22 Apr 2006

Singapore opposition party faces threat of legal action

"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


Anonymous said...

I thought that was really slanderous and asking for it. I wonder if the SDP is more interested in PAP-bashing or winning the votes of constituents like me. Only a single NKF issue and the whole circus is trooping down to my GRC to contest, and only because the Health Minister will be here. The truth is that, other than some convoluted wet market talk, the SDP don't really have anything else to offer me.

Anonymous said...

i agree! you don't see PAP bad mouthing the credentials of the opposition. calling someone corrupt needs some heavy duty proof. they should produce some hard-core evidence to convince the non-believers like me!

it just seems like a tactic that's been tried over and over again.

Calvin aka Yamada Shun 山田駿 said...

Know the rules well and play the game well, I hope its not game over yet for the SDP. This is clearly a cat-and-mouse game and SDP has just walked straight into the mousetrap. So please, stop being sucidal..stop digging your own grave...

Anonymous said...

Dr Chee more like a ACTIVIST , rather than a politician.

but we must not forget, it is the media who wrote how SDP said this and that on their newsletter.

But did we ever read the newsletter ourselves??? Maybe the media is exaggerating. I doubt SDP is that stupid to write into that extent.

Anonymous said...

read about Chinese communism here:

some similarities with sg.

and most importantly 1 trait of communism is 'regarding a thief as its father'.

'someone' finds it hard to part its PARTY with the country. "someone" does a lot for s'pore, but was it for singapore's prestige, for his own ambition or truly for the people of singapore?

pleinelune said...

I can't believe how stupid SDP has been in writing that, RIGHT before elections. They must be suicidal. Either that, or this is a cleverly orchestrated publicity stunt.

"i agree! you don't see PAP bad mouthing the credentials of the opposition. calling someone corrupt needs some heavy duty proof. they should produce some hard-core evidence to convince the non-believers like me!"

Actually, you do. Think back on how many times the PAP has sued opposition party members and said very libelous stuff. But opposition members cant' sue based on that - apparently only the government has a reputation worth protecting.

Anonymous said...

Its crazy! you guys are crazy!

The only question should be whether SDP said the truth - reported the truth - or at least was a fair comment -

As it stands, people should know the law regarding defamation better as it is in SIngapore, as it in Singapore 30 years ago, and in UK today.

some differences:
UK"s damages quantum will not be measured like those measured in Singapore for the tort of defamation (if no damages could be shown - see the Goh case). There is also the public figure defence in UK (was changed by the courts in Singapore again because of the PAP)

Only think i can say is that the law has changed to a point where the severe curtailment of our freedoms of speech are not warranted, repressive, and strikes fear regarding free expression.

Remember when 4 people stood outside certain buildings (in technical approval of the Law) certain justices ruled that it was still illegal. A judiciary that will make arguments (note then AG Chan comments on the polling station affair) and sigh - how many examples do you need?

Anonymous said...

dear anonymous correspondents. You seem to possess a problem,low
interllect, unable to see the wheat from the shaf. The Kidney foundation were just too clever in their early years, hoodwinking various ministers into believing the foundation was the best thing since slicfed bed.
apart from that problem, Singapore does not require any form of opposition. We have spend just too much cash over the years running pointless elections to placate rather stupid heartlanders into believing they have an actual say.
The rulling party does a capable job for Singapore. Please no more elections, just roll over and continue.

ycbi said...

As always the truth is always the first casuelty in singapore where the reporting of just who said what about who and to whom it was said .
It is always easy to be criticle of enyone who tries to just ever so now and then to make a difference . The world is an amazing place but it is far from a just place ,and history shows in the end that the pen is always far mightyer than the sword .

Anonymous said...

I read the newsletter (courtesy of a relative), and it read more along the lines of a tabloid than a political newletter. They've got all the fine talking points down pat, but, nada, zilch, no evidence at all.

Even in the United States, when prominent lobbyists and members of the Republican Party - including a congressman - were indicted and incarcerated for corruption, embezzlement and bribery, you don't see opposition House Representatives or Senators accusing the President himself, of being corrupt or involved in the same criminal activities. US lawmakers know their credibilty and reputaion as opposition politicans are dependent on very word they said, otherwise they would have a hard time getting elected or even considered for higher offices.

But the SDP seems to think they don't need evidence for any accusations, and can get away with anything, so long as they believe it's within their rights to "freedom of expression." If people adopt the SDP's brand of democracy and responsibilty, we'd all be having fights outside the corridors with our neighbors: I can accuse my neighbors of being paedophiles or whatever criminals I want them to be, and no, I wouldn't need any evidence at all. I'll just print newsletters informing the whole block first. If you were my neighbor, wouldn't you like to sue me for defamation? Of course you would, I bet you'd like to kill me first.

yk said...

Chee Soon Juan is like the Steven Lim of local politics - all talk and no substance - except he's even less popular. So I hope he will turn out in the rallies in a yellow underwear. And if the occasion hits them, the whole party can even do a Full Monty! From what I've see and heard, I really believe that's the way they will garner more votes!

soci said...

"There is no policy too sensitive to question, and no subject so taboo that you cannot even mention it."

Never mind Dr Chee being all talk and no substance. LHL seems to be talking out of his own arse.

Anonymous said...

There are many ppl here who has not even seen the so call guilty articles. They should go and read it to see for themselves whether CSJ has called LKY and LHL corrupt and whether the defamation suit itself has any legal basis.

Anonymous said...

All those who has not read the alleged article of defamation should do their homework by getting a copy of the said publication and read for themselves to find out what is going on instead of making prejudiced comments and shooting down Dr Chee (because he is such an easy target). Courtesy of psuedo intellectuals, people who read only local press or those who cannot stand it when some people just have greater courage than them in telling the truth.

Coming back to the article, MM or PM's Lee name was never mentioned at all. How both Lees come to the conclusion that the article defames them is certainly surprising. Unless of course, they themselves are guilty of the charge.

Notice again the press reports that MM and SM base their case on allegations or implications over what was mentioned in the article. Can you sue someone for implying? How do you prove it was "you" that was being defamed? Anyone remember Christopher Lingle who did not mention names? Guess what? PAP came to the conclusion that it was them who was being referred to.

- The Reader who asks bloggers to "read" carefully...

Anonymous said...

Today's news reported that the oppo members giving pamphlets at the Community Centre, and that CC member stopped them from doing so. the mp said that cc agreed.

It sounds as if the cc belongs to the govt. isn't the cc is built out of the public fund, which is part of the oppo members' contribution of their income tax fund too?

Anonymous said...

"the mp said that cc agreed" - i meant the mp clarified that the oppo should not be distributing the pamphlets there.

soci said...

I have always been lead to believe that the management committees of all community centres being dismantled and brought under the control of the People’s Association, who report directly to the Prime Minister’s Office. So the CC is closely linked to the PM.

Anonymous said...

even the WP chairman has urged WP candidates to be careful of what they say. and look at them this time round - so much better prepared. That is what credible opposition looks like.

Low Thia Kiang and Chiam See Tong have never had to resort to what Chee does and still they manage to get elected. 5 terms now for Chiam and he's getting more popular.

Anonymous said...

if they want to sue, you they can take anything u say and make it defamatory. How to be careful???

what is credible oppo? politician who dont get sued by pap? why izzit that people take that as a barometer of credibility? shdn't u read both sides of the story to judge for yourself?

anyone remember jb or francis seow? how abt our chia thye poh? please, think carefully hor...

in fact, i think those who kena from pap more crediblity???

- The Reader who asks bloggers to "think" carefully...

the only way said...

SDP are scum, PAP should use its secret police to kill all 12 of them , like they did during the 60's against those bloody communists..either u are with us or with the terrorists. dirty bag like DR chee should be hanged in public as a warning to those who question PAP rights to rule in singapore for a 1000 years

Anonymous said...

It was reported that lau go told chiam that "he has been an mp for 22 years, and shld have offered lift-grading a long time ago." and chiam is now "under some pressure from us" to do so now.

As observed and mentioned earlier that those flats built 20 years ago are of the similar design - "one must take the correct lift and access to the correct staircase to get to the correct unit".

in their initial manifesto "commitment, competent, compassion"

Indeed they are committed and competent but can't admit their shortcomings.

Why can't the MINISTRY take the responsibility upon themselves and why built such design without lift landing on every level 20 years ago?

Why they didn't forsee the inconvenience caused to all residents, including the handicaps and elderly people IN THE LONG RUN?

Don't they know that people would get older each day?

And worse of all, we have some more monies for this uplifting project for their mistake made??

Finally, where is their COMPASSION? Notice that Compassion is missing in their present manifesto!!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately "our master chef may have gone through cooking school" but he had prepared the food which is unpalatable. And his two chief supervisors have to come to his rescue.

Anonymous said...

In the past, we only have one master chef and now we have three chefs and yet still produce unpalatable food. The restaurant manager can't cope with such high cost of operation!!

Just wonder is there something wrong with their style of cooking?

Perhaps, the master chef is more suitable to be the master chef for the military camps. this is his cup of tea, i think.

whereas for the other two supervisor chefs, suggest that they change their style of cooking
bec time have changed and people also change, therefore, tastes also change as well. We want more
variety and style of dishes - pls be more liberal, innovative and creative.

Anonymous said...

on second thought, perhaps go for another restaurant to eat. hopefully the food is more palatable there.

hey, what is your choice? To go to the old or a new restaurant?

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