Monday, March 12, 2012

My letter to Wall Street Journal on Singapore's Defamation Laws

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is in response to an article by Wall Street Journal titled Debate over blog limits intensifies over Singapore", March 1, 2012; Kenneth Jeyaretnam's response "Challenging Singapore's Defamation Laws" dated March 7, 2012 and Peer M Akbur, Press Secretary Singapore's Ministry of Information's response to Kenneth Jeyaretnam dated March 12, 2012.

I have sent it to the Editor Wall Street Journal today.

Gopalan Nair
Fremont California

Singapore's Defamation laws

Monday, March 12, 2012 8:06 PM

Dear Editor,

I refer to the letter from Peer M Akbur, Government of Singapore dated March 12, 2012titled "Defending Singapore's Defamation laws". It is an attempt by him to defend the indefensible by turning logic on it's head.

Firstly his attack on Kenneth Jeyaretnam's letter dated March 7, 2012 "Challenging Singapore ’s Defamation Laws" fails in that although Jeyaretnam Junior may have got the dates wrong, the substance of his argument remains accurate. His father was indeed hounded and repeatedly punished for statements he had made that were innocuous in any other free country in the world.

Akbur argues that because the editor of the Hammer and the Executive Council of the Workers Party had all agreed that JB Jeyaretnam’s (Jeyaretnam Senior) article was completely false and baseless and had apologized, therefore JB Jeyaretnam had indeed defamed the Singapore rulers. This is like trying to argue that the victim in whose country a bully has being going around giving everyone a black eye who criticized, has confessed to his crimes. What else did you expect the editor of the Hammer and the Executive Council of the Worker's Party to do?

He argues that Singapore holds it's public officials to the highest standards of probity because it has jailed ministers and officials. I am not sure whether this argument helps him since in other countries too, ministers have gone to jail.

Singapore court judgments in defamation cases brought by Singapore ’s political leaders, he says, are published and fully open to scrutiny. Surely publishing a judgment and opening it to scrutiny is not enough. It must also have some merit. I can tell you, that all these judgments are worthless. This is how Singapore it is done.

Suppose JB Jeyaretnam had merely said that Lee Kuan Yew should "allow more freedom of speech", the lawyers for the government would go around and find a totally unrelated defamation case in the books, where the Defendant had indeed defamed the Plaintiff, take out dicta in it which proscribes defamatory remarks, without making any reference to the facts, and argue that JB Jeyaretnam had indeed defamed.

If you actually took the trouble to research that other case, you would find that it is like comparing apples to oranges; no relevance at all to the case in point. With the use of judges who are handpicked to make judgments that Singapore 's political leaders want, it is easy for them to say anything in these written judgments.

Finally he says that the current Workers Party has won several seats in Parliament. Surely that should be no problem if they have decided not to criticize the government where it really matters, like Jeyartnam senior had done in the past. The present Workers Party, far from being a threat to the Lee Kuan Yew's PAP, indeed serves their purpose. Now they could say they are no longer a one party state, while at the same time, they can continue to rule without any opposition from anyone.

Akbur should realize that the readership of the Wall Street Journal is not as ignorant as he thinks. Singapore has successfully managed to tell the world what they really are, a one party Stalinist state.

Gopalan Nair
Singapore Workers Party Executive Committee (1985 to 1991)Presently Attorney at Law
Fremont California USA


Anonymous said...

Readers should remember that one Minister died after one week of detention under the ISA. He suddenly appeared at his home after one week of detention and went straight into his study and locked himself in, without even greeting his wife/family - which is very strange and irregular. He was found the next day, dead from "phenobarb and alcohol poisoning". It was very obvious that that minister was not allowed to go to trial. It would have been very condemning to the PM of the day. Regarding the recent G.E, it was strange that rallies were allowed by LKY, obviously the result of some ball squeezing by Obama -to whom LKY had made a lightning visit some months previously. These rallies showed the reality of the political scene. More people did not support the PAP than what the PAP always boasted. The current up coming by-election will be a test of support for the PAP. Every minister is throwing gifts to the people. Will the people continue disbelieving the PAP/LKY? The PAP will certainly go all out to win that seat.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Anonymous,
Rallies have been allowed in Singapore elections since 1955. Not true that Lee or Obama had anything to do with it. Second, I am not sure which Minister is it that died in ISD custody. Perhaps other readers may know.

Anonymous said...

Mr Nair,

Ref: Anon Tue Mar 13
I believe the reader is referring to Teh Cheang Wan.

I have a good laugh after reading Peer M Akbur's reply letter. It is a very very poor attempt at deflecting facts, written by a puppet on behald of the guilty.

For ex-Singapore me, I am seeing a lot more of the downside of Lee Kuan Yew blend of politics. It has finished serving its purpose, and like a drug pusher who became victim to the same drugs, these Fat Cats are no longer skilled at catching rats, and busking in its own lies.

Good luck to them in the by-election. They may win the by-election thru passive voters but not the people's hearts.

Anonymous said...

In Singapore, when they want you dead, they have their ways to make you dead.
Criminals of the highest order and all above the laws of the land.
Evil and cruel are their ways.