Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Contempt of court trials begin today; James Cook University suspends John Tan

These two trials begin today while a third is on the way. Refer to my earlier posts here, here and here.
Contempt of court trials begin tomorrow
Monday, 03 November 2008
Singapore Democrats

The trial for contempt of court against Mr John Tan, Mr Shafi'ie and Mr Isrizal will commence tomorrow at 10 am in Hight Court 6B. The three were charged for wearing T-shirts with a picture of a kangaroo. The hearing is expected to last from 4-6 Nov 08.

Attorney-General Walter Woon is asking for imprisonment or "other punishment as the court may impose", and for the cost of the legal action.

In meantime, the trial of the 18 Tak Boleh Tahan (TBT) activists in the Subordinate Courts has been adjourned because the contempt case was scheduled in the midst of the TBT trial (23 Oct 08-7 Nov 08) Mr Tan and Mr Shafi'ie are among the defendants.

The three are charged for wearing the T-shirts within and in the vicinity of the Supreme Court building when a hearing was being held before Judge Belinda Ang for the assessment of damages payable by Dr Chee Soon Juan, Ms Chee Siok Chin and the SDP to Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

In addition, Mr Tan is also cited for pointing to the picture of a kangaroo on his T-shirt and saying, "This is a kangaroo court" to Mr Lee Kuan Yew when the Minister Mentor walked past him outside the courtroom.

Mr Tan also pointed out that had it not been the Straits Times that first published the photograph with the "kangaroo three" and the current legal actions from the AG, the wearing of the T-shirts itself would never have impugned the reputation of the Singapore Judiciary.

Also starting tomorrow is the trial of Dow Jones, which publishes Wall Street Journal Asia (WSJA), Mr Daniel Hertzberg, Editor of WSJA, and Ms Christine Glancey, Managing Editor of WSJA.

The AG's Chambers are accusing the newspaper of alleging that the Singapore Judiciary is not independent, and that it is biased and lacks integrity by publishing three articles involving Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Jacob's update on 5 Nov, 0100hrs: The kangaroo t-shirts trial has been adjourned till Nov 24. Read about the adjournment, and a letter with regards to John Tan's suspension, here.
Meanwhile another disturbing development,
Australian university in Singapore suspends John Tan
Monday, 03 November 2008
Singapore Democrats

James Cook University (JCU) has suspended Mr John Tan from his position as a lecturer. This is because Mr Tan, who is also the assistant secretary-general of the Singapore Democrats, is being charged with contempt of court by Attorney-General Walter Woon.

Mr Tan was informed of the decision on 21 Oct 08 when he was called in to the Dean's office and abruptly handed the letter informing him that he was suspended with immediate effect.

Mr Tan subsequently went to see Dr Dale Anderson, CEO of JCU. In that meeting, Dr Anderson showed Mr Tan an email that was sent to the university by a "Collin Lim".

The CEO admitted that he did not know who this Collin Lim was or if he was, in fact, a student at the university. The email noted Mr Tan's political activities and said that the psychology lecturer was associated with Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Dr Anderson also drew Mr Tan's attention to the fact that Collin had copied the email to the Minister for Education, Dr Ng Eng Hen.

When Mr Tan appealed to the academic principles of JCU, Dr Anderson replied that "half of the school is owned by Singapore" and implied that there was nothing he could do because he was under the employment of Singapore.

In response, 28 of Mr Tan's students and former students wrote letters of support of Mr Tan to the university to which Dr Anderson replied: "I cannot enter into a discussion on this matter until it is clear of court action."

The suspension is completely out of order for the following reasons:

* Mr Tan has not yet been convicted of the charge. The trial begins only tomorrow, 4 Nov 08. He was suspended on 21 Oct.
* The action appears to have been triggered by an email complaint that cited Mr Tan's association with Dr Chee Soon Juan and which was copied to Dr Ng Eng Hen.
* The suspension stayed despite an appeal by Mr Tan citing testimony from 28 of his students that he had gone about his work in a professional manner.

It is clear from the above that the University acted out of fear of the Singapore Government and suspended Mr John Tan for reasons other than academic considerations.

JCU's action is disgraceful on several counts. First, it has completely and utterly failed to uphold and protect academic principles and the rights of its employees.

Second, it jumped the gun by suspending Mr Tan before his conviction. The letter of suspension cites the AG taking contempt proceedings and not conviction.

Third, even if Mr Tan is convicted, does the university not have the obligation to protect the free speech of its employees?

Fourth, why was Mr Tan's attention drawn to the reference to Dr Ng Eng Hen? Is this not an indication that the suspension was politically motivated?

Would JCU have behaved in a similar way towards its academics back home in Australia? If not, how can the university claim to provide quality education to Singaporean students if it is so fearful of the Singapore Government? Is JCU in Singapore just to make money regardless of the type of education it provides or does it value academic freedom?

The university is based in Queensland but has campuses in Brisbane and Singapore.
And lastly a video. See here and here for my earlier posts on the trial of the tak boleh tahan activists.

No comments: