Court rejects FEER’s bid to have lawsuit dropped

22 Feb 07

The Far Eastern Economic Review has failed to convince a Singapore court to throw out defamation lawsuits filed against it by two of the Southeast Asian city-state’s leaders, the magazine’s lawyer said Thursday.

Review Publishing Company Ltd. and Hugo Restall, the Review’s editor, were sued for defamation by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, Lee Kuan Yew, in August last year over an article about a prominent Singapore opposition activist.

Peter Low, the two defendants’ lawyer in Singapore, said they had sought to question the authority of the city-state to hear the lawsuits, but were rejected in a judgment issued Wednesday. Low declined to comment further, saying he was awaiting instructions from his clients.

Because the Review is a Hong-Kong-based monthly which does not have any employees in Singapore, the defendants challenged the right of the Singapore court to enforce damages outside of the city-state, as well as the way the Lees served their legal papers on the two parties overseas.

Judicial Commissioner Sundaresh Menon turned down the magazine’s appeal, writing in his judgment that it was clear that the Lees were limiting their claim for damages to Singapore and that the legal papers had been served on the magazine in an appropriate manner.

In the Review article that the Lees say defamed them, Restall wrote about the opposition Singapore Democratic Party’s secretary general Chee Soon Juan’s campaign for more democratic freedoms in the tightly controlled city-state and how the ruling party has sued a number of opposition politicians.

Singapore’s government later banned the Review, which has more than 1,000 subscribers in Singapore, because it did not appoint a legal representative and pay a 200,000 Singapore dollar (US$126,150) security bond — new requirements that are unrelated to the lawsuit, but that the Review has called unjustified.

Singapore’s leaders have drawn criticism over several successful defamation suits in past years against journalists and political opponents. The leaders say they have sued to defend their personal and professional reputations