Davinder Singh: Lee’s IBA-letter reference only an “inaccuracy”

Singapore Democrats

Below is the reply written by Mr Davinder Singh, counsel for Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lee Hsien Loong, in reply to Dr Chee Soon Juan’s request for the assessment of damages hearing to be reconvened. Dr Chee’s further reply to Mr Singh follows.

Note: The local press only reported on Mr Singh’s response but completely blacked out Dr Chee’s first letter.

Davinder Singh’s response to Dr Chee’s first letter

9 July 2008

The Registrar
Supreme Court
1 Supreme Court Lane
Singapore 178879

Dear Sir

RE: SUIT NOS. 261 & 262 OF 2006

1. We refer to the 3rd Defendant’s letter dated 8 July 2008 requesting that the hearing be reconvened.

2. Apart from the fact that there is no proper application, the request is frivolous and misleading.

3. The request is frivolous because the views of the International Bar Association (IBA) about our Judiciary have absolutely no bearing on the question of damages.

4. The only reason Mr Lee Kuan Yew referred to the IBA’s endorsement of our Judiciary at the IBA conference in October 2007 was to demolish the 3rd Defendant’s baseless suggestion in open court that there is no rule of law in Singapore.

5. Further, the 3rd Defendant has in his letter sought to convey the false impression that, contrary to Mr Lee’s evidence, the IBA did not praise the Singapore judiciary.

6. In fact, as was the point of Mr Lee’s evidence, the IBA stated that our judiciary is “outstanding”. In his speech, at the opening of the IBA Conference in Singapore on 14 October 2007, IBA president Fernandp Pombo said that Singapore was picked as the venue for the conference because of Singapore’s “outstanding legal profession, an outstanding judiciary and an outstanding academic world in relation to the law”. This was reported in the Straits Times of 15 October 2007, a copy of which is enclosed.

7. The only inaccuracy in Mr Lee’s testimony was his statement that the IBA had conveyed this view in a letter to the Law Society of Singapore, whereas it was actually in a public speech by the IBA president. If anything, Mr Lee’s testimony did not do enough justice to the fact that an international organisation like the IBA was prepared to and did publicly endorse the excellence of our judiciary.

8. Finally, the 3rd Defendant’s desperate hunger for publicity to make a false point will only serve to waste the Court’s time.

Yours faithfully
Drew & Napier LLC
(Davinder Singh S. C.)

Chee Soon Juan’s reply to the above letter

10 July 2008

Supreme Court

Dear Sir,

Re: Suit Nos 261 and 262 of 2006

Mr Singh says that his client’s reference to the missing IBA letter is only an “inaccuracy.”

Getting the date of the letter wrong is an inaccuracy. Mixing up the writer of the letter can be considered an inaccuracy. Testifying that there is a letter where none exists is not an inaccuracy.

But not only did Mr Lee cite a non-existent letter, he also took pains to point out who the sender and the recipient were. He even gave an account of its contents. When I was skeptical and questioned Mr Lee’s recollection of what the letter said, the Minister Mentor emphatically re-stated it:

LKY: I think they left Singapore with a very different impression from what you have projected because we have a letter from the President of the International Bar Association to the organisers, namely the Law Society of Singapore, how successful the meeting was and how impressed they were by the standards they found to obtain in the judiciary –

CSJ : Standards of the MRT or standards of the rule of law?

LKY : Standards of the rule of law and the judges, the meritocracy which is practised throughout the judiciary.

As you can see, this wasn’t a passing mention by Mr Lee. Mr Singh strains credulity by trying to pass Mr Lee’s testimony off as just an “inaccuracy”.

Contrary to what Mr Singh now claims, Mr Lee’s reference to the IBA endorsement letter was meant to prop up his claim that there was rule of law in Singapore. Rule of law is respected and practiced only by men of integrity and honour, virtues that Mr Lee claims he possesses. How is this not relevant to the case?

Mr Singh also states that Mr Lee was inaccurate only because he had said that it was a letter whereas it was an opening speech that the president of the IBA gave.

When trying to get out of a hole, Mr Singh should stop digging. From the above court transcript Mr Lee clearly referred not just to a letter but one that was written after the IBA conference was over giving the impression that having seen and heard everything, the IBA participants were still impressed with Singapore’s judicicial system.

It must be emphasized that Mr Lee made the statement in court under oath. Surely he cannot be allowed to now use counsel to correct his evidence simply through a letter. If such is the case then future trials should be conducted by mail.

Under certain circumstances, Mr Lee could be considered to have misled the court thus committing perjury. Did he? The answer to such a question must be incontrovertibly determined and not left to speculation. I am certain that Mr Lee would want as much.

It is important that the hearing be reconvened and Mr Lee required to take the stand again to clarify his statement – under oath – and be subjected to further cross-examination on the matter.

Mr Singh may also want to retract paragraphs 6, 7, and 8 of his letter given that he probably wrote them before he read the IBA’s latest report on Singapore.

I don’t have to tell you that this controversy is of great public interest and as such should not be brushed aside. I urge you to allow my application so that justice is manifestly seen to be done.


Chee Soon Juan

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