Thursday, April 25, 2013

Singapore. Obedience extracted through defamation lawsuits is not sustainable

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Lee Kuan Yew's one party state government of Singapore Island has a dubious history of filing defamation of character lawsuits against its critics in their Kangaroo Courts to silence criticism. They also hold a dubious world record of never having lost even a single one in the entire history of the Island since 1959!  In fact their handpicked judges are so predictable; Lee knows he has won even before he ever steps into the courtroom.

This practice of using the law and their Kangaroo Courts has been so well fine tuned, it works like clockwork. The government scours over the Internet (all print newspapers are state controlled and therefore will contain no criticism) looking for any critical writing. Once identified, the government either goes to their lawyer Davinder Singh of Drew and Napier, one of the island’s largest law firms who then writes to the targeted victim to apologize and remove the offending writing. If the writing had suggested that their Kangaroo Courts were corrupt, the Attorney General writes the same letter threatening contempt proceedings.

These sorts of disgraceful attempts to stifle dissent had much more effect in the past, as invariably they took the hapless victim to court and either bankrupted him or jailed him.

Over a period of time, the government has been finding that this practice of silencing your citizens is really not producing the desired result and in fact counters productive.

Singaporeans were becoming more emboldened and were simply leaving for settlement abroad instead of tolerating this nonsense resulting in the world's highest brain drain, something which is disastrous for a tiny island with a tiny population.

Realizing this, Lee Kuan Yew and his Ministers went on repeated world tours of the capitals and cities where Singaporeans had emigrated to coax them to return but no one did. I think the Singapore government now realizes that those who have left will simply not return and have therefore given up their world tours to dissuade the Diaspora.

Realizing the harm it is doing, they appear to be going slow on the defamation letters, preferring only to give warnings now and once an apology is forthcoming, they let him go. This new policy has actually emboldened many to speak their mind, since they know, very probably, all the government needs is an apology. And after all, they would have managed to get their message across.

The latest threat by the government was only last week. A Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew had drawn about the government's deliberate policy of racially discriminating the Island's Malay community, which by the way happens to be a fact.

Another cartoon described the retiring of the Island's Chief Justice in unflattering terms. For his trouble, he got a letter from a lawyer threatening him with a lawsuit and another from the Attorney General threatening to charge him for contempt of court. Had he apologized like they wanted, they would have probably let him go, but because he refused, he was arrested and kept overnight at the police station and interrogated.

I am sure if he apologized they would drop everything but it would be interesting to see what they would do this time, if he remained stubborn.

Please see last Fridays Yahoo News headed "Singapore Cartoonist arrested for alleged sedition"

The Yahoo News article also refers to series of recent such cases against the island's critics. In January the government sent a lawyers letter to Alex Au who complained of corruption in the Singapore government involving the purchase of computers by a company owned by Lee Kuan Yew's ruling party PAP. He received a lawyer’s letter to which he immediately apologized after which the government let him go.

Not long before that Tamasek Review, a Singapore blog had written about the island's law minister, a Tamil, having an affair with a Chinese woman in his party, a fact well known in public circles. He immediately sent out a lawyer’s letter to which they too apologized and the matter was once again dropped.

Recently there was an instance of the court showing leniency of a Chinese national who used a car in the airport parking lot to kill someone. He was given a mere 25 months in jail when others would have been either hanged or given a life sentence. Naturally Internet blogs in the island were up in arms about this. The government sent lawyer’s letters to these various blogs who all apologized and no further action were taken.

Singapore Island government is wasting its time in such a pointless exercise. Merely because someone ceases and apologizes, does not mean that he now believes the government version. If this cartoonist thinks the government ill treats Malays, he is not suddenly going to think otherwise, just because the government says so. If the blogger really thought there was corruption in Lee Kuan Yew’s ruling PAP party in the sale of the computers, he is not going to think otherwise just because he got the lawyers letter.

In fact, contrary to what the government would think, this cartoonist would now be even more certain and determined in his belief that the government really does racially discriminate.

These people whom the government goes against all live in Singapore. In fact any of these people would be able to leave the island if they want to as all of them are highly qualified and would be a prize to any free country with their qualifications and talent.

I reckon the only reason why they don’t' leave is due to a sense of loyalty and patriotism. Sadly those like them who stay are a very small minority because most qualified capable Singaporeans who have a choice of leaving, do indeed leave, as there is no need to endure this stupidity on the part of the government and their Kangaroo Courts.

In 1991, I left Singapore when it became clear that this government would continue victimizing and punishing me because I refused to submit. First there were the covert messages warning me to stop espousing opposition politics. The there was a contempt of court charge because I made a speech at a election rally in 1991 criticizing the manner of appointment of Subordinate Court judges. I had to pay a hefty fine.

Then there were repeated Law Society actions to harass me with threats of discipline, which finally resulted in my being found guilty of contempt of court merely for writing a letter to the Attorney General demanding an explanation over their actions against the opposition politician JB Jeyaretnam. That was the final straw. I left the island permanently for United States in December of 1991 and obtained political asylum.

Just like me, thousands of educated professionals have all left mostly quietly for Australia, New Zealand Canada and the UK.

The government is clearly in a quandary. All this while they have been getting away by intimidation and threats to silence the opposition but with time, the islanders are getting emboldened because they are no longer in the helpless state they were in the past.

Today they can leave if they want. And if all the educated professionals left, what would Lee Kuan Yew and his son do? On the other hand, they cannot allow freedom of expression either. If they did, both father and son would be unseated that very instant. They are simply caught between a rock and a hard place.  

You must have noticed that they leave me alone. It is simply because I live in the USA and they don't have the benefit of their Kangaroo judges and police thugs here. But thanks to the Internet, my message still reaches the entire Singapore population. Isn’t that nice.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California, USA
Tel: 510 491 4375



Anonymous said...

Hi Gopalan, is there any hope for those who are not as qualified or talented to leave Singapore?

Gopalan Nair said...

To the person who said

" Anonymous said...
Hi Gopalan, is there any hope for those who are not as qualified or talented to leave Singapore?"

Let me answer it with a story. There was a man who prayed everyday to win the lottery. An angel knew this and went to God asking whether he could help this man. God said he has been very willing to help but could only do so if the man bought a lottery ticket!

In your case asking questions by sitting in your Lee Kuan Yew HDB flat is not going to help. Buy a ticket. Go to the country. Find out and look for oppurtunities.

Anonymous said...

These cartoons are really good. More people should read them.

FCCcanningtoncell01 said...

To the Anonymous who asked if he/she has a chance if he/she is not so talented:

The answer, in my very humbel personal opinion, really depends (Caveat - this is not giving you advice, it's merely sharing an idea, and pointing you in the options you have):

a) It depends on your age - in the past , countries like Australia have a cut off age of 45. I think the latest VISA requirements to migrate have done away with the age limit. You still have got to have a SKILL that the Government of Australia deem as valuable in that year of migration to OZ. in the past, it was accountancy, some trades like chef, assistant nurses, etc.
It varies from year to year.
So, like Gopalan said - do your homework. Mate, if you are hungry, you will GO somewhere, some place, soon!!!
I'd say - check with your relatives.
If you don't have relatives, go to:
I am not giving you any advice as I am not allowed to, but I believe I can point you in the right direction by giving you the website.
Another helpful place if you are stuck is the Australian Embassy opposite Gleneagles Hospital (is it still there???)

b) it also depends on the MOTIVATION and HUNGER you have to leave the place. As Mr. Gopalan has pointed out, I'd add: if there's a flood, and GOD sends 3 helicopters to rescue you from the roof top, you still got to take the effort to GRAB THE ROPE and hang on, mate!
Are yOU HUNGRY enough to move?
If you are, you won't be wasting time.
Time past, cannot be reclaimed!

c) NEXT factor is a very big factor. your family. and kids.
IF your wife/husband is not ready, talk to them. HElp them understand your mission. YOu are not "That talented" , you said. What about your spouse?

d) It takes about 2-3 years nowadays in the PR queue for OZ to be processed. What about other countries?
What are your options?

e) Finally, when you say you are not that talented?
Are you denigrading yourself?
GOD has given each of us a talent. Grow your talent that you have been given. If you can draw cartoons, benefit the rest of us with your talent.
If you are an electrician, check out if you can migrate.
Plumbers in Australia earn AUD$100 call out fee, and this is excluding any parts, extra services, etc, etc.

DO NOT under estimate yourself.
I am 43, and I am still pursuing my MBA whilst working FULL Time.

Please, only YOU can help yourself.
Stop asking for spoon feed, mate!

David, Perth
Western Australia.

FCCcanningtoncell01 said...


I have seen pictures of Singaporeans in Perth who have taken photos with the leaders of Singapore who've come to Perth to FIND OUT why they leave.
YES! This exist a few years ago.

Most of the Singaporeans I know do NOT intend to leave.

I am not a Singaporean, was never one, but I lived there for close to 20 years; I'm done and dusted with my gig in Singapore and am happily settled in Australia.

I had always wanted to leave the island, not so much of LKY. It was my mother's death that triggered me to MOVE to another place that's much better in terms of quality of life.

The next day after she died, the company that engage my services instructed me to continue with training, as I need to fulfill my obligations.

It was a SHAME, and I finally realize that PROFITS go before my PERSONAL LIFE in a hectic place like Singapore, HongKong, etc

That was the last straw.
I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO glad I did leave, albeit in a different circumstances from you.

I am happily settled in Australia, and I look forward to the day when perhaps if there's a chance - we can share stories of our struggles for a better world in the form of a FORUM, symposium, etc.

I am sure our paths will cross.

I too, was involved in some minor ways in social activism and social JUSTICE!

take care of yourself, mate!
Be blessed,

Western Australia.

Anonymous said...

You don't know what you are missing in life, until you leave SG.