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The Myth of Democracy in Singapore

Today Diane Francis writes about Robert Amsterdam’s work in Singapore defending Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

Fortunately, a team of lawyers, led by Canadian law firm Amsterdam & Peroff in Toronto, has been set up in order to help Dr. Chee defend himself in court and to embarrass Singapore before the world for its failure to uphold the rule of law. The team is headed by Bob Amsterdam (who defended Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other high-profile Russians against the oppressive Putin regime), U. K. defamation expert Anthony Julius (who represented Lady Di) and American law professor William Burke-White. “The Singaporean authorities are using the law to repress political rivals and as punishment,” Amsterdam said in a phone interview from his headquarters in London. “It’s a myth that Singapore is a democracy, a complete myth.”

The team is going to help Dr. Chee represent himself in court and also intends to bring the injustice to the attention of the United Nations. They also plan to register the Singapore Democratic Party in their jurisdictions so that it may continue its work as an exiled entity.On Thursday, Dr. Chee will have to represent himself, however. The Singapore court will not give standing to a foreign lawyer, and local lawyers have been frightened away from his case. There is no Legal Aid representation provided either. He knows he probably faces jail again because he cannot pay any more fines.”I survive financially by selling books. I peddle them on the street. I was trained in academia but after I joined the opposition in 1992 I was sacked and since then nobody will want to work with me. They are frightened of guilt by association,” he said.He was fired by a member of parliament with the ruling party. “When I said my sacking was politically motivated, he sued me for defamation. I went to court, lost and the court awarded damages of US$350,000. My wife and I sold our house, car and everything to pay this fine,” he said.