Dr Ang Swee Chai, the widow of human rights lawyer, Francis Khoo, who died in exile in 2011, is struggling to obtain the clearance she requires to enter the country.
Dr Ang, an orthopedic surgeon, holds both British and Singapore citizenship and is not able to secure a special travel document to come to Singapore from London. Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) granted Dr Ang a “one-off” Singapore Travel Document in 2012, to bring home her husband’s ashes.
Mr Khoo was one of five persons who attempted to save the Singapore Herald, a liberal newspaper. Together with lawyer Mr G Raman, Mr Khoo also defended two marine workers who were charged with Mr Tan Wah Piow for rioting in the early 1970s. He fled to England when his friends, including Mr Raman were arrested and imprisoned without trial under the Internal Security Act in February 1977.
Unable to track Mr Khoo, the secret police arrested his wife, Dr Ang, instead. As prisoner #116, she was allegedly subjected to continuous cold room interrogation about the whereabouts of Mr Khoo. She was eventually released on the promise that she would help to persuade her husband to return to Singapore.
Dr Ang left for England to be with her husband and never set foot on Singapore again until 2011.
An MHA spokesman said that the dual citizenships were not allowed in Singapore, and that Dr Ang will not be issued a travel document unless she “shows proof she has started the process of renouncing her British citizenship.”
Dr Ang is reluctant to do so because her right of abode and right to work as a surgeon in the UK is conditional on British citizenship.
“I can come into Singapore with a British passport, but unless there is assurance that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will not strip me of my Singapore citizenship, I must not risk it,” she said.
In 1982, Dr Ang answered the Christian call to give medical aid to Palestinians. She resigned from St Thomas Hospital and left for Beirut. There she rendered medical aid to injured Palestinians and witnessed the massacres at the nearby refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. She testified at the Israeli inquiry into the massacres in Jerusalem. She spoke up for the Palestinians as soon as she returned to London. And she has continued speak up for the Palestinians and to render medical aid to the them since that time. She set up Medical Aid for Palestinians and ran the charity until recently. She is now its patron. In 1989, she published “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” her eyewitness account of the massacres in Sabra and Shatila.
Dr Ang is due to be feted at a gala dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) which administers the The Women’s Hall of Fame. Among those honoured in such a manner are war heroine Elizabeth Choy, who helped British internees during World War II.
Commenting on Dr Ang’s predicament in his Facebook, Singapore’s Ambassador at-large, Bilahari Kausikan said, “What makes her so special that an exception to the policy must be made just for her?”
“Not allowing dual citizenship is a policy that can be debated but that is a separate matter. The rule as it stands must be respected and by asking for an impossible assurance she is being deliberately provocative, if not motivated by an enormous sense of entitlement,” he added.
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