The city-state's politics go on trial today with defiant opposition activist Chee Soon Juan claiming he would rather go to jail than pay a fine if convicted for giving an unlicensed public street talk. 'If I am convicted and the penalty is a fine, I will not be paying the fine,' Chee, 36, told the South China Morning Post ahead of today's court proceedings. 'As a matter of principle, I do not think I have done anything wrong,' said the Singapore Democratic Party secretary-general. Chee this week faces the first of two charges brought against him by the police for allegedly staging lunchtime street speeches in the republic's busy business district without a permit. Both charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty, carry a maximum fine of S$5,000 (HK$22,800) under the Public Entertainment Act. If fined more than S$2,000 by the Subordinate Court, Chee would automatically be barred from contesting parliamentary elections for the next five years. Chee and his barrister Joshua Jeyaretnam see this as a test case affecting the rights of all citizens. Ahead of the trial, Mr Jeyaretnam, himself a veteran opposition politician, has argued that the Government's public speaking permit system violates citizens' right to free speech guaranteed by the constitution. Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee said Chee had been making speeches as an excuse to defy the law and that the rule at issue was merely 'a procedural requirement'. 'It does not affect the substantive right of free speech,' Mr Ho said. Mr Jeyaretnam has written to President Ong Teng Cheong for Chee's case to be referred to Singapore's highest court, the Constitutional Court, for comment. But his request was rejected. Having taken advice from cabinet, Mr Ong said the Constitutional Court could only be convened if no other forum was available - and in Chee's case he had the Sub-ordinate Court and then possibly the Appeals Court at his disposal. Referring the matter to the Constitutional Court 'would constitute an improper interference with the judicial power of the courts', a presidential statement said. Mr Jeyaretnam also said he had written to the United Nations to draw attention to Singapore's election laws and to pressure the Government 'to conform to international norms of free and fair elections'. Chee has said the permit system, censorship laws and state control of key media stifle debate and prevent the opposition from being heard, forcing him to take to the streets and break laws. Chee, a neuropsychologist by profession, said: 'If I am not convicted, it will change the way politics will be conducted [in future] in Singapore. 'It will mean any political party can go out on to the streets of Singapore [to speak whenever they want].' But if found guilty, it would probably mean the status quo would remain 'for a little while more'.