Published: May 15 2006 03:00 Last updated: May 15 2006 03:00
A Singapore opposition politician whose activities became the focus of the city state's recent election campaign has been let off with a warning after being questioned by police.
James Gomez was criticised by the long-ruling People's Action party in the run-up to the May 6 polls for allegedly trying to discredit the government after he wrongly claimed that election officials had mislaid one of his registration forms, which could have disqualified him as a candidate.
The incident threatened to undermine the Workers' party, the strongest opposition group, with party leaders also called in for questioning last week.
Mr Gomez apologised after security cameras showed he had failed to submit the disputed form. But the episode dominated election reporting in the state-guided media in what critics said was an attempt to portray the opposition in an unflattering light.
Post-election analysis by the local media concluded that the government's focus on Mr Gomez as an election issue contributed to a backlash against the PAP, whose voter support fell to 67 per cent from 75 per cent in the previous 2001 election. The PAP won 82 of the 84 parliamentary seats under the country's first-past-the-post system.
The Workers' party kept its single parliamentary seat and also picked up a special non-voting seat under election rules that award it to the best-performing opposition party.
Singapore police said they had decided to give Mr Gomez a warning for using "threatening words towards a public servant" instead of formally charging him, which carried penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of S$5,000 (US$3,200, €2,475, £1,692).
The complaint against Mr Gomez, who had been barred from leaving the country, was filed by Singapore's election department, which comes under the prime minister's office.
Lee Kuan Yew, independent Singapore's first leader and father of the current prime minister, suggested that the case could have led to other Workers' party officials being implicated, including Low Thia Khiang, the party's sole MP, and Sylvia Lim, the party chairman who will take up the special non-voting seat. Mr Lee repeated allegations he made during the campaign that Mr Gomez was a "liar" and dared him to file a defamation suit.
Workers' party officials said they would ignore comments by Mr Lee, who has previously filed defamation suits against other opposition leaders.