14 Jul 06
The case of the Lees vs the Chees gets stranger and stranger.
First, Mr Lee Kuan Yew boasted that he will take his opponents on in defamation suits and is willing to subject himself to cross-examination in the witness box. When his opponents call his bluff, he quickly applies for summary judgment so that the matter is heard in chambers and he doesn't have to appear in court.
But when Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin challenged the constitutionality of the summary judgment for the very simple reason that it does not allow for a trial to take place, the Courts schedule this application to be heard not only on the same day but at the same time as the summary judgment – 3 August 2006 at 10 am.
Oversight? Couldn't be because when defence counsel, Mr M Ravi, wrote to point out the problem, the Courts replied and directed that the date and time for the hearings of the two matters remain.
In addition summary judgments are heard at the level of the Registrar and not a High Court Judge. This was what happened in Dr Chee's case against Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong in 2001. In the present case, however, the Courts decide to appoint a Judge instead of the Registrar to hear the case, contrary to the rules of Court. This is the same Judge who will also hearing the Chees' application to declare summary judgments as unconstitutional.
So what exactly is the message that is being sent by this arrangement of the two matters being heard simultaneously? Are the Courts saying that it won't take very long to dismiss the Defendants' application to stop Mr Lee Kuan Yew's and Mr Lee Hsien Loong's summary judgment? Even if the Chees' application is dismissed, don't they have a right to appeal the decision? Under the rules, time must be allowed for appeals.
This isn't the first time that the Court's scheduling has been questioned. In 2004 in their lawsuit against Dr Chee, Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong applied for the hearing of the assessment of damages to be brought forward even though they knew Dr Chee was away in the US for a fellowship. The Courts, despite knowing that Dr Chee was away wrote to him asking him to attend court to “confirm” the new dates. Mr Lee and Mr Goh later withdrew their application because their schedules had changed.
This doesn't change the fact that the Courts had acceded to Mr Lee's and Mr Goh's request when they it knew that Dr Chee was away. Why did it ask Dr Chee to attend court to confirm the dates picked by the Plaintiffs despite knowing full well that Dr Chee would not be able to make it?
These and the question on the present case of why the hearing of Dr Chee and Ms Chee will be heard at the same time of the Lees summary judgment need to be explained.