Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back to being Singapore Dissident

I wonder what the Attorney-General's Chambers means when its reported to have said its "currently looking into the matter". Ominous choice of words. Don't tell me they're going to pursue Gopalan Nair all the way to the United States.
Nair retracts apologies
by Zakir Hussain, ST Online, 3 Dec 08

FORMER Singaporean lawyer Gopalan Nair, now back home in the United States, has retracted apologies and statements he made in court here last month.

Mr Nair, an American citizen, had admitted to being in contempt of court and apologised for offending remarks he made about the judiciary and a district judge.

He also promised to remove two blog posts relating to his trial and conviction for disorderly behaviour.

But in a blog post on Nov 28 - two days after returning to the US from Singapore - he announced that he was withdrawing the admission and apologies, and repeated his criticism of the judiciary.

Mr Nair, who lives in Fremont, near San Francisco, wrote: 'The only reason for my apology was a desire to get out of prison as soon as possible.

'They brought these new contempt charges while I was incarcerated in prison, with only eight days to go for my release. If I had not apologised as Lee Kuan Yew wanted, there was the possibility that I could be kept in prison for a further period of up to six months...'

On the two postings he agreed to remove, and which he did delete from his blog, he 'will be re-posting those two blog posts and stand by every word that I had written in them'.

He has yet to re-post them, a check last night showed.

Asked for comments on these developments, a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said it is 'currently looking into the matter'.

Mr Nair came to Singapore in May to attend a hearing to assess damages in a defamation suit that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew won against the Singapore Democratic Party, its chief Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin.

In writing about the case on his blog, he insulted High Court Justice Belinda Ang, who presided over the case. He was charged and found guilty of the offence and received a three-month jail term in September.

Separately, in July, he behaved in a disorderly fashion and hurled expletives at police officers. He was charged and after a trial held on various dates between July and September, he was fined $3,000.

In late October, while he was serving his three-month term, the AGC applied to start contempt proceedings for Mr Nair's attacks on the independence of the judge and judiciary. These were made during his trial for disorderly conduct and in two blog posting.

The posts on Sept 1 and Sept 6 were titled 'Another classic case of trying to use the courts to silence dissent' and 'Convicted'.

But when he was brought to court on Nov 12 for the contempt hearing, Mr Nair unconditionally withdrew the allegations he made against District Judge James Leong, and statements alleging that the courts were beholden to the Government.

As a result of the apology and an undertaking he gave not to make such statements in future, and to remove the offending blog posts, the AGC did not press for a jail term.

Mr Nair was admonished, warned against launching future attacks on the judiciary, and had to pay the AGC $5,000 in legal costs.

Shortly after his release from prison on Nov 20 - following a one-third remission on his three-month sentence for good behaviour - he returned to the US.

Apart from last Friday's blog post retracting his statements, Mr Nair had a separate post on Sunday criticising High Court Justice Judith Prakash. This was over the jail terms she imposed on three men found to be in contempt of court for wearing T-shirts depicting a kangaroo in judge's robes.

Fremont attorney released from Singapore jail
By Linh Tat, The Argus, 28 Nov 08

FREMONT — Immigration attorney Gopalan Nair returned to the Bay Area this week after six months in Singapore, where he was imprisoned for two months after being convicted of sedition.

Nair, a San Jose resident who practices law in Fremont — in an office above The Argus — maintained his innocence Friday and continued to lash out at the Singaporean government as being corrupt.

The 58-year-old had traveled to his homeland in May to observe the defamation trial of some opposition political leaders.

Afterward, he criticized the High Court judge, Belinda Ang, as a "stooge" for the country's leader, Lee Kuan Yew. She was "prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders," he wrote in a May 29 blog entry.

Friday, he pulled out his Webster's dictionary to explain what he meant by prostitute: "a person ... who sells his or her services for low or unworthy purposes."

Nair said he did not mean the judge engaged in sexual activities, but that she had misused her powers.

"Those words were strong, no doubt. But ... those words were necessary because this judge was ... shamelessly abusing her authority," he said.

"She was not carrying out her duties in a judicial manner."

In the same blog entry, Nair seemingly challenged the court by providing his name and the name and address of the hotel at which he was staying, stating that, "It will be interesting to see if ... Lee Kuan Yew and son, who strut around ... bullying everyone who so much as criticized (them), will sue me now for calling him nothing more than a small time street bully."

Nair was arrested at the hotel May 31 and spent several days in solitary confinement, during which time police officers would interrogate him at odd hours of the night to try to get him to confess to e-mailing the judge with threatening letters, he said. He has continued to deny that accusation.

The immigration attorney posted bail about a week after his arrest, and a trial date was set for September. But Nair said authorities confiscated his passport, forcing him to remain in the area.

Homeless, Nair at one point slept in a warehouse and developed a respiratory problem that landed him in a hospital for five days, he said.

On July 4, while awaiting trial, Nair was arrested again — this time for disorderly conduct and insulting an officer. He denied both claims, saying he was walking alone on the street when five plainclothes officers attacked him. Nevertheless, Nair was found guilty and fined $3,000.

As for the sedition charge, despite his insistence that he had used the term "prostituting" correctly and that he never sent threatening e-mails to the judge, Nair was sentenced in September to three months in jail. After serving two months, he was released Nov. 20 for good behavior.

A week before his release, Nair said authorities accused him being contemptuous in court during the trial regarding his July 4 arrest. Because he did not want to jeopardize his chances of being released, Nair said he pleaded guilty and agreed never to criticize the government on his blog again. He also agreed to remove controversial entries he had posted Sept. 1 and 6.

But on Friday, he said he plans to repost the two previous entries and that he will continue to write critical pieces of the government, realizing he'll never be able to step foot in Singapore again.

Nair, who lived a total of 35 years in Singapore, twice ran for Parliament as a member of the Workers Party, but lost his bids for office. He immigrated to the United States in 1991, where he was granted political asylum and became a U.S. citizen in 2005.

After leaving Singapore this week, he flew into San Francisco airport Wednesday, and spent his first two nights back in the United States at the Islander Motel in Fremont because power and water lines had been turned off at his San Jose home. Although electricity had not been restored to his home by Friday evening, Nair planned to return home.

He owes about six months in mortgage payments for his house, back rent for his law office, plus he needs to pay off his credit cards, including half a year's worth of interest. While waiting for his trial to begin in Singapore, Nair took out cash advances on his credit card to pay for living expenses.

Factoring in lost wages, court fees and the interests on debts he owes, Nair estimated that the entire ordeal has set him back $100,000 — and he believes he is in danger of losing his house.

"I paid a price, but the Singaporean government has paid a bigger price," he said, adding that his case has shed more light on what he called a tyrannical government.

"Before this incident, I was just Gopalan Nair. Who? ... But after this case, (Singaporean leaders) have made me more popular. They made my blog popular. They've given publicity to my cause," he said.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jacob

I suspect that the Singapore Government may have cut out a deal with the US Consulate that Gopalan be freed and no further charges be brought against him if he apologised in open court. So now since one party has not kept the deal, it is confrontation time with the US Consulate.

jacob said...

Who knows. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. If anything happens at all.

Anonymous said...

hi jacob,

mr. nair is quite the character. he was a wp candidate at one point in time.

my question is this: do you have any idea what the late mr. jeyaratnam made of him?


Anonymous said...

An AG called Walter Woon
Said , " Gopalan is a goon.
He said sorry,
And made off in a hurry,
Now he's starting to croon."

Anonymous said...

Wah Gopalan so lucky. Did not even pay his fine.

jacob said...

"my question is this: do you have any idea what the late mr. jeyaratnam made of him?"

I have no idea. If JBJ did have views/thoughts about Nair, he kept it to himself.

khaja said...

This Nair is a real let down now hiding behind Bush and talking ya ya papaya

jacob said...

Well he did try to talk here and look what the State did to him. Imprisoned him here for months. And though he may have used some colourful language, he basically said what the International Bar Association and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada wrote in their respective reports. (See my sidebar for the reports)