Bankrupt Singapore opposition leader leaves running in elections

Singapore opposition politician Chee Soon Juan said Friday he has been declared bankrupt by the Supreme Court after failing to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (US$303,000; Ђ 232,000) in damages to former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

The bankruptcy means Chee, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party, will continue to be barred from taking part in elections. Chee was already unable to contest elections after being fined a total of S$7,500 (US$4,600; Ђ 3,850) in 2002 for offenses including speaking without a license and trespassing.

In Singapore , politicians who are bankrupt or have been fined more than S$2,000 (US$1,230; Ђ 1,025) are barred from running in elections. Chee vowed to continue his long-running campaign for greater political freedom in the tightly controlled city-state, governed by the People's Action Party.

"Through the decades, opposition politicians have been, and continue to be, hounded, persecuted, and prosecuted by the PAP through the courts," Chee told reporters. He said Singapore 's judicial system lacks fairness and independence and promised to campaign for reform.

Chee said he was unlikely to appeal the ruling. Singapore 's leaders say they have a right to use lawsuits to defend their reputations, while critics say the fines are intended to silence the opposition. The ruling party holds 82 out of 84 elected seats in Parliament.

Last year, a court ordered Chee to pay S$200,000 to Lee, modern Singapore 's founding father, and S$300,000 to Goh for defaming them during the 2001 election campaign.

Lawyers for Goh and Lee served Chee with a demand in December giving him 21 days to pay, and filed an application to declare him bankrupt last month, the Straits Times newspaper reported Friday. The Supreme Court decision comes as the PAP gears up for elections, which political commentators say could be called as soon as March, reports the AP.


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