled seminar by Dr Philip Nitschke, an Australian euthanasia campaigner, is denied by the police on grounds that his talk "may promote the commission of criminal offences in Singapore, of which euthanasia is one". Nitschke earlier insisted that he had no intention of breaking the law in Singapore and that he would not be providing information about effective suicide methods.
May 2009: An Amnesty International report on Singapore states that "defamation suits and restrictive measures continued against opposition activists, human rights defenders, foreign media and conscientious objectors," of whom 26 Jehovah's Witnesses remain imprisoned. The advocacy group also notes "the government eased restrictions on public assembly (in one designated location), but continued imposing restrictions on media and peaceful demonstrations."
Jun 2009: A Christian couple is found guilty of possessing and distributing seditious and undesirable publications to three Muslims, and sentenced to eight weeks jail. Three of the charges come under the Sedition Act and one under the Undesirable Publications Act.
Jun 2009: Refuting Dr Chee Soon Juan's letter to the Washington Post which alleged that rehabilitation under the Internal Security Act in Singapore "comes with beatings and other forms of torture," the Singaporean ambassador to the US says that "terrorist detainees in Singapore undergo a program incorporating psychological, social and religious rehabilitation. There are no beatings or torture. There have been no deaths."
Jun 2009: A scheduled public forum, organised by filmmaker Martyn See, to mark the 22nd anniversary of the "Marxist Conspiracy" arrests under the ISA, is cancelled after See was told by the venue that the police were investigating the event. The event is eventually held in another venue, but not before See wrote to the Minister of Law to rebuff an earlier demand from the police that he make an application for a permit.
Jul 2009 : A magistrate's complaint filed by Chee Siok Chin and John Tan for unlawful detention and selective use of the law by the Singapore Police Force is dismissed by the District Court. In the complaint, Chee stated that during the Asean Summit a year earlier, police had harassed and forced the duo into unmarked vehicles. The judge throws out the complaint, citing a police statement that they were removed in accordance with the Protected Area and Places Act.
Jul 2009: The Board of Film Censors refuses to classify the film 'One Nation Under Lee' on grounds that it contains footages of banned film 'Zahari's 17 Years'. "It is probably the only video submission in BFC's history that has been deemed unclassifiable," says Martyn See, who submitted the film on behalf of its director Seelan Palay, who faces a police probe over the screening of the above film.
Jul 2009: Police install five closed circuit television cameras at the Speakers' Corner as "part of an on-going initiative to enhance security in the neighbourhoods", and that the cameras "do not record audio inputs." A letter published in Today newspaper says "some Singaporeans may be intimitated by the CCTVs from speaking, or even going to listen."
Aug 2009: A copy of the French film Devotee is retained by the Media Development Authority after organisers inserted still frames into sections of the film where the censors had demanded cuts. A censored version is eventually screened to the public after organisers removed the still frames. Two locally made films, Tanjong Rhu and Threshold, are withdrawn just days before its public screening in a festival partly sponsored by the MDA. All three films contain gay themes.
Sept 2009: Singapore's Law Society applies for permission from the courts to initiate disciplinary against US lawyer and blogger Gopalan Nair, with the view to bar him from practising law in Singapore.
Sept 2009: Dr Chee Soon Juan is convicted on two counts of public speaking without a permit and fined $10,000 or ten weeks imprisonment by default. Chee faces a further four charges from offences committed during the run-up to the 2006 elections. Also convicted is activist Yap Keng Ho, who is fined $2,000 and will begin serving a 20-day jail term in default. Chee is granted a stay of execution pending his appeal.
Sept 2009: The Government lifts a four-year ban on the film 'Singapore Rebel', and gives it a M18 rating, which allows those above 18 years old to view it. Its filmmaker Martyn See calls the decision "symbolic", as the film has been viewed more than 400,000 times online. See had resubmitted the film six months earlier.
Oct 2009: Two weeks after the 63-year-old Far Eastern Economic Review announced its impending closure, the Court of Appeal upholds a ruling that the magazine had defamed PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew in a 2006 article, and that costs and consequential orders will be awarded to the Lees.
Oct 2009: Police arrest a 70-year-old Singaporean who had earlier staged a sit-in protest at an underpass leading to the convention centre of the upcoming APEC Summit meetings. Falaungong practitioner Chua Eng Chwee is detained after he returned to the site from which police had removed him using the "move-on" powers of the Public Order Act.
Oct 2009: Responding to Reporters Without Borders' annual press freedom index that ranks Singapore in 133rd out of 175 countries, Law Minister K. Shanmugam tells the New York State Bar Association that the listing is "quite absurd and divorced from reality", and that Singapore is not "a repressive state" and does not "unfairly target the press".
Nov 2009: The Far Eastern Economic Review and its editor pay over $400,000 to settle the defamation suit that was awarded to PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew. Court orders show the PM receives $230,000, and the MM, $175,000, in damages and legal costs. Disagreeing with the verdict, the magazine's owners say, "the Court casts significant doubt as to whether Singapore will ever recognise the fair and honest reporting privilege accorded to responsible journalism."
Nov 2009: Despite an appeal from the British High Commission and condemnation from the Commitee To Protect Journalists, British freelance journalist Benjamin Bland's work visa is rejected by the Government, who gave no reasons. "I have covered some sensitive subjects such as rising crime, healthcare and ageing and business links with Burma. However I steered clear of criticism of Singapore's first family," says Bland.
Dec 2009: In a surprise announcement, the Attorney-General announces the withdrawal of three charges of speaking without permit against Dr Chee Soon Juan. The withdrawn charges would amount to acquittals, said the state prosecutor, who offers no further reason. Chee was originally charged with eight separate counts of the same offence, and had been convicted of four. He had served a prison term for the first, and the remaining are awaiting appeals.
Dec 2009: District Judge Ch'ng Lye Beng fines three leaders of the SDP the maximum amount of $1,000 each for distributing pamphlets without a permit. The judge agrees with the prosecution that distributing anti-government flyers in a group of 5 or more persons is an offence. The group had distributed the flyers during the lead-up to the IMF-World Bank meetings in 2006. The three, Dr Chee Soon Juan, Gandhi Ambalam and Chee Siok Chin, refuse to pay the fine and begin serving one week prison terms.
Jan 2010: In rejecting allegations by Human Rights Watch that Singapore is a "politically repressive state", the government says that "Singapore is a democratic state with a clean and transparent government, whose public officials are held responsible against the highest standards of probity and integrity." The group had also criticised the mandatory death penalty, the ban on street protests and laws permitting caning and detention without trial.
Feb 2010: Ten months after its application, advocacy group Singaporeans For Democracy is gazetted a political association, but not before authorities amended its constitution to prohibit the group from any affiliation with political parties and foreign persons who "interfere in Singapore's domestic politics."
Mar 2010: Dr Chee Soon Juan, Gandhi Ambalam and Chee Siok Chin begin serving another one-week prison term each after being found guilty by District Judge Toh Yung Cheong for attempting to participate in a procession during the WB-IMF meeting in September 2006. Co-defendant Teoh Tian Jing is also found guilty.
Mar 2010: Ten people who were part of a group of 18 who participated in a 'Tak Boleh Tahan' protest outside Parliament House in 2008 are found guilty of taking part in an assembly and procession without a permit. District Judge Chia Wee Kiat metes out fines between $1,800 to $2,000 to each of the convicted, who are granted stays of execution pending appeal. Eight others had earlier pleaded guilty and paid fines.
Mar 2010: The New York Times Co apologises and pays $160,000 in damages to PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew for an article about Asian political dynasties that was published in the International Herald Tribune. Davinder Singh, the lawyer acting for the Lees, says that the IHT's publisher, editor, and the article's author, Philip Bowring, also agreed to pay damages of $60,000 to PM Lee, and $50,000 each to SM Goh Chok Tong and MM Lee, as well as pay their legal costs. He says the article was in breach of an undertaking made by the IHT and Bowring in 1994.
Mar 2010: In a strongly-worded open letter to PM Lee Hsien Loong, Reporters Without Borders urges the Government to implement media reforms, including ceasing all libel actions and guaranteeing editorial independence to local media. "You have perpetuated your father’s legacy by continuing to harass and intimidate news media," says the letter.
Apr 2010: A landmark decision to acquit five activists who participated in a procession to mark the first anniversary of the IMF-WB protest is overturned by High Court Judge Choo Han Teck. Six months earlier, Judge John Ng acquitted the five, ruling that "the walk which had taken place did not impede or cause any disruption to the flow of vehicular traffic or the movement of pedestrians." Judge Choo orders sentencing to be referred back to Judge John Ng, who in turn sentences them to $500 fine each. All but one choose to serve five-day jail terms.
Apr 2010: Amendments to the Constitution are passed to increase the number of Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) to nine, up from six. NCMPs are offered to losing opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes, and have restricted voting rights. "This Bill marks another milestone in the constant and progressive evolution of our political system of parliamentary democracy," says Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng.
Apr 2010: Arab news channel Al Jazeera English is taken off from cable network mio TV, shortly after it aired a story on homeless Singaporeans. Criticising the broadcaster for "propagating falsehoods", Minister Vivian Balakrishnan tells parliament that "this is a clear example where a foreign media has failed to ascertain the facts." Refuting allegations of censorship, the Government quotes a report which stated that Al Jazeera itself had said the decision to drop out of mio TV was a "mutual" one.
Apr 2010: A United Nations official's call for more openness in the public debate of racial issues in Singapore is rebuffed by the Government, which says that "a balance must always be struck between free expression and preservation of racial and religious harmony." Githu Muigai, the UN Special Reporter on racism, made his remarks after spending a week in Singapore at the invitation of the Government.
May 2010: The Straits Times refuses to publish six letters by Dr Chee Soon Juan, demanding that he retract allegations which had casted "serious and unfounded aspersions" on the integrity of the paper. Chee had alleged on the SDP website that the paper unfairly edited his reply to a series of letters in the paper's forum which were critical of him.
May 2010: The National Arts Council cuts the annual grant given to theatre company Wild Rice, which had produced gay-themed plays. In a statement, the council says, "We will not fund projects which are incompatible with the core values promoted by the government and society or disparage the government."
May 2010: Former political detainee Vincent Cheng is barred from a speaking in a history seminar by venue sponsor National Library Board, who contends that Cheng's inclusion by the organiser is not consistent with the forum's original directive. Entitled 'Singapore's History: Who Writes The Script?', the event is organised by the NUS History Society, who apologises to Cheng for the barring.
Jun 2010: The Online Citizen (TOC) reports on its website that its chief editor has been questioned by police over its posting of an anti-government pamphlet, which local press earlier reported were stuffed into letter boxes in two housing estates. Entitled 'The truth that every citizen must know', the pamphlet made allegations about government corruption and exploitation. Local paper Today says its contents, which remains online on TOC, may fall under the Sedition Act.
Jun 2010: A US animal-rights activist is whisked away in a police car after he arrived outside a KFC outlet with the intention to stage a one-man protest in a chicken suit. "I am now in my hotel room. I am under functional house arrest. I will stay in my hotel room under police surveillance until I leave tomorrow," 24-year-old Edward Basse tells newswire by telephone.
Jul 2010: Members of the opposition National Solidarity Party are given verbal warnings by environmental officers on the unlicensed sale of their party's newspaper. A week after the party failed to obtained clarification from authorities, NSP's vice-president Christopher Neo is issued with a summon of $300 for "illegal hawking."
Jul 2010: Filmmaker Martyn See's recording of a public speech by former political prisoner Dr Lim Hock Siew is banned by the Government on account that the film is "against public interest" and that it "undermines public confidence in the Government." The Media Development Authority order See to remove the video from youtube and his blog. Detained for 19 years, Lim is Singapore's second longest-held ISA detainee. See's other documentary, 'Zahari's 17 Years', remains banned.
Jul 2010: A photographer with a Chinese-language daily who was taking pictures of floods is handcuffed by police and removed from the area after he allegedly ignored police warnings to leave. In response, Environmental Minister Yaacob Ibrahim tells parliament that there is no policy that prohibits the taking of flood pictures. The Government has been under pressure to alleviate frequent floods caused by monsoon rains.
Jul 2010: British author Alan Shadrake is arrested in his hotel, a day after he launched a book alleging double standards in Singapore's use of the death penalty. The police say in a statement that Shadrake will be investigated for alleged criminal defamation and contempt of court. The book, entitled 'Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock,' is not banned, says the Media Development Authority, who had filed the police complaint.
Jul 2010: "Nuns Go Wild!", a play which was scheduled as part of the Short+Sweet Theatre Festival at the Arts House, has its title changed to "Good Girls" after the venue objected to the references to nuns. The performance is eventually allowed after the playwright changed the main characters to convent schoolgirls.
Aug 2010: The SDP reports on their website that their application for renewal of their newspaper permit was delayed for three months by the Government. As the "communication lifeline with voters in the constituencies and a means for the party to raise funds," the delay "severely disrupted our campaign plans", says the party. The law mandates that newspaper licences are renewable yearly.
Aug 2010: Police arrest a Singaporean man after he posted on Facebook urging people to "burn" a cabinet minister. In a statement, police say the arrest is "in connection with investigations into offences related to incitement of violence". Abdul Malik Ghazali, 27, who posted a series of criticisms on how the government was hosting the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, says his comment was a "metaphor". He is eventually issued a warning.
Aug 2010: A police serviceman who criticised the actions of his fellow officers in his blog is interrogated for an hour by the police. 26-year-old Abdillah Zamzuri had written on his blog that the police officer who handcuffed a press photographer had "acted stupidly" and that the police should be sued. He is being investigated for the offence of "prejudice to the conduct of good order and discipline".
Aug 2010 : Theatre group Drama Box is denied an outdoor licence to stage a forum theatre piece involving themes of homosexuality, sex education and religious radicalisation. The Media Development Authority, which gave the play an advisory for mature content (16 years and above), advises that the group move the performance indoors.
Sep 2010 : Students at the Nanyang Techological University are informed that those who create webpages or blogs containing information regarding politics and religion must acquire licences from the Government and the university's written approval. Under the Broadcasting Act, registration is required for websites deemed by the authorities to be propagating political or religious issues relating to Singapore. Local paper Today notes the last time a website was told to register as a political site was in 2001.
Sep 2010: A call by a government-appointed panel to liberalise parts of its censorship regime, such as ending a symbolic 100-website ban and easing rules on distributing R-rated films, is rejected by the government. "We should move with, rather than ahead of, society," says Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who adds that the 100-website ban "serves as a reminder that there is a significant body of material on the internet that is unsavoury and unedifying."
Oct 2010 : After tabloid daily The New Paper speculated that medical doctor Joseph Ong is the owner of popular anti-government website Temasek Review, government investment firm Temasek Holdings writes to him demanding that the site stop using "the good name" of Temasek Review. While Dr Ong denies any links with the website, the site's owners temporarily changes its name to 'New Temasek Review', but has since reverted to its original name, and continues to operate under its anonymous owners.
Nov 2010 : The Government rejects an application by human rights advocacy group Maruah to be registered as a society, but instead gazettes it as a political association, which would bar the group from a host of activities, such as receiving foreign funds and letting foreigners take part in its events. Maruah has been active as a Singapore representative in the Asean Human Rights Mechanism.
Nov 2010: In the stiffest sentence imposed for contempt of court, 76-year-old British author Alan Shadrake is sentenced to six weeks in prison and fined $20,000 by High Court Judge Quentin Loh, who says the book, 'Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore's Justice in the Dock,' contains "selective background of truths and half-truths, and sometimes outright falsehoods." A stay of execution is granted pending Shadrake's appeal.
Dec 2010: In response to WikiLeaks' release of secret US diplomatic cables, the Government says their actions are "damaging". "It is critical to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic and official correspondence, which is why Singapore has the Officials Secret Act," says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Leaked cables from Singapore had contained unflattering remarks on regional governments made by MM Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore diplomats.
Dec 2010: Citing "law and order considerations", police reject an application for a proposed march by Singaporeans For Democracy to mark International Human Rights Day. The march was scheduled to start at Speakers' Corner and end at Parliament House, less than one kilometre away. Further to an appeal by SFD, the police advise the political association "to hold your march at the Speakers' Corner instead."
Dec 2010: In reply to a query, the Media Development Authority says the government will adopt a "light-touch approach" for the internet and will not require websites to submit their uploaded videos for vetting. Filmmaker Martyn See made the inquiry after reading a Straits Times report on videos uploaded by political parties, including those from the PAP.
Dec 2010: Two rights groups are denied permits to conduct activities aimed at commemorating International Migrants Day. A proposed vehicle procession and a flyer distribution exercise to raise awareness about the treatment of foreign workers are rejected by the police, who advise the applicants "to hold their activities within the confines of the Speakers' Corner instead."
Jan 2011: A disciplinary tribunal appointed by the Chief Justice finds US lawyer Gopalan Nair guilty of five charges of contempt of court and misconduct. The Law Society of Singapore had initiated charges against Nair for his blog postings and for disorderly behaviour towards police officers while awaiting trial for his conviction in 2008. The tribunal says Nair will be permitted to re-enter Singapore to face charges.
Jan 2011: PM Lee Hsien Loong gazettes popular news portal The Online Citizen (TOC) a political association, even though the website has not applied to be registered. The move comes shortly after the site organised a public forum featuring leaders of the opposition parties. A government statement says TOC "has the potential to influence the opinions of its readership and shape political outcomes in Singapore" and "it is therefore necessary to ensure that it is not funded by foreign elements or sources". Law and Home Affairs Minsiter K. Shanmugam tells parliament that TOC is "not a passive website" but adds that it "will not hinder its existing activities, nor impede its freedom of expression".
Jan 2011: A performance art piece entitled 'Choices, Chances' that would have featured references to the death penalty is disallowed by the Media Development Authority, who objected to the use of a set of dice in the performance, alleging it would imply an unfair judicial process. In place of the ban, artist Seelan Palay verbally describes his performance to the audience.
Jan 2011: Three members of Singaporeans For Democracy are investigated over the sale of 12 copies of the book 'Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock' at a human rights film screening. Police say the three are being questioned on possible charges of distributing defamatory material. The book has not been banned by authorities and author Alan Shadrake's appeal against his conviction is still pending.
Jan 2011: Police write to The Online Citizen to ask that they apply for three sets of permits to hold a proposed party to mark the gazetting of their site. The licenses required are the Public Entertainment Licence, the House-to-House and Street Collections Licence, and a notification to conduct a lucky draw under the House Gaming Rules. In response, TOC elects to bypass the rules by conducting the party as a private, invitation-only function.
Jan 2011: Dr Chee Soon Juan's appeal against four convictions for speaking without permit is dismissed by High Court Judge Steven Chong, who imposes a $20,000 fine or 20-week imprisonment in default. The four convictions are part of eight charges filed against Chee for offences committed during the run-up to the elections in 2006. Chee eventually escapes the prison term after he paid the fine, raised through an online donation appeal.
Feb 2011: A historic lawsuit brought against the Government by a former political prisoner for alleged torture is thrown out of court, after the Attorney-General said it was frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of court process. 77-year-old Michael Fernandez, a former union leader who was detained under the ISA from 1964 to 1973, had alleged that he was force-fed, manhandled, deprived of sleep, and made to live in conditions that were "not humanely habitable". A separate lawsuit alleging unlawful detention is pending.
Feb 2011: The Board of Film Censors restricts Oscar-nominated film 'The Kids Are Alright' by rating it R21 and limiting its release to one single print. "The film normalises a homosexual family unit and has exceeded the film classification guidelines which states that 'Films that promote or normalise a homosexual lifestyle cannot be allowed'," says a letter from the Board, which adds that it is already a "concession" that the film is allowed at all.
Feb 2011: High Court Judge Woo Bih Li dismisses appeals by nine defendants, mostly from the SDP, against three sets of convictions all involving public assemblies and processions from 2006 to 2008. The appellants had asked the judge to look into the unconstitutionality of the government's ban on public assemblies and processions. All nine had earlier served the sentences, including payment of fines and prison terms.
Feb 2011: The Government submits its first human rights report to the United Nations, highlighting its achievement in health, housing and education. Refuting alleged restrictions on civil and political liberties, it says "no person has ever been detained for engaging in lawful political activities". Its use of the death penalty is justified as "a criminal justice issue", and the ISA as a "preventive" measure. Eight civil society groups had earlier submitted reports, all as part of a UN peer review process called the Universal Periodic Review.
Mar 2011: Lawyer Chia Ti Lik, the leader of newly-formed opposition party Socialist Front, is found guilty on charges of professional misconduct brought against him by the Law Society. While acting as defence counsel for opposition activists, Chia had alleged on his blog that the cases were politically motivated, which the disciplinary tribunal said cast "doubt on the integrity of the judiciary and judicial processes". Chia faces a fine, and is also ordered to pay legal costs of $3,000. The penalties will not affect his eligibility to contest the elections.
Mar 2011 : The High Court dismissed an appeal for a constitutional challenge against Section 377A of the Penal Code, which makes "gross indecency" between two men an offence punishable by up to two years' imprisonment. Human rights lawyer M. Ravi had filed the challenge following his client's conviction for a sexual act in a public toilet in 2010. Speaking in Parliament in 2007, PM Lee Hsien Loong had said, "We do not harass gays. The Government does not act as moral policemen. And we do not proactively enforce section 377A on them."
Mar 2011: An art installation displayed in the Singapore Art Museum as part of the Singapore Biennale has some of its items removed without the consent of the artist. Explaining the removal of gay pornographic magazines in the installation work by British artist Simon Fujiwara, museum director Tan Boon Hui says some audience "may not appreciate seeing such material in full view." A lawyer quoted in the Straits Times says the exhibition of obscene material may fall under the Undesirable Publications Act, which carries a maximum sentence of $10,000 fine or a two-year imprisonment.
Apr/May 2011 (General Elections): A year before elections, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced a "24-hour cooling-off" before polling day, stating that no election campaigning and "advertising" will be allowed except for "news" from government licensed organizations and sanctioned political party broadcasts.
In its annual budget statement, the Government announces a $3.2 billion "Grow and Share" package in which most adult Singaporean will receive between $600 to $800 each in "cash incentives".
In its first major revision since 2001, the Government redraws electoral boundaries by dissolving constituencies and creating new wards. The Group Representative Constituency (GRC) of Aljunied loses nine parcels of land to neighbouring wards, prompting accusations of gerrymandering from the Workers' Party.
The Elections Department eases the ban on election videos and online campaigning, but requires that all activities to be held at the Speakers' Corner during the election period be sanctioned by the police.
State-owned broadcaster MediaCorp airs an unprecedented four-episode TV forum featuring both PAP and opposition politicians. A directive circulated to the invited parties states that the PAP be represented by two speakers and be allocated half the airtime, and that only eligible candidates can take part, thus ruling out Dr Chee Soon Juan, the bankrupted leader of the SDP.
The Government announces elections 18 days prior to polling day, and campaigning period are again restricted to 9 days. Despite elections deposits being raised from $13,500 to $16,000, opposition parties field candidates in 82 out of 87 seats, making it the highest proportion of contested seats since independence.
Early attempts by the PAP to question the personal agendas of some opposition candidates, including one allegedly gay member of the SDP, are eventually sidelined by more pressing economic issues such as rising costs of living. Nightly rallies by the opposition attract tens of thousands of spectators, with the Workers' Party filling out sports stadiums. Traditional news reporting is challenged by a surge of dissenting views on social media platforms such as Facebook, as news websites The Online Citizen and Temasek Review also report record hits.
Three days before polling, PM Lee Hsien Loong issues an apology to the electorate, pledging to correct the shortcomings of unpopular policies. The hustings is also notable for the absence of defamation suits.
The PAP eventually wins 60.1% of the votes by securing 81 out 87 seats, and lost the five-member Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to the Workers' Party, which secures six seats in Parliament, the best opposition parliamentary result since independence.
May 2011 : A week after elections, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong announce their retirement from the cabinet. In a brief joint statement, the two former prime ministers note that "the time has come for a younger generation to carry Singapore forward in a more difficult and complex situation."
May 2011 : Authorities arrest a 24-year-old man after he allegedly posted on an internet forum that a fighter jet had crashed, resulting in many casualties. In a statement, the police say that he is being investigated under Section 45 of the Telecommunications Act, which states that any person who is found guilty of transmitting a false or fabricated message is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or a fine, or with both.
May 2011 : British author Alan Shadrake begins his prison term after he lost an appeal against a six-week jail sentence, the highest ever imposed for contempt of court. His inability to pay a $20,000 fine results in an additional two-week imprisonment, taking his term to eight weeks in total. "I feel that Singapore has shamed itself again by jailing me," says Shadrake in a newswire report.
June 2011 : 'Mass Effect', a Microsoft video game which contains a scene showing a human woman and an alien woman kissing each other, is banned by the Media Development Authority. The Straits Times reports that Singapore is the only country to have banned the game.
July 2011 : The organiser of a picnic in Speakers' Corner to display solidarity with anti-government demonstrations in Malaysia is called up by the police, who say they take a "serious view of foreigners who import their domestic political conflicts into Singapore, and of foreigners who use Singapore as a stage for such political agitation". The Straits Times reports that about 120 people, clad in yellow, had sat on the grass in small groups for two hours or so.
July 2011 : US lawyer Gopalan Nair receives a life-time ban from practising law in Singapore after the Court of Three Judges rule in favour of an application by the Law Society that Nair had scandalised the courts. Nair responds on his blog from the US that the ban is an "honour" and he's "none the worse for it".
Sept 2011 : Within 24 hours following an announcement by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to abolish his country's Internal Security Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a press release to defend the use of the ISA in Singapore, stating that it "continues to be relevant and crucial as a measure of last resort for the preservation" of national security. In response, opposition groups and bloggers called on the government to abolish the Act, including an unprecedented letter signed by 16 former ISA detainees alleging the use of torture to extract confessions. The Ministry rejects the calls, and avoids addressing the issue of ill-treatment.
Sept 2011 : In a separate statement following Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Raza's announcement that his country's press laws would be relaxed, the Singapore Government says that the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act is still valid, as it ensures that the media play "a responsible role and that publishers are accountable for the content they print."
Oct 2011 : In an address to Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean says that the ISA is still relevant and that the Government has used it on "good faith" and as a "last resort." Teo says replacing the Act with an anti-terror law would be inadequate, as it is the Government, and not the judiciary, who will be responsible for decisions affecting national security. Teo also reveals that in the decade of the 1970s, the Government had arrested over 800 people under the ISA, of whom 235 were issued with Orders of Detention.
Oct 2011 : Police commence investigation against the Singapore Democratic Party after it organised a public forum featuring former ISA detainees Francis Seow and Tang Fong Har speaking via teleconference from overseas. In response to media queries, the police say that the forum organisers had arranged for "a fugitive from justice" and "a foreign national" to participate in a discussion on domestic politics.
Oct 2011 : Another political forum is under investigation by the police, who allege that the talk could have violated the Public Order Act by featuring two foreign speakers. Singaporeans For Democracy says that its member Martyn See had spent 90 minutes in the police station fielding questions on whether the talk was a public or private event. The two foreigners who spoke were elected opposition Members of Parliament of Malaysia and Cambodia.
Oct 2011 : Police say they had released on bail a man linked to political website Temasek Review for an alleged violation of the Parliamentary Elections Act. Dr Joseph Ong Chor Teck was arrested in September after Temasek Review's facebook page had allegedly carried an exit poll during the General Elections in May. If convicted, he can be fined up to $1,500 or jailed for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.
Dec 2011 : An application by political association Singaporeans For Democracy to conduct a "Singaporeans United Against Racism" rally in Speakers' Corner is rejected by the police, who say that "issues of race and religion are sensitive and may cause friction across different racial and religious groups."
Jan 2011 : In response to an annual report by Human Rights Watch criticising the government's record on civil rights and freedom of expression, a statement from the Ministry of Law retorts that the report had made "false allegations", and adds that elections in Singapore "are free and fair" and the "Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly."
Feb 2012 : In the country's first industrial action in over 30 years, online news portal TOC reported that about 200 foreign workers had gone on strike at a public housing construction site over unpaid wages, prompting intervention by police and officers from the Ministry of Manpower. In the Straits Times report on the next day, the daily opted to use the term "protest" in place of "strike", and says that the wage dispute has been resolved. No arrests are reported.
Feb 2012 : In a first legal action undetaken by a politician against online media contributors, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam issues a lawyer's letter to blogger Alex Au, asking him to remove from his website an allegedly defamatory comment that referred to "widely-known rumours" about the Minister's private life. In his post, Au had criticised the mainstream media's treatment of opposition MP Yaw Shin Leong and his alleged extramarital affair. Au proceeds to remove the comment, saying that he took the Minister's word on the matter.
Feb 2012 : Days after political website Temasek Review Emeritus (TRE) revealed Mr Richard Wan as of one of its editors, lawyers acting for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issues him a five-page letter, demanding that the website remove an opinion piece that contained comments which had alleged "nepotistic motives" in the appointment of Lee's wife as head of sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings. After retracting the article, Wan publishes an apology on the website, and urges TRE readers to refrain from making similar comments.
Feb 2012 : In quick succession, lawyers acting for Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of the Prime Minister and head of Singapore's Civil Aviation Authority, issues a letter to Richard Wan, demanding that TRE removes and apologises for a comment posted by a reader which were allegedly defamatory. Despite an initial retort by TRE that apologising for every defamatory comment from readers would make it difficult to run the website, Wan relents and publishes an apology.
Mar 2012 : After a day-long trial, an unemployed man is fined a total of $8,500 after he was found guilty of posting two documents on the internet which the judge ruled to contain incitement to violence. In the first conviction of it kind, 36-year-old Gary Yue Mun Yew is fined $6,000 for posting a link to a video clip depicting an assassination with a comment that a live version of it should be re-enacted "on our own grand-stand during our national's parade!!!!!". A further $2,500 fine is imposed for posting on his own Facebook page a doctored Pulitzer prize winning photograph.
Apr 2012 : Police denies an application by a migrant workers rights group HOME for a permit to march on Labour Day. Organisers said the "walk" had been planned for migrant workers and locals to walk together with t-shirts bearing the words "Walk with workers: Upholding the dignity of labour".
Apr 2012 : Acclaimed British film Shame is banned after its director Steve McQueen refused to comply with the censors' demand to trim a group sex scene. In a statement, a government spokesperson says that "we are of the view that the prolonged and explicit threesome sex sequence has exceeded our classification guidelines."
Apr 2012 : Dr Chee Soon Juan's application to travel to Norway to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum is rejected by the government's bankruptcy office, who rules that Chee has made no contribution to libel damages awarded to Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. Chee says the government has rejected over 30 travel applications he has made in the past. In a letter of appeal, the New York-based Human Rights Foundation says that the "Singaporean government's major convictions of Dr. Chee violate international law, and enforcing a travel ban on him further enforces this violation."
-------------------------------- Last update : Apr 2012.
Contact : Martyn See