Friday, June 20, 2008

Reform Party registration approved; Inauguration dinner on 11 July

I was notified of the approval by the chairman of the Reform Party, Ng Teck Siong. I've known him and J B Jeyaretnam for a number of years.

Back in April 2001, when I was in Think Centre, I helped to organise the Save JBJ rally at Yio Chu Kang stadium. In fact, i was one of the speakers. It was a nerve-wracking first-time experience speaking in front of thousands. It was a historic event also because it was the first, non-election political rally since the PAP came to power. Here's a photo from that day,

That's me with the goatee, sitting in between J B Jeyaretnam and Ng Teck Siong. The pink jeans and red shoes belong to James Gomez. Gandhi Ambalam of the SDP is the one with his hand on his chin along with another member of SDP. More photos here.

In a comment for a blogpost by sgpolitics, Ng Teck Siong had this to say about the upcoming inauguration dinner,
If any supporters wish to attend our inauguration dinner on the 11th July, 2008, Please contac: Ng Teck Siong on H/p No. 91179350 or Amy Lui H/p No. 98476900.
According to uncleyap's post,
Date : 11.July.2008 Friday, 1900Hr. at

The Reform Party Inauguration Dinner

The Fortunate Restaurant
Blk 181, Toa Payoh Centeral
2nd Level (Near National Library)

@S$30 per person or @S$300 per table of 10

For bookings please contact party treasurer:

M/S Amy Lui h/p 83517336
Here's a media report about the approval,
Singapore approves new opposition political party

SINGAPORE, June 19 (Reuters) - Singapore has approved the formation of a new opposition party, giving once-bankrupt political veteran J.B. Jeyaretnam a shot at contesting the city-state's next general elections. Jeyaretnam, 82, said on Thursday that his political party, the Reform Party, was approved on Tuesday, two months after his official application was submitted.

Jeyaretnam was the first opposition member to break the ruling party's grip on parliament 27 years ago, but he was unable to contest the 2006 general elections after he was made bankrupt in 2001 for failing to pay S$265,000 in defamation damages to then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

He was discharged from bankruptcy in May last year and announced his return to politics in April this year.

"I am over the moon," Jeyaretnam told Reuters, adding that he will hold the position of secretary-general in the new party.

The Reform Party, which promises to challenge the fundamentals of the Singapore political system, will enable Jeyaretnam to contest general elections due by 2011.

Singapore's three main opposition parties hold little power and often complain of poor access to mainstream media.

The People's Action Party has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965. It won 82 of 84 seats in May 2006 elections and has never lost more than four seats in any election.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Jerry Norton)
These are videos of the press conference on Apr 18, 08 to introduce the Reform Party,







Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You've got till 19 June 0216hrs (Singapore time) to download Firefox 3 and help set a world record!

I just downloaded Firefox 3 and even got a certificate for helping to set a world record!! Click the banner to find out more and download it! ;-)

Download Day

Monday, June 16, 2008

Help set a world record on 17 June by downloading Firefox 3

Its been about 4 years since i've been using Firefox. That's almost from the start of the firefox explosion!

Tomorrow, 17 june, sees the release of Firefox 3.

Help to set a world record by downloading it within this 24hr period.

I just hope my damn PC doesn't shut-down on me again!!

Updated 17 june: Download day starts on 18 june, wed, 0100hrs Singapore time. For those in different time zones, click here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Press statement by Singapore Dissident

I got this press statement by Gopalan Nair aka Singapore Dissident from this report,
Gopalan Nair / Press Statement / 11 June 2008

I am an American citizen and a Singaporean by birth and have always been concerned about the welfare of Singaporeans and Singapore.

I have been a Singapore political opposition supporter and politician from 1980 to 1991, a member of the Workers Party. I contested the 1988 and 1991 Singapore general elections under the Workers Party ticket, the former in Tiong Bahru and the latter at Bukit Merah.

I believe as a human being, it is my right and my duty under the constitution of the Republic of Singapore and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be able to speak free as a free man and to state what I have seen and heard. This benefits Singaporeans and the world at large. If I did not say what I saw, I would in fact be hiding the truth.

This is what I did. It was never my intention to malign or cause distress to anyone and if the words that I had used had this effect, I withdraw them and apologize. But as far as the contents of my blog post; as to the events that occurred during the 3 days in court, it is an accurate observation which I have stated under my right as a free man.

Even though I left for the United States in 1991, I have throughout my stay in the US been closely monitoring the political situation in Singapore and writing about it in my blog the Singapore Dissident, even though as an American citizen, I could have, like countless other overseas Singaporeans completely ignored Singapore.

As a blogger on human rights and the rights of human beings around the world, my efforts are directed to the plight of human beings who are denied their human rights and how I can expose the injustices they suffer. Not only Singaporeans but also every human being is my concern but as I am a Singaporean by birth, naturally I am more concerned with the plight of Singaporeans.

Today, not only the West but every country including ASEAN and Singapore is seen to move towards more human rights, as seen by human rights issues becoming more prominent in ASEAN and other Asian countries. This is evidenced by organs such as the Law Society of Singapore, and other organizations becoming more concerned with human rights affairs. The Law Society of Singapore has recently set up a human rights committee confirming the great interest in this area.

In the US where I come from, the judiciary just as any other government or official body is open to criticism and they accept it as necessary for the advancement and improvement of the administration of justice.

My blog was written as a message to the world about my views of matters of public interest. I have been accused of sending Emails to Judge Belinda Ang and others but this is not true. I did not at anytime send any Emails to Judge Belinda Ang or anyone else as far as this incident is concerned. The police had seized my notebook containing my Email password and my blog access.

In the Lee Kuan Yew vs. Dr. Chee Soon Juan et al, case, the assessment of damages against Dr. Chee was going to be heard between May 26 2008 to May 28 2008 in the High Court in Singapore, I made arrangements to come to Singapore to attend the hearing. I am a Singapore patriot at heart and whatever I have done and do as regards my activities relating the future of Singapore is because I care for Singapore and Singaporeans. I worry about the future of Singapore and Singaporeans and am always on the lookout to see where and how I can be of assistance for the welfare and interest of Singaporeans.In Singapore I attended the said hearing at the High Court as an observer in the gallery from May 26 2008 to May 28 2008 attending every hearing entirely.

During the High Court hearing, I found Judge Belinda Ang to be completely unfair and prejudicial to the interests of Dr. Chee, Chee Siok Chin and the SDP. Almost every question put by Dr. Chee, Chee Siok Chin and Ravi on behalf of the SDP were disallowed and each and every question put up by the lawyer for Lee Kuan Yew and his son were invariably allowed. Almost every objection raised by the lawyer for Lee Kuan Yew was sustained, keeping in mind that the lawyer for Lee Kuan Yew and son, objected to almost every question that Dr. Chee and company raised.

To state plainly, Dr. Chee and his company was denied the right to cross-examine the Plaintiffs in any meaningful way. In fact we could go even further and say that he and Siok Chin were denied the right to cross-examine Lee and Son almost entirely. In fact if Dr. Chee managed to put any questions to Lee and Son, it was over the refusal of Judge Belinda Ang to allow the questions, so much so that Judge Belinda Ang had to repeatedly prevent Dr. Chee and Siok Chin from conducting any meaningful cross examination.

My honest observation of the entire 3 days left me in no doubt at all that this Judge was clearly unfair towards Dr. Chee and Siok Chin and she did not appear to conduct herself as an impartial judge in court sitting in judgment between the parties.

Having seen this, there was a compelling need for me to tell the world what I saw, and not publicizing this would be denying the right of Singaporeans to know the truth of what happened in court during the 3 said days; and it was also necessary for me as a human being, to make it public and to the world what this court actually was, since they would not have had the luxury of being in court during the 3 days.
For some background to this case, read my two posts here and here.

These are two media reports on today's events,
US blogger called Singapore judges 'corrupt': indictment

SINGAPORE, June 12, 2008 (AFP) - A US-based blogger accused of calling Singapore judges "corrupt" could face up to a year in jail, according to charges filed Thursday.

It was the second charge filed this month against Gopalan Nair, a former Singaporean lawyer who is now a US citizen, for his alleged comments about the judiciary.

Nair, 58, was in court to hear the latest allegation against him. He is charged with insulting Supreme Court Justice Lai Siu Chiu in an email on March 17, 2006.

The email said Lai has "no shame" and that judges "are selling their souls and their conscience for money," according to a court document.

"Your Singapore judges, including Lai, are corrupt judges," the document cited his email as saying.

Nair allegedly sent the email on the day Lai sentenced opposition party leader Chee Soon Juan to a one-day jail term and fined him for contempt of court.

Earlier this month, Nair was charged with insulting another judge, Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean.

Court documents in that case allege he sent an email accusing Ang of "prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore's founding father) and his son (the current premier) and carrying out their orders."

Nair's lawyer said those comments essentially repeated ones that Nair made in a blog about a defamation case filed by Singapore's leaders against Chee and his party.

In the blog, Nair strongly criticised a legal hearing at which Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, testified.

Nair told reporters later Thursday at an open-air coffee shop: "Well, my stand is to dispute the charges."

He also said if he used words that Justice Ang or anyone else found offensive, then he apologises. "But I am not apologising for the contents", he added.

Nair said he travelled to Singapore specifically to witness the hearing involving Lee Kuan Yew and Chee.

"My blog was written as a message to the world about my views of matters of public interest," Nair said, adding that he can no longer access his blog.

On the day of his arrest, Nair wrote on his blog that he was in Singapore at a particular hotel, and gave his phone number.

"I am now within your jurisdiction... What are you going to do about it?" wrote Nair, a former Workers' Party candidate for parliament.

"I wouldn't say that I was taunting the authorities. I just wanted to make it clear that I was in Singapore. I was also very upset," Nair told reporters.

The latest charge against Nair carries a maximum fine of 5,000 dollars (3,600 US), or one year in prison, or both.

Singapore's leaders say the city-state's judiciary has been been held in high esteem by the World Bank and other international groups. Foreign investors have also praised the country's legal system.

U.S. lawyer faces more charges of Singapore judge insults

SINGAPORE, June 12 (Reuters) - A U.S lawyer already facing a charge of insulting a Singapore judge was indicted on Thursday in a Singapore court for disparaging another member of the bench in an email he sent two years ago. The second charge against Gopalan Nair, a former Singaporean now based in California, said he insulted Judge Lai Siu Chiu in an email sent to her secretary around March 2006 and accusing her of bias.

It is not clear what case the judge was presiding on.

The maximum sentence for the second indictment is a fine of S$5,000 and a jail term of one year.

"The reason why and her fellow judges punish and silence PAP critics is because judges are well paid and have comfortable lives," court documents quoted Nair's email as saying.

The PAP, or People's Action Party, is Singapore's ruling party headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It has dominated Singapore politics since independence.

"It is my right and it is my duty under the constitution of the Republic of Singapore and Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be able to speak free as a free man and to state what I have seen and heard. This benefits Singaporeans and the world at large," Nair, on bail, told reporters ahead of a hearing next Monday.

Nair was arrested after returning to Singapore last month to attend a three-day hearing presided over by Judge Belinda Ang to determine defamation damages to be paid by a Singapore opposition party and its leader to Prime Minister Lee and his father Lee Kuan Yew, who was Singapore's prime minister for decades.

Nair, a critic of Singapore's ruling party, stood for election in 1991 as a member of the opposition Workers' Party. He was later found guilty of contempt of court stemming from an election rally speech and ordered to pay S$21,000 in legal costs and fines.

The U.S. embassy said it was monitoring the case.

"We are consistently advocating for the freedom of expression, including the Internet," an embassy official said.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Chua Lee Hoong's a sorry excuse for a journalist

I've heard it said somewhere that in Singapore, there are no journalists, only propagandists.

And Chua Lee Hoong, the political editor of the pro-govt newspaper, Straits Times, takes the cake for being one. She was also an officer for 9 years in Singapore's Internal Security Department. The way she has been writing makes one wonder whether she ever left.

Her recent article on Chee Soon Juan shouldn't come as a surprise as she has been dishing out such pro-govt rubbish for years. Nonetheless, it still does make my blood boil that such rubbish sees the light of day by getting published. My fellow bloggers sgpolitics and sheepcity have written about this as well, here and here.

Propagandists like Chua Lee Hoong are severely afflicted with stockholm syndrome and allow themselves to continue being afflicted by it coz they're nothing without the system which they help to prop-up.

A note: I got the image from this post by toc

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Singapore Dissident released on bail

These are photos from AFP & AP of Gopalan Nair leaving the subordinate courts today. Click on each to go to source,




US blogger released on bail in Singapore

SINGAPORE (AFP) - A US-based blogger who allegedly accused a Singapore judge of "prostituting herself" was released on bail Thursday and had his passport confiscated.

A judge ordered Gopalan Nair, a former Singapore lawyer who is now a US citizen, to be released on SGD$5,000 bail (3,676 US) after more than four days in custody.

A prosecutor told court there was no need for him to be detained while further investigations were carried out.

Nair, 58, who declined comment to reporters, is due back in court for another hearing next Thursday.

He was arrested in the city-state on Saturday and charged Monday with insulting a public servant, his lawyer Chia Ti Lik earlier told AFP.

According to a court document, Nair is charged with insulting Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean last week by sending an email which said she "was throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders".

Chia said the comments essentially repeated those Nair made in a recent blog about a defamation case filed by Singapore's leaders against an opposition party and its members.

In the blog, Nair strongly criticised a three-day legal hearing last week at which Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, testified.

The US-based press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed concern about Nair's case.

"Singapore's detention of Gopalan Nair for public comments about such a highly politicised case is completely unwarranted," said CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Bob Dietz on the group's website.

"Freedom to criticise the judiciary is fundamental to a modern society. This case illustrates the Singapore government's ongoing commitment to silencing opposition voices both in print and online."

Lee Kuan Yew has dismissed the city-state's ranking near the bottom of a global press freedom index, saying Singaporeans are free to read whatever they want.

During his testimony last week, Lee Kuan Yew justified the country's strict political controls and pointed to Singapore's economic success as the "acid test" of his legacy.

On Saturday Nair had taunted authorities in a post on his blog, saying he was in Singapore at a particular hotel, and gave his phone number.

"I am now within your jurisdiction... What are you going to do about it?" wrote Nair, a former Workers' Party candidate for parliament.

He is charged with insulting a public servant, which on conviction carries a maximum fine of 5,000 dollars (3,660 US) or one year in prison.

Nair's lawyer told reporters outside court that he expects a fresh charge to be laid against his client, without elaborating.

Vigils today & tomorrow for Chees

Announcement: Vigil for CSJ and CSC

Dear Readers and Friends,

To express our solidarity with Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin, our ardent defenders of democracy, we will be holding a candle light vigil on Thursday at Changi where Ms Chee is serving her 10 days sentence, and then on Friday at Queenstown, where Dr Chee is serving his 12 days sentence.
Thursday, 5 June
When: 7.30pm - 11pm
Where: Changi Women's Prison

Friday, 6 June
When: 7.30pm - 11pm
Where: Queenstown Remand Prison
We invite you to come and light a candle for democracy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Laughable comments by Singapore's Law Minister

Dear Mr Shanmugam, it is not the duty of citizens to blindly defend the country's judiciary. When it comes to politically-loaded cases, I believe quite a sizeable number of Singaporeans hold the view the judiciary lacks independence and that a powerful few are more equal than others.
Law Minister Shanmugam condemns attacks on judiciary
By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 04 June 2008 1811 hrs

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Law Minister K Shanmugam said it is the duty of all citizens to condemn attacks made on the country's judiciary.

He was responding to questions at a community event on Wednesday on the recent behaviour of Singapore's opposition politicians, Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin, at the High Court.

This was during a hearing to assess damages for defamation to be awarded to Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

The Chee siblings were found guilty of contempt of court and surrendered themselves on Wednesday to begin their jail sentences.

Mr Shanmugam said: "If you take a country like Singapore, based on democratic principles, and you look at the institutions that underpin our society, then conceptually, rule of law is important. It means independence of the judiciary and equality of everyone before the law.

"In order to have that – not just as a slogan but in reality – you need an independent judiciary that really protects the citizens and in fact, anyone who goes before the courts. People must have confidence that the judiciary is independent.

"In order to make sure that we protect the integrity of the judiciary and people's confidence in the judiciary is not affected, you have to be very, very strict with anyone who attacks the judiciary in scurrilous ways or calls into question its independence." - CNA/so

Singapore dissidents go to jail for contempt of court

SINGAPORE, 4 Jun (AFP) - - Two Singaporean dissidents convicted of committing contempt of court during a legal clash with the country's leaders opted Wednesday to go to jail because they could not afford an appeal.

Chee Soon Juan, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and his sister and fellow activist Chee Siok Chin had been sentenced to jail terms of 12 days and 10 days respectively for contempt of court.

Chee Siok Chin told AFP Wednesday that they were unable to pay the 2,000 Singapore dollars (1,470 US) in court fees required to file their appeals.

"We didn't want to delay the matter anymore. We thought we should start serving the sentence," she said by telephone before they were to report to judicial authorities to start their jail terms.

The siblings were ruled to be in contempt Monday by Justice Belinda Ang, who heard a defamation case filed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former premier Lee Kuan Yew, who is still a powerful cabinet member.

Insults flew when the two leaders took the witness stand last week and were cross-examined by the Chees, who defied the judge's admonitions about the way they grilled the ministers.

The hearings were aimed at setting the damages to be awarded following a judgement in favour of the leaders. No date has been announced for the final ruling.

The Lees have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and out-of-court settlements from critics and foreign publications accused of harming their reputations.

Chee Soon Juan is one of a few Singaporeans who have publicly spoken against the hardline ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and has been to jail repeatedly for defying laws against protests and refusing to pay fines.

Press release: SDP stands united in facing challenges

SDP stands united in facing challenges

The jailing of Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin for contempt-of-court has not come as a surprise to the leadership of the Singapore Democratic Party. On the contrary the SDP is resolved and determined more than ever before in its struggle to uphold the rights of our citizens, in particular the workers, the unemployed, the small-and-medium-sized businessmen and the poor.

SDP remains undaunted in its uncompromising position of speaking up for the people who are denied their Constitutional rights to freedoms of speech, assembly and expression.

The ever increasing cost of living, the humongous salaries for PAP ministers, the rising health care costs, the secrecy shrouding our CPF money, the influx of foreign workers, the mushrooming of ERP gantries, the obstinacy of GIC and Temasek in refusing to be accountable and transparent will continue to feature prominently in our struggle against the authoritarian regime.

The tyranny of PAP can imprison our bodies and put us out of action, but no force on earth could imprison our spirits that are the mirror reflection of the sentiments of the general populace whose needs are trampled underfoot by a system that exists for the rich and powerful.

Our activities and programmes will continue while Dr Chee, secretary-general of SDP and Ms Chee, a central executive committee member of the party remain incarcerated.

For further details on news and other developments visit our website www.yoursdp.org that is becoming the alternative source of information, unlike the government controlled media whose credibility has sunk to the rock bottom.

Gandhi Ambalam
Chairman
Singapore Democratic Party

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Chees to go to prison tomorrow

Latest from SDP on Chee Soon Juan & Chee Siok Chin,
Dr Chee and Ms Chee to go to prison tomorrow

Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin have decided not to delay their prison sentences and begin their imprisonment starting tomorrow.

The two SDP leaders have been convicted of contempt of court by Judge Belinda Ang and sentenced to 12 and 10 days imprisonment respectively. Their convictions arose out of the cross-examination of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong in the assessment of damages hearing held at the Supreme Court last week.

Dr Chee and Ms Chee are unable to file their Notices of Appeal by the deadline because they cannot pay the $2,000 required to file their appeals. Judge Ang had given them until the close of business day of 4 Jun 08 to do so failing which they would go to jail the following day.

The defendants had, instead, written to the court and said that they would report tomorrow at 12 noon for their sentences.

Activists holding vigil tonight for Gopalan Nair at Police Cantonment Complex

I just got word that activists are holding a vigil for Gopalan Nair aka Singapore Dissident tonight, 7pm to midnight, at Police Cantonment Complex. Please join them if you can. Keep an eye on my twitter as well.

Updated 4 Jun at 9.30am: Report with photos here and here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Singapore Dissident to be held in custody for 7 days for further investigations

With the help of a friend who was at the scene, i was able to update my twitter (see sidebar or here) on what was happening with Gopalan Nair aka Singapore Dissident. The judge granted a request by the deputy public prosecutor to keep Nair in custody for 7 days for further investigations and possible additional charges. The case resumes on 9 June.

This is a Reuters report on Nair's case,
US lawyer charged in Singapore for insulting judge

SINGAPORE, June 2 - A U.S. lawyer was charged in a Singapore court on Monday for allegedly insulting a judge in an email and on his website, court documents showed.

Gopalan Nair, who runs a law firm in California and was previously a Singapore citizen, was arrested last Friday and charged on Monday for "threatening, abusing or insulting a public servant" in an email he circulated and posted on his blog official documents showed.

Nair was not sentenced and will be held in custody for 7 days pending further investigations, his lawyer Chia Ti Lik said.

Under this charge, Nair faces a maximum fine of S$5,000 or a jail term of one year if he is found guilty.

"He is feeling okay, but he is worried about his job situation in the U.S.," Chia told reporters.

Nair was in Singapore last week to attend a 3-day hearing presided over by Judge Belinda Ang.

The hearing was to determine defamation damages to be paid by the leader of an opposition party to the city-state's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

In an email sent to the media and Singapore's attorney-general, Nair accused the judge of being biased towards the plaintiffs during the hearing.

The court documents showed Nair's email said "judge Belinda Ang was throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings".

Nair had on Friday posted his telephone number and location in Singapore on his blog, daring Lee Kuan Yew and the police to come after him.

Nair, a critic of Singapore's ruling party, stood for elections in 1991 as a member of the opposition Workers' Party. He was later found guilty of contempt of court stemming from an election rally speech and made to pay S$21,000 in legal costs and fines.

Protests are rare in Singapore as the city-state has strict laws against public gatherings and leaders of the ruling People's Action Party have successfully sued opposition leaders for defamation.

Singapore's political landscape has been dominated by the PAP since its independence in 1965.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Jerry Norton)

Chees sentenced to 12 days & 10 days for contempt of court

I received the news earlier today and posted it on my twitter (see sidebar or here). I wasn't surprised. Just plain fed-up and disgusted with the courts for this blatant injustice. SDP's website will probably have more details soon. For now, here are two foreign news media reports about today,
S'pore opposition leader jailed for contempt of court

SINGAPORE, June 2 - A Singapore court sentenced an opposition leader to 12 days in jail on Monday for contempt of court during a case to determine the size of damages he has to pay for defaming the city state's leaders.

Chee Soon Juan, the leader of the Singapore Democratic Party , was found by the judge to have "scandalised the court" and "obstructed the administration of justice" during a three-day hearing to decide on damages to be awarded to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew.

Chee's sister Chee Siok Chin, a senior member of the SDP, was also sentenced to a 10-day jail term for the same offence. The 12-day jail term was the longest awarded for this charge, said M. Ravi, Chee's legal advisor.

The judge said Chee accused the court of being biased and having pre-judged the defamation hearing, as well as not obeying the judge's orders to stop particular lines of questioning.

The SDP, Chee and his sister were found to have defamed the Lees in a 2006 article.

The defamation hearing last week, in which the Chees cross-examined the Lees, saw Chee Soon Juan calling Lee Kuan Yew a "pitiable figure" and Lee saying that Chee was a "near psychopath".

"At no point was there a deliberate attempt to do anything that would scandalise the court," Chee said to the court during Monday's hearing for contempt of court.

"There were many political arguments made and in the heat of the battle, Mr. Lee said some things and I said some things. It was in this context that some things were said and done," he said.

Singapore has been dominated by one party -- the People's Action Party -- since its independence in 1965. The Singapore Democratic Party is one of the more vocal opposition parties in Singapore but it did not win a seat in parliament in the last election in 2006.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee and Vivek Prakash; editing by Neil Chatterjee and Bill Tarrant)

Singapore opposition leader sentenced to jail for contempt

SINGAPORE (AFP) - - An opposition party leader who said justice had been "raped" and "kicked" during a defamation case filed by Singapore's leaders was sentenced to 12 days in jail Monday for contempt.

Chee Soon Juan, 45, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), remains free pending his filing of an appeal by Wednesday.

Supreme Court Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean also sentenced Chee's sister, SDP member Chee Siok Chin, to 10 days in jail for contempt. She is also free pending appeal.

Chee, his sister and their party have already been found guilty of libelling Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The contempt proceedings stemmed from comments they made during a three-day hearing before Ang last week to determine libel damages.

She ruled that Chee's behaviour "amounted to acts that scandalised the court" and adversely affected the administration of justice.

Chee is among a very few in Singapore to have spoken out against the People's Action Party (PAP), which has ruled since 1959.

In 2006 he was jailed for a then-unprecedented eight days for contempt after questioning the integrity of the judicial system in a statement he read during his bankruptcy hearing earlier that year.

He was declared bankrupt after failing to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (366,300 US) in libel damages to Lee Kuan Yew and another former prime minister over remarks made in 2001.
This is another, more detailed AFP report,
Singapore opposition leader sentenced to jail for contempt

SINGAPORE (AFP) — A Singapore opposition leader who is among a rare few to publicly challenge the country's rulers was sentenced Monday to 12 days' jail for contempt, in the latest legal ruling against him.

A judge ruled Chee Soon Juan, 45, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), had been in contempt because he said justice had been "raped" and "kicked" during a defamation case filed by Singapore's leaders against him.

He remains free but Supreme Court Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean ruled that Chee will be taken to jail if he does not file an appeal by late Wednesday.

Ang also sentenced Chee's sister, SDP member Chee Siok Chin, to 10 days in jail for contempt. She, too, is free pending appeal.

Monday's hearing briefly brought Chee and the city-state's other outspoken opposition figure, J.B. Jeyaretnam, 82, together in a rare public joining of forces by the country's tiny opposition.

Jeyaretnam appeared in court as Chee's lawyer but later withdrew at Chee's request when Ang declined his application for more time to prepare his case. The lawyer said he had only received relevant transcripts the previous morning.

Jeyaretnam last month filed papers to register the new opposition Reform Party. He made political history in 1981 when he became the first opposition politician elected to parliament, which has been dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP) since 1959.

Ang rejected Jeyaretnam's argument that she withdraw from the contempt case. He said that since the contempt allegations arose from an earlier hearing before her, there could be a public perception of bias.

"I would urge your honour to consider very seriously whether you should hear this case," Jeyaretnam said.

"There is no option," the judge responded.

Chee, his sister, and their party have already been found guilty of libelling Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The contempt proceedings stemmed from comments they made during a three-day hearing before Ang last week to determine libel damages in that case.

Chee told the judge he did not intend to be in contempt and anything said came in "the heat of the battle" with his political opponents.

"Mr Lee had said a few things. I had countered them," Chee said.

In 2006 he was jailed for a then-unprecedented eight days for contempt after questioning the integrity of the judicial system in a statement he read during his bankruptcy hearing earlier that year.

He was declared bankrupt after failing to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (366,300 US) in libel damages to Lee Kuan Yew and another former prime minister over remarks made in 2001.

Last Friday a judge fined Chee for speaking in public without a permit ahead of a general election in 2006. He will be jailed for five weeks if he does not pay the 5,000-dollar fine, the judge ruled.

Chee has served previous jail terms for convictions on similar charges.

His latest sentence on Monday came as a California-based blogger appeared in a separate courtroom charged over comments he made about the defamation case.

Gopalan Nair, a former Singapore lawyer who is now a US citizen, was arrested Saturday and charged Monday morning with insulting a public servant, his lawyer Chia Ti Lik told AFP.

Chia said Nair allegedly wrote an email to Supreme Court Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean, the solicitor general, and attorney general essentially repeating comments he made in a recent blog about the defamation case.

In the blog, Nair strongly criticised last week's hearing involving Chee and the Lees.

A US embassy spokesman confirmed the arrest and said it is "monitoring the case closely."

The Lees have already won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from past lawsuits against members of the country's opposition and say that they need to protect their reputations from unfounded attacks.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"A singular facility at bending over backwards"

As expected, Singapore's print & broadcast media were in full swing to put the best possible positive spin on the Lees getting a much-deserved drubbing in court during the 3 day hearing.

What left me thoroughly disappointed, furious, frustrated and sad (all at the same time), apart from the use of defamation lawsuits to silence their opponents and the bias media coverage, was the conduct of the courts. It was appalling! Sadly though, this was not the first time. It has happened so many times and not only in cases involving the use of defamation lawsuits. And each time, it leaves a bitter taste. Francis Seow expresses it succinctly when he writes about the judiciary in Singapore,
in politically-freighted cases have repeatedly demonstrated a singular facility at bending over backwards to render decisions favourable to the Singapore government and its leaders. Their judicial contortions have acquired an international notoriety
This passage is in Seow's latest book called Beyond Suspicion? The Singapore Judiciary which is excerpted below by asia sentinel,
Francis Seow was once the highly-regarded solicitor general of Singapore in the government of Lee Kuan Yew and president of the Singapore Law Society. After leaving the government, Seow made the mistake of defending people the government was prosecuting.

In 1988, Seow was taken in for questioning by the Internal Security Department. After 17 straight hours of invasive interrogation, he collapsed and was rushed to a hospital by officials who feared he had had a heart attack. While he was incarcerated, his law office was raided by authorities who removed all of his records. After he was released from detention, he announced plans to run as an opposition candidate and won a non-constituency parliamentary seat. The government filed six counts of tax evasion against him and ultimately convicted him in absentia after he had fled the country. He was disqualified from sitting in Parliament as a result of his conviction.

To show how far the government pursues its opponents, Seow had earlier won a seat on the board of the Singapore Turf Club, the republic's horse-racing organization. The government abolished the turf club, wiped out the entire board, appointed a new one and took over the newly formed racing club. At the time of his arrest, Seow was involved in a relationship with a Singaporean businesswoman who was financing a business deal through Bank Nationale de Paris. The bank suddenly dropped her line of credit and forced her out of the business deal. Bank officials at the time said the government had nothing to do with aborting the transaction.

While he was in the United States, the government abolished all appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council -- Singapore's last court of appeal in London -- which made him wary of returning to Singapore. Seow obtained a fellowship from Yale University and has lived in the United States since 1988. This is the preface to his book.

Justice in Singapore is Janus-faced.

The Singapore courts—when adjudicating commercial cases between two contending parties where neither the authorities nor the political élite are involved or interested—may be relied upon to administer justice according to the law. In this regard, Singapore judges have an overall reputation for the integrity of their judgments. The enthusiastic reports of international organizations, such as the Geneva-based World Economic Forum or the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, have to be read subject to this important rider.

This book, however, is concerned with the other face of justice in Singapore: where these very same judges, sad to say, in politically-freighted cases have repeatedly demonstrated a singular facility at bending over backwards to render decisions favourable to the Singapore government and its leaders. Their judicial contortions have acquired an international notoriety that concerned human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, and latterly the Lawyers’ Human Rights Watch Canada, enough to send legal representatives to Singapore to observe the trial proceedings at first hand.

Their observations confirmed what many Singaporeans have known all along: that the political context of such cases invariably influences the judges in their decisions.

And yet, the Singapore judiciary was historically free and independent of the government of the day or of any other controlling legal authority, until the ruling People’s Action Party—with no viable political opposition to keep it balanced and in check—began to entrench itself in the body politic of the nation. In that time, Prime Minister Harry Lee Kuan Yew, now nominally senior minister but still the enduring éminence grise of the People’s Action Party (PAP) government, systematically gained control over the courts, which he exercises currently through his judicial point man and great friend, Yong Pung How, the chief justice.

In addition, Lee appoints only politically correct lawyers as judges whose loyalty he ensures with princely remunerations—well over and above the comparable market rates for judges worldwide.

Corruption oftentimes takes many forms and disguises: paying obscenely high salaries and bonuses to judges is one, for they inevitably assume the gratifying form of monthly retainers by the government for loyal services rendered or to be rendered. Given that he who pays the piper calls the tune, it is virtually impossible for judges to do justice by the citizens when the state or its leaders are involved as litigants, as this narrative will amply demonstrate.

Unlike previous defamation actions, the legal blitzkrieg herein—masterminded by Harry Lee Kuan Yew—was exceptional in the sheer number of PAP plaintiffs who retained in concert disparate law firms of high-priced lawyers and who, against valid objections and normal procedural laws, were allowed by the courts to maintain multiple lawsuits over the same matter against the defendants: lawyer and unsuccessful opposition electoral candidate Tang Liang Hong, his wife, Teo Siew Har, and, ultimately, his defence counsel, J. B. Jeyaretnam, who was also then the secretary general of the opposition Workers’ Party.

The insidious purpose of this unusual legal manoeuvre was intended to overwhelm the resources in personnel and finances of the defendants, and of Tang in particular, and to hamper their defence—a manoeuvre that was patently obvious to the judges but who, however, chose to turn a Nelsonian eye on these legal shenanigans.

Lee used to assert that the judiciary must be protected against “unjust attacks and slurs,” but, in truth, it is he who has not only disfigured the face of justice in Singapore but undermined its very foundation by politicizing it, as well as that of the legal profession. In the ensuing proceedings, counsel for Lee and the Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong—Drew & Napier and Allen & Gledhill respectively—not to mention the lawyers for the other PAP plaintiffs, disgraced themselves and sullied the profession of the law by meekly allowing themselves to be led by their noses by the puppet-meister.

In an attempt to win their case at all costs, they not only suppressed important evidence advantageous to Tang but concealed it from the presiding judge, Justice Chao Hick Tin. Nor did they take any steps to correct the judge’s misconception of the facts at the subsequent judgmental hearing, consequently ensuring that the damages awarded against Tang would be humongous: thus perpetrating a travesty of justice by their studied silence. A classic case of the legal maxim, suppressio veri suggestio falsi—suppression of the truth is suggestion of the false.

Given their seniority at the bar, they should have known better. Together with the staff of the Supreme Court registry, they manipulated the practice and procedure of the court and its docket to disadvantage the defendants at every turn in their obscene rush to judgment.

In a closed society where the government has a finger in almost every pie of business and commerce and controls every aspect of community life right down to sporting and even kindergarten activities, it makes sound commercial sense, if nothing else, to keep on its good side for its capacity to distribute lucrative contracts and work to the politically correct.

Insofar as the legal profession is concerned, the cornucopia of legal work dispensed by the government and its many linked companies was, and is, immense and lucrative. It is bread-and-butter work. It is understandably the aspiration of many law firms to be the chosen receptacle of such official favors. The defamation case or rather cases against Tang Liang Hong and his wife, Teo Siew Har—and the opposition Workers’ Party then leader, J. B. Jeyaretnam—bring into sharp focus the reluctance of Singapore lawyers to represent clients who are anathema to the puissant Lee and his government. Even so, this is Asian value at its rawest: one does not muddy the source of business or possible business by being a contrarian.

In the related Jeyaretnam case, a self-conscious judge, S. Rajendran—aware of the allegations that the prime minister and the senior minister and their political confrérie were using the courts to smother their political opponents with a blanket of lawsuits and bereft them financially in order to remove them from the political scene—was constrained to stress, inter alia: Underlying questions relating to the independence of the judiciary and the likelihood of a fair hearing inevitably surface when political leaders resort to the courts to pursue their claims.

There are no private directives to a judge from the executive or from anyone else on how a case is to be conducted, how the judgment is to be phrased, how the law is to be applied or what matters of policy are to be considered. The judge is expected to decide each case impartially in accordance with the evidence and in accordance with the law. Indeed, the Singapore Constitution requires every judge, on appointment, to take an oath that he will discharge his judicial duties without fear or favour, affection or ill-will to the best of his ability and in accordance with law.

I would emphasize that what we have in Singapore is an open system of justice. All evidence and all arguments in all writ actions are presented in public. And the records of the courts are public documents available for public perusal. Hearings being in public, and only in public, any ruling and any judgment made by the court, must stand the test of public scrutiny. Any appeal to the court of appeal is also heard in public and must again stand the test of public scrutiny.

This is one of the great strengths of our system of law. Any judgment that does not stand the test of public scrutiny will tend to destroy the integrity of the judiciary—and will be a disservice to the people of Singapore.

The very fact that the judge felt obliged to descend into the obvious speaks volumes for the sorry state of a judiciary in bondage. It requires no special lexicon to interpret this well-known Shakespearean dictum: methinks the judge doth protest too much. With the best will in the world, is it really conceivable for any judge in Singapore to decide a case against Harry Lee Kuan Yew and his PAP cohorts?

Neither a wink nor a nod is necessary for a judge who values his position to decide in a certain way. Even if Lee’s judicial point man has not intimated the correct decision to his judges, Lee has ensured their loyalty with magnanimous monthly salaries and allowances topping them up with generous yearly bonuses. To paraphrase Vladimir I. Denisov, a Gorbachev-era Soviet parliamentarian: given their princely pay, perks and privileges of office, no Singaporean judge would be mad enough to rule against Lee and his political confrères.

The PAP mouthpiece, the Straits Times, in its news coverage of the visit of Lord Woolf, the Master of the Rolls in England to Singapore, bragged that the visiting English judge was reportedly “especially struck how courts here have built a new legal culture which is highly efficient and technology-oriented. For example, he noted that while court cases here could be heard within six months, quite a few lawsuits in his country were still taking more than two years to be resolved.

"It is very impressive how Singapore courts are so efficient in managing cases and using it.’” Lord Woolf was speaking, be it noted, on the mechanics of the courts system and not on the quality of justice! One should be able to separate the wood from the trees. The technology may be impressive but it is the administration of justice between people, and justice between individuals and state, and vice versa, that really matters ultimately.

The draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), Cap 143, which allows the arbitrary and indefinite detention of Lee’s political opponents, dissidents and media critics, among others, is noticeably being relegated to the back burner, as the courts are increasingly being used to suppress critical comments and viewpoints through threats of defamation actions and the payment of huge damages and ultimately bankruptcy.

Singapore has earned the dubious distinction of being a country whose leaders routinely use the libel laws as a weapon of repression. However, the courts cannot be freely resorted to, unless they are first made reliable tools of government: in other words, the judges chosen must be reliable. Tang’s legal predicament with its scads of lawsuits, and by extension to that of his defence counsel and political colleague, J. B. Jeyaretnam, proves their political reliability, beyond peradventure.

The news media, in the rankling words of Harry Lee Kuan Yew, must be subordinated to “the overriding needs of Singapore, and to the primacy of purpose of [his] government,” a feat he achieved with relative ease but at great cost to his international reputation and stature. The news media was subsequently reshaped into his subservient mouthpiece and that of his pap government. The legal and judicial system is not too far behind.

Once before, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, dreamt of the same system of justice for the Third Reich where “justice must not become the mistress of the state, but must be the servant of state policy.” But where Adolf Hitler and his enthusiastic minister of propaganda failed, Harry Lee Kuan Yew is succeeding. It is not an idle, but a terrifying prospect.

Singapore Dissident arrested by Singapore police

The Singapore police have arrested Gopalan Nair aka Singapore Dissident,
Police arrest former Singaporean for insulting public servant
By Bhagman Singh, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 01 June 2008 0021 hrs

SINGAPORE: Police have arrested a former Singaporean for the offence of "threatening, abusing or insulting a public servant".

In response to media queries, police confirmed that Gopalan Pallichadath Nair, who is now a US citizen, was arrested at Broadway Hotel along Serangoon Road on Saturday.

A warrant of arrest without bail was granted by the courts for the arrest.

Nair is alleged to have sent an email to the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General which contained statements amounting to the offence of insulting a public servant.

The statements were directed against Justice Belinda Ang, a Supreme Court judge. The statements were also posted on Nair's blog.

Nair is presently in police custody. He will be charged in court on Monday. - CNA/de