The Leaderboard: Chee Soon Juan

Who is he?

Mr. Chee Soon Juan is the leader of Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). Before entering politics, he was a psychology lecturer at the National University of Singapore until he was dismissed and sued in 1993 for his criticisms of the ruling political party.

As the leader of an opposition party, he is an outspoken critic of the long-serving People’s Action Party (PAP), which has resulted in his numerous prosecutions by the government. Chee was arrested and jailed more than a dozen times for his political activities, especially for repeatedly challenging the Public Order Act, which requires organizers of political demonstrations or speeches to obtain a police permit in advance. He was declared bankrupt in 2006 when he failed to pay $400,000 in damages to former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong after losing multiple defamation suits against them.

Mr. Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party. His bankruptcy was annulled after an $24,500 payment offer, raised through donations and book sales, was accepted. Source: Wikimedia commons image in public domain from Seelan Palay.

Why is he in the news?

The Singapore government November 21 announced that ex-prime ministers Lee and Goh agreed to accept a reduced amount of $24,500 for the damages. The unprecedented concession effectively annulled his bankruptcy, which took effect November 23. He raised funds owed through public donations and proceeds from his book sales.

Under Singapore law, all bankrupt persons are required to obtain permission for traveling outside the country and are banned from running for Parliament. He was denied government permission earlier this year to attend the Oslo Freedom Forum. Chee is now free to travel and will be able to run in the 2016 elections.

What can we expect from him?

Free from bankruptcy, Chee said he plans to run in the country’s next parliamentary elections and we can expect that he will remain critical of the PAP in his speeches. He will also work on consolidating the SDP, as his party failed to gain any seats in the 2011 elections.

Additionally, Chee hopes to work on a more united Singapore opposition movement, which is currently fragmented. Skeptical observers warned that the debt concession is a political maneuver by the PAP to split opposition vote, which gained popularity in the 2011 elections.


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