"There is no policy too sensitive to question, and no subject so taboo that you cannot even mention it."
- DPM Lee Hsien Loong, Straits Times, 17 Jan 2000
Picture and quote from Singapore Election Watch
'Corrupt' is a very strong term, maybe the opposition should simply use a different term, nepotism, authoritarianism, dictatorship, benevolent dictatorship, despotic, oppressive, totalitarian, one party state... just a few of the choices. Which one will get your vote?
Apr 22, 2006, 5:30 GMT
Singapore - Leaders of an opposition party faced the threat of legal action on Saturday for newsletter articles alleging that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was perpetuating a corrupt political system set up by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father.
The alleged defamation was contained in three English and Chinese articles in the latest issue of the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP's) newsletter, The New Democrat, according to letters of demand served on members of the party's 12-member central committee, including party leader Chee Soon Juan.
Chee, bankrupted by a defamation suit stemming from the last general election, and the others were given until Tuesday to apologize and pay unspecified damages to the Lees. The prime minister is secretary general of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).
The apologies would have to be published in The Straits Times and the Chinese-language Liahe Zaobao on April 27, Nomination Day, ahead of the May 6 general election, the first since Lee Hsien Loong came into power in August 2004.
The opposition leaders will face legal action unless they apologize, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, representing the prime minister and Singapore's founding father, told The Straits Times Friday night after the letters of demand were delivered.
'The party expected this,' said opposition supporter Yap Keng Ho, a 44-year-old executive. 'We are not intimidated.'
The SDP has not disclosed the number of candidates it plans to run, but political observers noted the impact could deal a blow to the goal of the opposition parties to field 47 candidates and prevent the PAP from being automatically returned to power on Nomination Day. The walkovers stretch back to 1988.
The PAP, which has ruled the city-state since independence from Malaysia in 1965, is hoping to defeat the only two opposition members in the 84-seat parliament.
Critics such as Amnesty International maintain the spate of defamation suits brought by Singapore's leaders against opposition members in the past were aimed at crippling the cash-strapped parties.
Leaders contend the suits are necessary to protect their reputations.
Heads of two other opposition parties said they were not surprised by the development and would continue with their campaigns.
Workers' Party Chief Low Thia Khiang said Singaporeans must decide if they want to give the PAP a 'blank cheque' or if they want an opposition to check and balance a PAP government.
Low, 49, who is defending his seat for the fourth time, referred to the WP slogan, 'You Have A Choice.'
The three articles suggested that the prime minister condoned corruption at the Housing Board, Central Providend Fund Board responsible for pensions and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.
They also alleged that the PAP leaders covered up problems at the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), Singapore's largest charity.
The scandal came to light in court testimony last July over pay and perks for its former chief and raised questions about NKF's transparency and accountability.
Saying the NKF was run in an autocratic manner with power concentrated in the hands of Durai, the article asked, 'Is not power in Singapore concentrated around one party, if not one individual?'
The lawyer's letters said the articles implied and alleged that the prime minister and his government knew about the NKF's wrongdoings but corruptly concealed and covered up the facts to avoid criticism.
The PAP was also accused of monopolizing power 'and making sure that no one has the power to challenge that hold.'
The articles and pictures were 'published maliciously and constitute a grave libel,' The Straits Times quoted Singh as saying. They were calculated to gain political mileage and undermine the character and integrity of the two leaders, he added.
The scenario was viewed as a replay of the legal drama that took place in the run-up to the 2001 polls.
Chee was slapped with a suit after falsely accusing then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of lending money to former Indonesian President Suharto.
Chee later apologized publicly. He was declared bankrupt after failing to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (314,000 US) in libel damages. Bankrupt individuals are barred from running for election.
Under Singapore's carefully orchestrated system of political succession, Lee Hsien Loong, then deputy prime miniter, was named premier after Goh, now senior minister, stepped down from the top post.
Goh had inherited the premiership in 1990 from Lee Kuan Yew, father of Lee Hsien Loong.
© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur