Parties spent the entire day in Judge Belinda Ang’s chambers today exchanging legal arguments. The Judge had refused to hold the session in open court.
The defendants comprising of the SDP, Ms Chee Siok Chin and Dr Chee Soon Juan had wanted two preliminary applications heard in open court.
These were: One, the application by the defence for the Judge to recuse herself and, two, the plaintiffs’ application to strike out the defendants’ Affidavit Evidence-in-Chief (AEIC). The AEICs spell out the defence’s case.
Justice must manifestly seen to be done
Dr Chee said that the Singaporean public and international community had misgivings about the Judiciary especially when it came to defamation cases involving the PAP and opposition. Conducting the sessions in chambers would not help to improve the situation.
“If the legal arguments are sound and the judgment is sound, there is no reason why the proceedings should not be held in open court,” Dr Chee argued.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Davinder Singh contended that the arguments are “private” and that there was “nothing exceptional” about the case.
Ms Chee Siok Chin countered that the plaintiffs’ attempt to strike out the defendants’ AEICs would “chop off the legs” of the defence case, as these affidavits formed the heart of the SDP’s defence.
In such an important matter, Mr Singh’s arguments should be heard by everyone in open court.
Dr Chee added that for the sake of transparency and to allow justice to be manifestly seen to be done, it is imperative that the applications be heard in open court.
No, said the Judge.
No confidence in the Judge
The defendants then proceeded to present arguments on why Judge Ang should disqualify herself from hearing the case.
The judge had agreed with Mr Singh when he repeatedly used words such as “ploy”, “ruse”, “manipulation” to portray Mr Ravi’s absence in court during the summary judgement hearing in 2006.
This was proved to be completely false when Mr Ravi’s physician provided a written report tesifying that the lawyer was indeed ill and unable to attend court.
And yet Judge Ang allowed Mr Singh to freely cast aspersions against Mr Ravi when she should have noted that it was not proper for Mr Singh to make such prejudical remarks when Mr Ravi was not present to defend himself.
Mr Singh had also noted that the initial medical certificate that Mr Ravi produced had the date written in blue ink but signed in black ink, questioning the genuineness of the MC.
“To make insinuations that Mr Ravi had tampered with evidence or forged a medical certificate is a very serious matter,” Dr Chee charged.
Without a shred of evidence to back himself up, Mr Singh had recklessly piled on one wild allegation after another to the extent that he was implying there was a conspiracy by the defendants and their counsel to defraud the Judge.
Again, why did Judge Ang allow such serious allegations to be made by Mr Singh when his counterpart was not present to defend himself?
The Judge allowed her mind to be poisoned, willingly or not, by Mr Singh’s horrendous accusations which were all subsequently shown to be lies.
Ms Chee Siok Chin weighed in: “At that summary judgement hearing, it seemed to me as though we were up against not one but two parties.”
Based on these, as well as other, observations, would Ms Ang recuse herself? No, said the Judge.
Observing the trial
Since she would not hold the hearings in open court, would the Judge allow a lawyer from Malaysia, Mr Saha Deva, into the chambers to witness the proceedings as an independent observer?
No, said the Judge.
Mr Saha is one of the lawyers for the five Hindraf leaders who have been detained without trial under the ISA by the Malaysian government.
Why so late?
The next issue that was argued was the striking out application made by the plaintiffs. Mr Ravi said that he was served a two-volume, 800-page bundle of authorities on Friday night last week and then expected to come in to court on Monday morning to make counter arguments.
The SDP’s lawyer said this was unfair and asked for some time to prepare his arguments.
Mr Singh countered that he had informed the defendants as early as Nov 07 that the plaintiffs would be objecting to the defence AEICs.
Dr Chee then asked why, if the plaintiffs had known that they were going to object to the AEICs as early as November last year, did they wait until just a few weeks before the hearing today to make the formal application to strike out the AEICs.
Mr Singh did not reply to the question but instead said that the contents of his application were “uncontroversial.”
“To you maybe,” Dr Chee pointed out. “But to non-lawyers such Ms Chee and I, we don’t even know where to begin. But you haven’t answered my question: Why did you wait until April this year to file your application when you knew since November last year that you were objecting to our AEICs?”
Again, Mr Singh avoided the question and Dr Chee had to ask a third time.
The Judge then interjected and said that she would allow the defendants time to prepare their counter-arguments.
The case was adjourned to 22 May 08 to hear the Lees’ application to strike out the defendants’ AEICs. This will be heard in chambers.
The hearing for damages assessment during which the Lees will be cross-examined will take place on 26-28 May 08. This will be held in open court.
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