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Chee Soon Juan’s ‘exploitation’ of the Burma situation?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on October 6, 2007

This is a letter sent to TOC. The writer wishes to remain anonymous.

Recently, a few people have complained that Chee Soon Juan was exploiting the Burmese situation to make a political point. Here’s one typical interpretation of the petition he held recently outside the Burmese embassy. Here’s another, a letter from a Burmese national to the ST.

The first thing to note is that the accusers have absolutely zero evidence that Chee has no genuine concern for the Burmese people. That he is doing this for the sole purpose of bringing attention to his party and his cause. So this cannot be a valid criticism of Chee’s actions.

Let us then consider a slightly more substantive criticism, that articulated by M. M. Aung in his letter to the ST. He writes:

“I am upset that Dr Chee Soon Juan, an opposition politician of the Singapore Democratic Party, exploited the situation in Myanmar by collecting signatures for a petition from innocent people who did not know that the petition was also directed at the Singapore Government.”

It seems to me that if people signed the petition without asking to whom it was directed, that they have only themselves to blame and not Chee. If you buy a product from me without asking what it is, am I to blame? I might, if I had attempted to deceive you into thinking it was something that it was not. But Chee did not. There were no explicit notices or announcements that this was a petition against the Burmese government and nothing else. Anyone could have asked Chee about the targets of the petition, and there is no evidence that he gave anyone a deceptive answer if they asked.

So what other objections do these critics have to Chee’s actions?

They always mention that the SDP makes political gains from organising such events. But clearly, making political gains in itself cannot immoral, otherwise all politics would be immoral. So there must be some other reason for their thinking that Chee is doing something immoral.

Is it because he is making political gains through showing his support for a foreign cause? That can only be so if you also think that all politicians should not take public stances on foreign causes. Only isolationists would make that extreme assertion, and I doubt that all of Chee’s critics are such hard-core isolationists.

It’s also often been mentioned that it’s ‘sickening’ that Chee is using the fact that the Burmese are ‘suffering’ to make a political point. But making a political point based on other people’s suffering can’t be intrinsically immoral either, unless you believe politicians should be oblivious to other people’s suffering. Since much of politics legitimately concerns reducing human suffering, I think we can safely say that that would also be a rather far-fetched assertion.

We can only conclude that it is still unclear what basis we have to condemn Chee’s actions as immoral.

Read also: Straits Times won’t publish Dr Chee’s reply to M M Aung (SDP website


13 Responses to “Chee Soon Juan’s ‘exploitation’ of the Burma situation?”

  1. Ned Stark said

    Conversely you could say that all of us, be it wearing red ribbons, organising events and all are capitalising on this issue to gain…fame? respect from professors? admiration of fellow men?

    Clearly that is not the case.

  2. Burmese said

    His intentions does not matter.

    At least CSJ took some form of action and brought more awareness and publicity to this issue.

  3. Burmese said

    Overall, he has contributed more than the Singapore government and Singapore Media in terms of pressure, awareness, exposing the bad things of Myanmar junta etc

  4. Rachel said

    People criticise him because they have been programmed to do so. As long as they see the name Dr. Chee or SDP, they sharpen their knives with speed.

  5. Petitioner said

    “innocent people who did not know that the petition was also directed at the Singapore Government”

    I went down to sign the petition. There were two letters placed next to the petition that Chee Siok Chin told me were the letters to be sent out. The first was addressed to the Myanmar ambassador to Singapore telling him to tell his government to stop killing their people. The second was addressed to PM Lee telling him to stop arms sales to Myanmar. I read both of them carefully. Only after being satisfied that it wasn’t exploitative of the situation did I sign it.

    So it’s not “innocent people” who did not know that the petition was also directed at the Singapore Government. It was careless people (if any) who did not bother to read what they were signing off on.

  6. LaLa City said

    Everybody would have known by now that our SG police went into “Burma Plaza” telling people to stop reading Burmese news and telling people not to forward email news to their friends. So, with this kind climate of fear, someone has to stand up and make the right impact for the Burmese people in Singapore. The Singapore police is asking Burmese people to stop expressing their love (as human beings) for their estranged country in public. These Burmese people are worried about their families which are in another part of the world.

    Would you expect PAP (=gov?) or any other APs (besides SDP) to do anything FOR THE BURMESE people on the ground? At least, someone did. Dr Chee did whatever is possible. Let’s be honest here, most of us would not like to be the ones standing at the embassy.

    If you are waiting for the SG government to do something for the Burmese people here, your wait is over. They talked, talked and still talking.

  7. Bacts said

    The action of SG gov seems to be quite passive, but junta is reacting to world pressure. As oppose to PM Lee comments on Myanmar situation, i feel that Chee is more constructive.

  8. James Chia said

    Bacts, too passive that it seemed non-existent.

  9. Andrew Loh said

    The letter-writer to the ST, MM Aung, seems to have written his letter without actually having visited the petition signing outside the Burmese embassy.

    That is the only reason I can think of to explain his ignorance in his content – and his accusation.

    Having been at the embassy several times (5, if I recall correctly), I can tell you that those who went up to the table to sign the petition were told and explained what the two petitions were for.

    Yes, it is explained to them that one is for the Burmese ambassador and the other is to be sent to the PM of S’pore.

    MM Aung’s letter is clearly written without any verification of the truth.

    What is more appalling to me is that the Straits Times would allow such a letter to be published – and then refuse to publish Dr Chee’s reply letter.

    And MM Lee had the gall to, just a few days, say that our media is “credible”?

    Makes me laugh, really.

  10. wake up lah said

    why bother to read ST ? to get a broader view of news – go to CNN / BBC.

  11. […] Much Ado About Exploitation October 7, 2007 Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized. trackback Several rather interesting letters have appeared in the ST forum recently. To sum it all up, these letters share a common content; all of them talk about the situation in Myanmar; in addition all of them are, explicitly or implicitly, critical of Dr Chee Soon Juan’s organisation of a petition against the military junta and the Singapore government. Simply put, these letters amount to an accusation that Dr Chee is “exploiting the situation“. […]

  12. One Heart said

    One World, One Understanding, One Heart, But Please Keep Your Problems To Yourself? That is the Hippocratic Oath?

  13. […] 8th, 2007 at 11:00 am (Let’s Not be Naive) My views were caught in the crossfire between what could be the SDP and the MIW camps. The TOC letter summed it up that there is no basis […]

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