Dr Chee Soon Juan took out a defamation suit against Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 2001 because the MM had called the SDP secretary-general a host of names including fraud, liar, cheat, flawed character and political gangster.
In February this year, Mr Lee served on Dr Chee a list of interrogatories. In return, Dr Chee served on Mr Lee his own set of interrogatories. Dr Chee wrote to the MM stating that he would only answer Mr Lees questions if Mr Lee would do the same for Dr Chees questions. One of the reasons was that Dr Chees answers depended on Mr Lees. Besides, Mr Lee had done many of the things that he has accused the SDP leader of.
For example while the MM said that Dr Chee had misused his NUS research funds for personal benefit, Mr Lee had directed his Press Secretary Yeong Yoon Ying to issue statements for him regarding his lawsuit against Dr Chee. Ms Yeong is a civil servant whose salary is paid for by taxpayers and should not have to do Mr Lee Kuan Yews personal work, which is exactly what the defamation lawsuit is.
Remember that misuse of funds was the reason given for Dr Chees sacking from his NUS position in 1993, an accusation that Dr Chee has stoutly denied up till today. Now Mr Lee uses the incident to call Dr Chee a fraud and a cheat. In the meantime he blithely ignores the fact that he has ordered, and continues to order, a state official to do his personal work. When Dr Chee asked Mr Lee in the interrogatories to confirm whether this was in fact the case, the MM refused to answer.
In fact, the PAP is also guilty of exactly what it accuses Dr Chee of. It has been reported on a number of occasions that potential PAP candidates are invited for tea sessions with their leaders at the Istana. It must be remembered that the Istana is the official workplace of the president and prime minister, and quite distinct and separate from the PAP. If the PAP wants to interview its candidates for the elections, it should conduct them at its own headquarters. Clearly this is abuse and misuse of state funds. But because the PAP doesnt believe in the rule of law, it is not held accountable for its actions while it continues to justify sacking Dr Chee from the NUS for misuse of funds.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew has also accused Dr Chee of being manipulated by foreigners because Dr Chee attends numerous overseas trips. Dr Chee has never hidden the fact that he gets invited to give speeches and even to receive awards at international conferences. Politicians and civil society leaders often get invited to such events. Mr Lee himself as well as his PAP MPs have made many such trips. But Mr Lee insists on asking Dr Chee in the interrogatories who paid for the trips so as to prove that because the organizers (including universities, think-tanks, and NGOs from all over the world) paid for Dr Chees trips, he was in the pocket of these institutions. But when Dr Chee asked Mr Lee who paid for the trips that the MM made (when not traveling as the PM, SM, or MM), Mr Lee did not respond.
Mr Lee also accused Dr Chee of being a flawed character because Dr Chee had run down Singapore. And how had the SDP leader run down the country? Well, Mr Lee says, Dr Chee had, for instance, objected to the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA). Few Singaporeans know that in the USSFTA, two Indonesian islands, one of them presumably Batam, are included under a scheme called Integrated Sourcing Initiative (ISI) where electronics components manufactured on these islands will count as Singaporean content under the USSFTA even though the Indonesian island is not subject to the labor and environmental provisions of the agreement. It doesnt take a genius to figure out that the ISI was set-up to exploit cheap Indonesian labour. When manufacturers locate their assembly plants in Batam and employ Indonesians, how does this benefit Singaporean workers? Under such arrangements, the USSFTA may increase the profit-margins of GLCs and give PAP ministers yet more reason to justify their already engorged salaries, but it does nothing to serve the working class of Singapore. Added to the fact that nothing in the Agreement enhances the protection of workers rights (think Captain Ryan Goh), the SDP was right to oppose the way it was crafted. Still, Mr Lee insists that Dr Chees opposition to certain government policies is the same as opposition to the country itself.
Also Dr Chee has on numerous occasions, both domestically and internationally, criticized the Government for its lack of transparency and accountability. Examples are the refusal of the GIC to disclose its handling of the reserves as well as the actual costs that go into building an HDB flat. So Dr Chee included the following questions in his interrogatories to Mr Lee:
As Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), will the Plaintiff direct that the GICs accounts (including all its investments and performance of its investments) be open for public scrutiny?
Will the Singapore government direct that the accounts and books of the Housing Development Board (HDB) be open for public study so that a breakdown of the actual costs that go into the building of an HDB flat can be compared to the price at which they are sold?
Mr Lee refused to answer.
Because Dr Chee did not answer Mr Lees questions, the courts decided to dismiss the case. The decision by the courts is regrettable but under the circumstances where the Defendant, in this case Mr Lee, has refused to answer Dr Chees interrogatories but then insists that the Plaintiff answers all of his, Dr Chee is unable to effectively prosecute his case against the MM. It is worth repeating that Dr Chee has made it clear in his letter to Mr Lee (see below) that he has no problem answering Mr Lees interrogatories but would do it only if Mr Lee agreed to answer his set of interrogatories.
21 February 2005
Mr Lee Kuan Yew
As you know the case regarding my suit against you has come to the stage of interrogatories. You have asked a total of 96 questions in your interrogatories to me, and you have asked the courts to dismiss my suit should I fail to answer them by 28 February 2005.
I too have taken an application for a hearing to require you to answer my interrogatories. I note that you have instructed your counsel to oppose my application. In other words, you do not want to answer my interrogatories to you. You are aware that I have stated that while I have no problems in answering your questions, I will do it under one and only one condition: That you do the same for my interrogatories to you. If you fail to do so, I give you notice that I will not respond to your interrogatories.
This will obviously result in my action against you being dismissed. I am willing to sacrifice this for one simple reason: As much as you would like to hold me responsible for my actions hence your interrogatories to me, you must be held accountable for yours.
As you can see, the questions are straightforward with most of them requiring simple yes or no answers. They are crucial to my proving the case against you. I hope that you will not hide behind the legal system and avoid answering my questions. If you do, it will be yet another indication that you continue to avoid facing me in court. In the interest of getting to the bottom of the entire matter, I am prepared to answer all of your interrogatories. I only hope that you will not be diffident in answering mine.
As my application to serve the interrogatories on you will be heard on 25 February 2005, please let me have your response by 23 February 2005. Thank you.
Chee Soon Juan