Home Web Specials 2010 Web Specials Chee Soon Juan writes to Lee Kuan Yew

Chee Soon Juan writes to Lee Kuan Yew

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“Free yourself from the prison of wealth and power that keeps you from cherishing that most precious of life’s qualities – humanity,” writes Chee Soon Juan in an open letter to Lee Kuan Yew, who is mourning the passing of his wife, Kwa Geok Choo.

Lee Kuan Yew and Kwa Geok Choo in happier times - Photo courtesy of Fit To Post sg.yfittopostblog.com

Mr Lee Kuan Yew
Minister Mentor

Dear Mr Lee,

As you grieve over the loss of Mdm Kwa Geok Choo, many Singaporeans grieve with you. Everytime someone dear to us passes away, the pain is deep. Losing a loved one is the cruelest act that life can inflict on humans.

Even as you mourn the loss of Mdm Kwa, I am certain that you think of the happier moments that the both of you shared and that you, of all the people in this world, were the one to have had the pleasure of spending a lifetime with her. That, at least, is to be celebrated.

But while you had Mdm Kwa on whom you cultivated your affection, there were others who were deprived of that very same joy. They were not separated from their loved ones by that surly grasp of death, but by political power with which you wielded, and wielded so ruthlessly and unjustly.

You had Mr Chia Thye Poh locked up for most of his adult life. He was incarcerated when he was only 25 and regained his freedom only when he turned 57. Even Nelson Mandela spent less years under detention. The best years of Mr Chia’s life were so inhumanely taken away. He had a girlfriend who could not wait for him and who left him when he was still in prison.

Dr Lim Hock Siew married Dr Beatrice Chia. When I met them recently, I saw the love – unspoken but abiding – that they had for each other despite the fact that you had kept them apart for 20 years.

Then there is Mr Said Zahari whom you also imprisoned for years, 17 years to be exact. He spoke lovingly of his late wife, Salamah, whom he adored. She faithfully and lovingly tended home while waiting for her soulmate to return and to hold her and to talk with her. She struggled with their four children, running a foodstall to eke out a living while Said languished in prison. Their children often had no money to go to school.

To this day, he asks for God’s forgiveness for breaking the oath he made with Salamah to be together when they married each other. When she died in 2004, his heart must have broken into a thousand pieces, just like yours is breaking into a thousand pieces.

While you loved your wife, they loved theirs too.

There are scores of others who cannot be reunited with their families because you have made it so. Ms Tang Fong Har, who was detained in 1987 and who subsequently fled to Hong Kong, has been wanting to return to Singapore to see her ailing mother. But she cannot because there is still the threat of her being re-arrested if she returns.

Others like Mr Tang Liang Hong are also separated from their families because they cannot return to Singapore without facing incarceration.

I, too, have family. My wife wishes for me to return to Taiwan with her to be with her family. I cannot fulfill that obligation because you have made it so. I did go to Taiwan last year, but only to attend my father-in-law’s funeral. He had asked about me before he died but by the time I got to his bedside after I managed to get the Official Assignee’s approval to leave the country, he had lost consciousness. I never got to say goodbye.

It pains me to think that the only time I can be with my wife and children in Taiwan is when someone in the family dies.

You have taken away much of what I have but despite all that you have done to me and mine, I bear you no ill-will. As I said to you during our trial in 2008, you are an intelligent man, I only hope that you will become a wise one. I meant it then and I mean it now. Love and the relationships we have with family and friends are what matter most. Riches and power mean little when those dearest to us leave us.

I extend to you my deepest sympathies on the demise of Mdm Kwa. I want to express my condolence in the sincerest manner I know how. But while I commiserate with you on your loss, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportuinity to tell you, if you don’t already know, how much pain you have inflicted on your political opponents and whose families you have torn apart, the same kind of pain that you presently feel.

In the remaining time while you still walk this earth with us, turn from your ways. Free yourself from the prison of wealth and power that keeps you from cherishing that most precious of life’s qualities – humanity. It is still not too late.


Chee Soon Juan

Chee Soon Juan is secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party

This open letter first appeared on Singapore Democrats

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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12 Oct 2010 4.41am

I cannot say how Chee is like but I have communicated with his underlings at reasonable length to have experienced the culture of authoritarianism and red-tape, even malicious compliance that has infected SDP very strongly already.

Whether they correct it or not is another thing, but these guys are to be fetted or dealt with, at caution, either SDP is a sounding board for (the rulers) posing as an opposition to sound out opponents, or a fifth columnist group possibly funded by ASEAN unfriendly foreign powers…(?)

Those who can look into this heart and it’s warning, may do so on just this alone, and draw their own conclusions or measure the sincerity of these few lines. There is no real opposition in Singapore the way I see it.

11 Oct 2010 2.23pm

There is no doubt in my mind that Dr Chee’s description of LKY as intelligent but not wise hits the nail squarely on the head. It seems to be the way of the world that leaders or assumed leaders, by using force and guile can get pretty much their own way around the world. LKY is just a prime example of this. His intelligence led him to focus on his countrymen as the source of his power and he developed them to the high level of competence where they are now. His wisdom, or lack of it, led him to treat them as pawns in his grand game of chess. Pawns who do not have any rights or voice of their own except what he thinks they should have. The great religions seem to converge on fairness as perhaps the greatest virtue man should aspire to. LKY as one who is not particularly religious, simply does not understand that fairness is not one way.

No to repression
No to repression
10 Oct 2010 11.43pm

Locking up – or threatening to lock up – political critics and dissidents without trial is the characteristic of a repressive nation.

10 Oct 2010 11.24pm

Don’t be naive. Every country in the world has ISA, even the USA. Democracy is not as important as good and upright leaders.

The people that Dr Chee mentioned could have been freed long ago. So these men including Dr Chee are the ones who are willing to sacrifice their wives and families for ideology.

10 Oct 2010 4.39pm

Yes but LKY was head of a newly independent nation. Why keep an archaic and repressive colonial era-type law in the statute books, when even the Brits have done away with indefinite detention without trial?

And read again, Chee did express his sympathy and condolences. What-lah you.

10 Oct 2010 5.51am

The Internal Security Act was created by the British – not LKY.
A few people who threaten peace and security such as the communists insurgents had to be locked up for the good of the other millions.

Why is Chee Soon Juan is “playing politics” instead of sending condolences?

There is a tiime for politics and there is a time for condolence.

If he really wants to write a letter, put it in an addressed envelope with a stamp and post it.

The intuition of Kwa Geok Choo would have judged you an evil politician.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x