C. Alleged reference to the Plaintiffs
1. The Article does not refer to the Plaintiffs. It refers to the entire Government and its system of non-transparent and non-accountable governance built up over the years.
2. But by alleging that the Article specifically refers to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong ("LHL”), the Plaintiffs are effectively asserting that the Prime Minister makes all the decisions and his ministerial colleagues have little or no say in the Government’s decision-making process.
3. If this is the case, then the Article could not have referred to LHL because much of the Article refers to the system that was built up over a few decades. LHL was not in charge of the Government for a majority of that period and therefore, by the Plaintiffs’ own logic, could not have been responsible for making the system the way that it is. The Plaintiffs cannot have it both ways.
4. Our solicitors have highlighted the position that Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong had taken that the entire Government had been defamed. Our solicitors have also queried whether the Government as a body could sue for defamation and whether individuals within the Government have locus standi to do so.
D. The meanings of the words in the Article imputed by the Plaintiffs
5. Plaintiff LHL argues in his Affidavit that the English Words and/or the Chinese Words, by themselves or read together with the Photograph, in their natural and ordinary meaning, meant and were understood to mean that I am dishonest and unfit for office because:
a. I, as Prime Minister, have perpetuated a corrupt political system for the benefit of the political elite;
b. I and my Government had access to the information which has since been unearthed about NKF but corruptly concealed and covered up the facts to avoid criticism;
c. the defamatory allegations made against me, which were the subject of the Defamation Actions were true and those actions were brought not to vindicate my reputation but to suppress allegations which were true and which I knew to be true;
d. as the allegations in the Defamation Action were true, I am guilty of corruption, nepotism, criminal conduct, a cover up and of advancing the interest of the Lee family at the expenses of the needs of Singapore; and
e. there is corruption in institutions such as the Housing Development Board, the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and the Central Provident Fund, and I condone or permit it.
6. Plaintiff Lee Kuan Yew ("LKY”) argues in his Affidavit that the English Words and/or the Chinese Words, by themselves or read together with the Photograph, in their natural and ordinary meaning, meant and were understood to mean that I am dishonest and unfit for office because:
a. I devised a corrupt political system for the benefit of the political elite;
b. the defamatory allegations made against me, which were the subject of the Defamation Action against among others, Mr J B Jeyaretnam, Mr Tang Liang Hong and CSJ, were true and those actions were brought not to vindicate the my reputation but to suppress allegations which were true and which I knew to be true;
c. as the defamatory allegations were true, I am guilty of corruption, nepotism, criminal conduct, dishonesty, and had advanced the interests of my family at the expenses of the needs of Singapore; had misled Parliament and had covered my tracks to avoid criticism; and
d. I have managed the GIC in a corrupt manner.
(The alleged defamatory article "Govt’s Role in the NKF Scandal” is reproduced below for readers to judge for themselves if it makes allegations anywhere close to what the Lees have imputed.
Govt’s Role in the NKF Scandal
In all the hand-wringing and breast-beating by the Government over the NKF issue, Singaporeans must not lose sight of one thing: Such a scandal is inevitable given the kind of secretive and non-accountable system bred by the PAP.
The Government now tries to exonerate itself by playing the innocent and gullible party duped by greedy NKF officials.
It forgets that in April 2004, Minister Khaw Boon Wan had, in reaction to public unease about the NKF, sought to appease Singapore-ans by telling them that the Ministry of Finance "would have reacted many years ago" if there was any breach of rules by the NKF.
Mr Khaw categorically endorsed the NKF's dealings and called on the charity to "continue" to remain "transparent" in its operations.
At the same time the Second Minister for Finance, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, said that the NKF had "quite a sound record" because it spends "more than 80 percent of its funds on its beneficiaries" whom we now know are not kidney patients.
Clearly, alarm bells were raised. People could see that some-thing was wrong and they had expressed their unhappiness over the years.
And yet, the Government which had the power to do something, chose not to.
Not only did it choose not to rein in NKF but it also continued to praise the charity and encouraged people to donate to it.
With assurances from not one but two Ministers, the charity went on its merry way.
The question that is on everyone's lips is: If Mr T T Durai had not taken out the legal suit, would the Government have bothered to look into the NKF records? NKF would in all likelihood have continued to operate with the Government's blessings.
The NKF fiasco is not about bad practices. It is not even about negligence on the Government's part.
It is about greed and power.
It is about the idea that the political elite must be paid top dollar, no matter how obscene those amounts are and regardless of who suffers as a result of it.
It is about a system engineered over the decades by the PAP that ensures that it and only it has access to public information and by fiat decides what is allowed and what is not.
It is about what a "democratic society, based on justice and equality" should not be.
Singaporeans must note that the NKF is not an aberration of the PAP system. It is, instead, a product of it.
To ensure that there is transparency and that Singaporeans are kept informed of matters directly affecting them and their future, the Government must:
One, disclose the breakdown of the cost of building HDB flats and the profits HDB makes.
Two, reveal where and how GIC uses our savings.
Three, disclose the salaries of the top executives of Temasek Holdings and other GLCs.
Four, declare the assets and incomes of its Ministers.
Five, reform the election system to ensure that it is free and fair.
It goes without saying that someone must be held accountable over the whole sordid NKF affair. However, real accountability starts much higher up.
Be that as it may, Dr Chee and Ms Chee have taken what the Lees have imputed and provided a substantive response to each and every one of them. These will be made available in a separate posting tomorrow. Watch out for it!)