Singapore opposition veteran regains legal licence-paper

21 Sep 07

Joshua B JeyaretnamVeteran Singapore politician JB Jeyaretnam, the first opposition member to break the ruling party’s parliamentary dominance in 1981, has won back his licence to practice law, a local newspaper said.

The Straits Times said on Thursday that Jeyaretnam, discharged from bankruptcy in May after paying off damages in defamation suits brought by government leaders, was granted a legal licence “free of any conditions”.

Jeyaretnam’s initial application for a legal licence last month was opposed by the Attorney-General, who had argued that a licence should only be granted if the opposition leader paid S$2,556.40 in costs to the government, the newspaper said.

The decision to grant Jeyaretnam, 81, a licence comes ahead of Singapore’s hosting of the International Bar Association’s annual conference on Oct 14-19.

Jeyaretnam could not be reached for comment.

“I’m interested in going to court and arguing – doing counsel work,” he told the paper.

An acerbic critic of the Singapore government, Jeyaretnam has been sued several times for defamation by leaders of the ruling People’s Action Party, which has ruled the Southeast Asian city-state since its independence in 1965.

He was declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay S$265,000 in defamation damages to government leaders including former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Almost all Singapore’s leading opposition figures have faced legal action at some time by government leaders, who say the lawsuits are necessary to safeguard their reputation.

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