Monday, June 13, 2011

Singapore. Alan Shadrake's letter to Lee Kuan Yew's Minister for Law

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This letter from Shadrake to Lee's Singapore Minister for Law is a little late but it is posted nevertheless. Shadrake as you know is presently in jail in Singapore because he had the audacity to write a book critical of Lee Kuan Yew's legal system. How long they can continue to send innocent authors to jail because they don't like what the author wrote is any one's guess. Singapore is already looking very silly already.

Gopalan Nair

Open Letter to Mr. K. Shanmugam, Minister for Law & Minister & Minister for Home Affairs from Alan Shadrake, persecuted author of Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock.

This is in response to a report concerning my sentence of 6 weeks jail and a $20,000 fine for ‘scandalising the judiciary’ published in the Straits Times on 22 April 2010:

For Mr. Shanmugam to claim there is 'vigorous' debate in Singapore about the death penalty surprised me. I have been to several death penalty events over the years and on two occasions the police burst in uninvited and disrupted these proceedings.
His claim that death penalty statistics were officially released in 2009 is also open to question.

I have been informed that a special request has to be made to obtain such statistics along with satisfactory reason for wanting them – and, if approved, the recipient is warned that if the information is passed on to a third party, this would be in breach of the Official Secrets Act!

It is the same as not banning my book in Singapore but tell bookstores to beware of the dire consequences if they sell it.

Regarding the WEF Global Competitiveness Report, which rates Singapore No. 1 out of 133 countries which Mr. Shanmugam’s private secretary quoted in the ST article, is also misleading.

Francis T. Seow, a high-ranking lawyer and member of the PAP until he was accused of being a CIA agent by Lee Kuan Yew and went into voluntary exile, wrote in ‘Beyond Suspicion? The Singapore Judiciary’ published by Yale University and SIRD (one of my publishers) in Kuala Lumpur in 2006 & 2008:

‘The Singapore Courts – when adjudicating commercial cases between two contending parties where neither the authorities nor the political elite are involved or interested – may be relied upon the administer justice according to the law. In this regard, Singapore judges have an overall reputation for the integrity of their judgments.

‘The enthusiastic reports of international organisations such as the Geneva-based World Economic Forum or the Hong Kong based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, (quoted by Mr. Shanmugam) have to be read subject to this important rider.

‘This book, however, is concerned with the other face of justice in Singapore: where these very same judges, sad to say, in politically freighted cases have repeatedly demonstrated a singular facility at bending over backwards to render decisions favourable to the Singapore government and its leaders.

‘Whereupon their judicial contortions have acquired an international notoriety that concerned human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, the Genera-based International Commission of Jurists and latterly the Lawyers Human Rights Watch Canada, were moved to send their legal representatives to observe the trial proceedings herein at first hand.

Their observations confirmed what many Singaporeans have known all along: that the political context of such cases invariably influences the judges in their decisions.’

The International Bar Association’s report also condemned Singapore on these and other issues, is available on the internet and worth reading in the context of the charges laid against me. If I have scandalised the judiciary then so has the IBA and its 30,000 members worldwide.

I am therefore challenging the Law Minister and Mr. Lee Kuan Yew that if they and Singapore’s judiciary are so aggrieved by my book he should also sue the IBA and AI in London and Francis T. Seow and Yale University in the United States.

But the reason neither he nor Mr. Lee Kuan Yew would ever contemplate such a step is simple: Mr Lee does not own any judiciary beyond the shores of Singapore.

And attempting to sue Yale and Mr. Seow would be particularly foolish as Singapore has just signed a multi-million dollar deal to establish a campus with the National University of Singapore – a deal which nearly came unstuck because of my arrest.

It must also be noted that the NUS was forced to add a clause to the contract ‘guaranteeing’ academic freedom as a vital condition before it could be signed. How humiliating for the country which constantly claims to be a ‘healthy democracy’ and squeaky clean! But the shamelessness of medieval Singapore knows no bounds.

If Mr. Shanmugam, speaking through his secretary, claims that ‘Political discourse in a healthy democracy does not call for lies, smears and scurrilous allegations’ and that ‘Accusers are required to prove their allegations.

Ministers who are defamed will sue to clear their name and take the stand to be cross-examined, while those who have committed offences will be charged and jailed.”
My answer is to challenge Mr. Shanmugam to sue the International Bar Association, Amnesty International, Yale University and Francis T. Seow in British and American courts for their ‘lies, smears and scurrilous allegations.’

But I don’t think Lee Kuan Yew would dare. It would require the kind of testicular fortitude that, sadly, is in very short supply as far as the rulers of the so-called ‘Lion City’ are concerned!

And if I am ‘scandalising’ the judiciary in this letter as did the IBA, Yale University and Francis Seow, next time why not sue us all in British, American. Australian or Malaysian courts?

It should be fun and create plenty of laughter. Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock is now on sale in Australia, the UK and Malaysia – all new and updated! It will make a great musical comedy for Broadway and London’s West End.
After almost seven weeks the result of my appeal will come….who knows when!

Alan Shadrake,
Prisoner in Singapore
12 May 2011

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