Open Letter to United States Congress

Posted: July 29, 2008 in Uncategorized

I am writing on behalf of Gopalan Nair, an American citizen who is currently forcibly detained by the Singapore government for exercising his right to freedom of speech.

On May 29th, 2008, Mr. Nair published a blog entry criticizing Singapore judge Belinda Ang’s biased handling of the high-profile case of democratic activist Dr. Chee Soon Juan v. authoritarian former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, during which she favored Lee and denied the defendant, Dr. Chee, a fair trial. In response to Nair’s criticism of the judge on his blog, Singapore government officials arrested him on May 31 at the hotel where he was staying. He had been in Singapore since May 26th, and, prior to his arrest, had expected to return to his home in the United States on the third of June.

It is clear that Mr. Nair did not send Judge Belinda Ang any e-mails. He has stated that there was no need for him to do so, as he had expressed his opinion about Ang’s actions on his blog, and did not have any desire to contact her personally. Rather, the Singapore government arrested him on an insubstantial charge of sending fantastical ‘threatening emails’ to a judge so that they could have an excuse to detain him. The Singapore government is keeping him in their custody and purposefully denying him the right to a speedy trial as they know that he has only American citizenship and cannot support himself financially on Singaporean soil; meanwhile, his work is being neglected in the U.S. On the Fourth of July they publicly escalated their aggression towards him; they sent plainclothes officers after him, who physically assualted him after he did not give them his name because he did not recognize them to be police. He is innocent of the official charges against him; as for the “crime” of criticising the government, yes, Mr. Nair is is guilty of that, but it also happens that his actions were protected under not only the United States Constitution, but also that of Singapore.

If the critic is not a Singapore national, the government of Singapore often dismisses their words as “foreign interference.” Nair was born in Singapore but has relinquished his Singaporean citizenship and is an American citizen only. About this characterization of Nair’s criticism, a cyber-activist based in Singapore who for his own safety goes by the name Singa Crew has this to say: “I for one do not consider his criticism to be ‘foreign interference’. How could it be ‘foreign interference’ when the Singapore government routinely cite this and that award given by international bodies? Was it ‘foreign inteference’ only when criticism instead of praise was offered?” The government is here exposed as being duplicitous and dishonest in its treatment of dissidents, and never more so than when the protest comes from a citizen of a country that has leverage in Singapore, a nation that Singapore does business with, a nation whose presentation Singapore tries to imitate and make into a façade to show the world.

Singapore––a nation that is considered to be first-world––has carefully cultivated an image of freedom and progressiveness, but the practical reality is that Singapore’s government is authoritarian and resistant to popular sovereignty, and as such it censures anyone who advocates democracy and greater freedom; in the process of censuring these individuals, it uses corrupt and unconstitutional procedures; when someone, such as Nair, points out the unfairness of the proceedings, he or she is penalized as well.

The United States is part of a collection of Western nations that value democratic ideals and civil liberties. Although the issue of how and when our government should intervene in cases of human rights abuses is a hotly contested one, it is fair to say in this particular instance that, as the Singapore administration is not following its own constitution, Singapore is a developed, capitalist, modern nation with which the United States has influence and ties, and Mr. Nair is an American citizen, the United States can and should intervene on his behalf, and on the behalf of advocates of freedom and democracy everywhere. The activist known as Singa Crew has said, “Mr Nair is a true son of Singapore and America because he lives up to the ideals of justice and freedom enshrined in both the Singapore and American constitutions.”

Whatever your stance as regards the amount of sovereignty Singapore should have over its people, Mr. Nair is an American citizen, and as such is entitled to all of the rights that the United States’ jurisdiction in Singapore may provide. It is the request of myself, and believers in freedom everywhere, that Gopalan Nair come home to the States as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Amelia Fedo
(847) 869-7743
ameliafedo@gmail.com

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