Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Singapore's AG's Chambers go after "kangaroo court" activists

The Attorney-General's Chambers "has applied to court for contempt proceedings to be instituted against Tan Liang Joo John, Isrizal Bin Mohamed Isa and Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi Bin Sariman" according to a media release by the AG's Chambers. Because of this,

This is a Reuters photo. At the time in May 2008, the trio were outside the court, which was having a hearing for the assessment of damages with regards to a defamation lawsuit brought by the Prime Minister and his father, the Minister Mentor, against the Singapore Democratic Party. It was only yesterday that the courts had awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to the PM and MM. On a related note, the AG's Chambers is also going after Wall Street Journal Asia for contempt of court.
Activists to be charged for contempt of court

Singapore Democrats, 14 Oct 2008

Three activists, including SDP's assistant secretary-general Mr John L Tan, will be charged for contempt of court.

Attorney-General Walter Woon will commence contempt proceedings against Mr Tan, Mr Isrizal Bin Mohamed Isa and Mr Muhammad Shafi'ie for wearing T-shirts with a picture of a kangaroo wearing a judge's robe.

A statement on the AG's Chambers' (AGC) website stated that the three men were photographed wearing the T-shirts outside the Supreme Court during the defamation hearing between Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Lee Hsien Loong and the SDP from 26-28 May 08.

The Singapore Democrats' website is cited by the AGC for reproducing the photograph of the three activists wearing the T-shirts. The photograph appeared in an SDP report of the police investigation. The statement said that the article and photograph were meant to give “wider publicity to the allegation that the Court was a kangaroo court.”

But the photograph and a report first appeared in the Straits Times the day after the activists appeared outside the courthouse. The SDP only reported about the police investigation on 27 Jul 08, a full two months after the Straits Times story was published. But the AGC's statement makes absolutely no mention of the newspaper and its photograph.

For its part, the Straits Times in its report today kept very quiet about the photograph it published on 27 May.

AG Woon adds that Messrs Tan, Isrizal and Shafi'ie “have engaged in a deliberate and calculated course of action to impugn the reputation of and undermine public confidence in the Singapore Judiciary, and to lower its authority in the administration of justice in Singapore.”

The statement also indicated that Mr Tan had said to Mr Lee Kuan Yew: “This is a kangaroo court.”

The AGC took pains to point out that under common (English) law, the courts have the power to punish persons for contempt and added that “unlike in many other countries (including England and Australia), the Attorney-General is not a politician.” In Singapore he is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

3 to face contempt charge

By Goh Chin Lian, Political Correspondent

Oct 14, Straits Times

THREE people who wore T-shirts in the Supreme Court building depicting a kangaroo dressed in a judge's robes are being taken to court.

The Attorney-General is accusing them of scandalising the Singapore judiciary, and on Tuesday the High Court gave the go-ahead to start proceedings against the trio for contempt of court.

The accused are: Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) assistant secretary-general John Tan Liang Joo, 47, full time national serviceman Muhammad Shafi'ie Syahmi Sariman and activist Isrizal Mohamed Isa.

They wore the T-shirts during a hearing from May 26 to 28 that involved the SDP, its chief Chee Soon Juan and his sister Siok Chin, a member of SDP's central executive committee.

The hearing before Justice Belinda Ang in Court 4B was to assess defamation damages the party and the Chees had to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Tan allegedly said 'This is a kangaroo court' to MM Lee when the minister walked past him outside Court 4B, said a statement on the website of the A-G Chambers on Tuesday.

In a separate statement to the media, the A-G said the three men had 'scandalised the Singapore Judiciary by publicly wearing identical white T-shirts, imprinted with a palm-sized picture of a kangaroo dressed in a judge's gown, within and in the vicinity of the New Supreme Court Building.'

By this, they meant to imply that the Court was a kangaroo court, the AG added.

A kangaroo court is generally understood as being a court characterised by unauthorised or irregular procedures, or sham and unfair legal proceedings, said the website statement.

It also said that Tan, as the SDP's assistant secretary-general, was also responsible for the appearance of an article, 'Police question activists over kangaroo T-shirts', as well as a photograph of the three men in the T-shirts on the SDP website on July 27.

'The article and the photograph...were meant to give wider publicity to their allegation that the Court was a kangaroo court,' said the AG website statement.

The AG accused them of engaging in a 'deliberate and calculated course of action to impugn the reputation of and undermine public confidence in the Singapore Judiciary, and to lower its authority in the administration of justice in Singapore.'

The High Court's approval to start contempt proceedings is the first of a two-stage process.

In the next step, the three men will be officially notified of the lawsuit, and a hearing date will be set for both sides to present their arguments in open court.

Tan and Muhammad Shafi'ie are also facing separate charges in court, with 17 others, for their involvement in an illegal assembly and march on March 15.

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