Friday • December 9, 2005
A DISCOVERY Channel documentary presented a "highly misleading and inaccurate rendition" of a Privy Council case involving former opposition politician J B Jeyaretnam, the Ministry of Law said yesterday.
In a letter to the network released to the media, the Ministry highlighted a factual error during the final edition of a three-part documentary The History of Singapore, which was aired on Sunday.
Commissioned to mark Singapore's 40th anniversary, the documentary premiered in Singapore and 22 other countries in the region over the weekend.
In part three of the feature, titled Lion City, Asia Tiger, the commentator said: "In 1986, he (Mr Jeyaretnam) was prosecuted over a false declaration of accounts by his Workers' Party. He was fined and sentenced to a month in Queenstown Prison ...
"As a convicted criminal, Mr Jeyaretnam had to give up his seat in Parliament. But Singapore was a Commonwealth country and the last Court of Appeal was still in London with the law lords of the Privy Council. In 1988, they heard Mr Jeyaretnam's case and overturned the conviction, describing it as a grievous injustice."
The letter, sent to broadcaster Discovery Networks Asia and British independent firm Lion Television, which produced the series, argued that the statement was "completely wrong".
"Mr Jeyaretnam was found guilty and convicted over a false declaration of accounts of his Workers' Party. (He) did not appeal to the Privy Council against his convictions in that case and the Privy Council did not "overturn" his convictions," wrote the Ministry.
It said the Council was "only concerned" with the disciplinary proceedings between the Law Society of Singapore and Mr Jeyaretnam, "and not the validity of his criminal convictions" which he received separately.
It added that the Public Prosecutor who secured those convictions "was therefore not represented" at the Privy Council.
The letter further wrote that when Mr Jeyaretnam brought libel proceedings in 1991 against Singapore's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, English High Court judge Justice Brooke, found that the Privy Council "was not itself seized with an appeal against the criminal convictions (against Mr Jeyaretnam) and had no jurisdiction at all in respect of them".
Justice Brooke had, in fact, described the Privy Council's views in the earlier 1988 case as "most unusual", saying that "these opinions were expressed in proceedings to which the prosecuting authority in Singapore, although aware of their existence, was not a party".
Justice Brooke said that "the decisions of the Singapore High Court judges who heard (Mr Jeyaretnam's) appeals are final and conclusive, so far as his guilt or innocence before the Courts of Singapore is concerned". She added, "He (Mr Jeyaretnam) therefore remains duly convicted by the Courts of competent jurisdiction in his home country."
When contacted by Today, the network's senior vice-president (Programming and Creative Services) James Gibbons said: "We just received the letter this evening, and we will be looking into the matter. Unfortunately, we cannot comment any further at this time."
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