Singapore leaders seek 'unprecedented' damagesYou won't get to read or hear about Chee Soon Juan's closing submissions through our pro-government print & broadcast media. So here it is in full,
SINGAPORE (AFP) - - Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew and his son Premier Lee Hsien Loong sought "unprecedented" damages Wednesday as the trial of an opposition leader for defamation came to an emotional climax.
The Lees, stung by two days of cross-examination by Chee Soon Juan, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), asked a Supreme Court judge to punish the pro-democracy activist for his behaviour in court.
Their lawyer, Davinder Singh, said Chee acted like a "hooligan" and exhibited "loutish behaviour" when he grilled the two leaders on the witness stand and ignored the judge's admonitions about his manner of questioning.
Singh said that despite a court injunction, Chee repeated allegations of corruption against the Lees in court and posted them on the Internet, an action that merits an "unprecedented award" of damages.
"The case for substantial damages is very compelling," he said.
Chee, summing up his defence, told the packed courtroom he stood by everything that was written in a party publication at the heart of the case, but added he harboured no personal hatred against the Lees.
"I do not hate Lee Hsien Loong, I do not hate Lee Kuan Yew and I do not wish them ill for what they have done and continue to do to me and my family," he said.
Chee had been found guilty of defamation over allegations of government corruption made in an SDP newsletter ahead of general elections in May 2006.
The SDP and Chee's sister and fellow pro-democracy activist Chee Siok Chin were named as co-defendants.
Defence lawyer M. Ravi, representing the SDP, said the Lees only deserved to be awarded a token 50 Singapore cents (37 US cents) because their reputations were not hurt by what the SDP and the Chees said.
Hearings were held this week to determine the amount of damages and the Lees took the witness stand to press their case, allowing the defendants to cross-examine them.
Chee, acting as his own lawyer, used strong language as he questioned the record of the Lees and the necessity of strict political controls in Singapore, now Southeast Asia's most economically advanced society.
The Lees -- the father was prime minister from 1959 to 1990 and his son came to power in 2004 -- dismissed Chee's attacks and said he further damaged their reputations during the cross-examination.
The Lees and other Singapore leaders have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from lawsuits against members of the country's tiny opposition.
Chee is already bankrupt after failing to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (365,000 US) in libel damages to the elder Lee and another former prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, for remarks he made in the 2001 elections.
Unlike reputation, character cannot be bought: Chee's closing submissions
This case has been one fraught with acrimony and controversy. Many legal points have been raised, some of which I have understood, others completely bewildered me. But all the points raised centred around one subject: Whether there was malice when we published that NKF article.
Let me deal with this point. It is clear as daylight that the plaintiffs sued not because their reputations were tarnished but that it was a way to stop our campaigning over the issue during the elections.
Instead of letting the public decide, they have dragged the courts in and insisted that the courts adjudicate in a matter where it should not. In the process, they put the courts in an untenable and unenviable position. This is a tragedy that history will not kindly look upon.
But a court case is what we have and court cases are about seeking the truth and allowing that truth to surface.
As I pointed out, the question centres around whether there was malice on our part. I cannot deny that I get angry and even bitter with Mr Lee Kuan Yew over the things that he has said and done to me and others.
But through the years, I have seen the bigger picture and developed a sense of calm and equanimity that comes with knowing my role in society.
And because I feel at ease, I don't hate Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong. I don't wish them ill in anyway despite all that they have done and continue to do to me and my family.
I harbour no hatred towards Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong, much less any malice.
To hate my opponents would drag me down to their level of rancour and deceit which has no place in what we're trying to achieve for Singapore. More so I find it too draining and distracting to harbour those emotions.
My Christian faith guides me and it is a faith that compels me to fght for justice and to treat my fellow men and women with compassion.
Mr Lee tempts and taunts me to get out of bankruptcy and get back into the stream of political life that he sits as lord and master. Believe me, in such an environment it is a temptation that can be overpowering.
That I said to Mr Lee Kuan Yew during the cross-examination is exactly where I stand. I feel sorry for him but I don't hate him.
But I also told him that ultimately it isn't about him. Neither is it about his son, and it most certainly is not about me. It is about this country and the people who live in it.
It is about what is just. It is about compassion and how we treat our fellow men. It is about freedom and human dignity.
A society stripped bare of these virtues is a society unable to embrace humanity. But what is society without humanity is a thought too frightening to entertain.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew kept on repeating how he built up this country and how much he has stored in the reserves. That is the tragedy of the man. For all his intelligence, he does not possess the wisdom of life.
Because unlike reputation, character cannot be bought. A true statesmen will not need to fight for his reputation, for that will shine through even after he takes his final bow and leaves the stage of life. His name will linger on and be writ large fondly in the hearts of many for generations to come.
Many lies have been spread about truly great leaders. And yet these lies have never been able to snuff out the greatness in these individuals. On the contrary, their legacy grows in size and intensity.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew fights all his demons within himself to try to shore up his reputation. In the process, however, he destroys the very legacy that he so desperately desires to establish.
Then he pulled out the citation from Transparency International Malaysia (TIM) and tried to use it as an endorsement of his integrity it, frankly, surprised me because it showed me how empty Mr Lee's life has become.
Such an intelligent man and yet so utterly devoid of wisdom. Can he not understand that no paper, no award, no citation can ever hope to still the voices of those who see the truth behind the propaganda?
I take no joy in pointing out to him how TIM is not an established, well-grounded institution on which one can take pride in being awarded a citation especially on the subject on integrity. In fact, I felt bad to point that out because it seemed that it was all the MM was clinging to.
Mr Lee must understand that integrity cannot, and does not, come from the grandiloquence of one's speech, it must shine forth from the righteousness of one's heart. If that light of righteousness is dim, no amount of persuasion will change reality.
Can he not grasp the fact that no amount of wealth and power can hold back the silent voices forever? When he is no longer with us in this world, no amount of suppression can hold back the vehemence of his critics.
I hope he takes the little time that he has left to ponder what I have said and to turn from his ways. It is not too late.
Over the last couple of days in court I have observed, as have many here, how those around him treat him with such servitude that made my hair stand on end. For whatever reason, they go out of their way to show him their subservience.
They are doing him a disservice by not telling him that he needs to amend his ways if he so desires to uphold his integrity. Maybe he has chosen to surround himself with these yes-people. Either way Mr Lee is moving in life's wrong direction.
Which brings me to the damages. I stand by everything I have written in the article in The New Democrat about the NKF as it relates to the running of this country because it is the truth and Mr Lee and the rulers of this country must always hear the truth no matter how inconvenient that may be.
I know what I say at now will not make a difference in terms of damages because I know it will not make a difference.
I willingly assume the position in this life because if this is the path that God has chosen for me then I cannot run away.
I can leave this country or I can capitulate and join what others have done in politics under the PAP. I will do neither. For to me my own integrity is at stake and that cannot be paid for in dollars.
Mr Lee may try to tempt me out of bankruptcy but it will not work. I may remain a bankrupt for the rest of my life as a result of my obstinacy.
It is not a position one aspires to but it is a cause I find worthy of battle and a call, though sometimes I may resist, I will ultimately trust and obey.
So, Your Honour, we have come to the stage where all of us will be held to account for what we do today. It is said that as we make our bed, so shall we lie in it.
That we do today will live on in history forever. I do not envy your position. I ask that you forgive me if I have offended you in a personal way. I had no intention of doing that. In another place and time, we would be perhaps be good friends.
But I have to take issue with your position as a Judge and what you have done as well as the decisions you have made in this courtroom. To that extent I will fight you with every fibre of my being for the sake of justice.
We all have decisions to make in life. I have made mine and I am at ease with it. You have yours to make. I wish you wisdom and honesty.
Chee Soon Juan