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To: The Wall Street Journal
I refer to the letter by Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s press secretary (Two Views of Freedom of Speech and Law in Singapore, June 30, 2008) in which she quoted me as calling, in open court, “Singapore leaders ‘murderers, robbers, child molesters’ and ‘rapists’.”
The outrageousness of Madam Yeong’s lie borders on the comedic. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, or his counsel, is in possession of court transcripts and audio-recordings that would show whether I had uttered those words. He must now produce the part of the transcript that quotes me saying those words or he risks destroying his own credibility.
Mr Lee and his prime minister son, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, sued the Singapore Democratic Party and its executive members for defamation over an article we published in our party newsletter criticising the non-transparent and non-accountable manner in which Singapore was run.
The Lees obtained summary judgment from the courts despite our defence in which we cited disputes of fact and law. In other words, there were triable issues. The summary judgment meant that we were found guilty without given the chance to defend ourselves, call for witnesses and cross-examine the plaintiffs.
Mdm Yeong also says that “Singapore upholds free speech.” Yes, and Mr Mugabe has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Your readers might care to know that I have been repeatedly convicted and imprisoned for speaking in public and I face several more such charges. Seventeen of my associates have been charged for conducting a protest against the raising of prices by the Singapore government.
It is also noteworthy that Freedom House stated: “Singapore citizens cannot change their government democratically.”
We are not advocating a Western- or Asian-style of democracy. We want a democracy based on universal principles as enshrined in the Singapore Constitution and United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
By the way, Mr Lee sued us in his personal capacity. Why is he using Mdm Yeong, a civil servant, to write the letter on his behalf?
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party
Two Views of Freedom of Speech and Law in Singapore
June 30, 2008
Your editorial (“Democracy in Singapore,” June 26), relying on a “partial transcript,” has misunderstood the issue in the libel case involving Dr. Chee Soon Juan and his sister.
The case had nothing to do with political freedom. It was for defamation arising from the Chees’ false claims that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Kuan Yew are criminals and corrupt. Despite being advised by a Queen’s Counsel, they failed to produce any credible defense or evidence to back up their claims.
Having lost, Dr. Chee in open court then called the Singapore leaders “murderers, robbers, child molesters” and “rapists.” The Chees also rebuked the judge, ignored her orders and shouted her down. In Ms. Chee’s defense, her lawyer could only claim that she was “almost paranoid.” This is why the judge sentenced the Chees to imprisonment for scandalizing the court.
Many opposition politicians routinely criticize government leaders, but are not sued because they have not uttered slanderous falsehoods. Contrary to your editorial, Singapore upholds free speech and the right to disagree, subject to the law.
Singapore’s laws must be decided by Singaporeans, not by foreigners like Gopalan Nair, who is a U.S. citizen, or by the foreign media. Foreign media are entitled to report and comment on what is happening in Singapore, but they circulate here subject to Singapore law. They have no right to defame, to give a skewed account of court proceedings, or to engage in Singapore politics, for example, by campaigning for their version of Western style “democracy” for Singapore.
Yeong Yoon Ying
Press Secretary to Minister Mentor
Thank you for bringing the pitiful and shameful court proceedings in Singapore to Journal readers’ attention. We citizens of the U.S. often take our freedom of speech, press and assembly for granted; and at times we assume that such rights are free.
Especially in the electronic age and with tools via the Internet and blogs, the power of true freedom in self expression is to be valued and needs to be protected by all citizens of this world. Thanks for sticking your neck out on our behalf.
Andrew T. Cheng