Today says CSJ trying to avoid Lee

June 16, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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Correction in Today (16 June 2006)

In the article “PM, MM may apply for summary judgment” (June 15), we incorrectly stated that in an earlier defamation suit brought by Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Chee Soon Juan was ordered to pay $500,000 damages “without an open trial”.

There was a trial in open court before the High Court awarded damages of $500,000. Mr Goh and Mr Lee gave evidence in open Court and made themselves available for cross-examination by Dr Chee or his lawyer.

Dr Chee chose not to take them on. He failed to turn up in Court or appoint a lawyer to cross-examine them.

The article also stated that if the plaintiffs’ applications for summary judgement in the ongoing case are allowed, the Court will “reach a verdict without open trial”.

Summary judgement hearings may be in open court. When Mr Goh and Mr Lee sued Dr Chee for libel in 2001, their successful summary judgement hearing was before the judge in open Court.

Also, Dr Chee and Ms Chee Siok Chin had not informed the High Court at a pre-trial conference (on Wednesday) that they wished to call over 14 witnesses for the defamation suit brought against them. This statement was made outside the courtroom.

Dr Chee Soon Juan’s reply to Today

Your correction on 16 June 2006 to the article “PM, MM may apply for summary judgment” is manifestly untrue.

You said that “There was a trial in open court before the High Court awarded damages of $500,000.” That trial was just to assess the amount of damages I had to pay Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong after the case was awarded to the plaintiffs.

There was no trial to determine whether I had actually defamed Lee and Goh. This decision was made behind closed-doors by a junior assistant registrar. I could not call witnesses or put Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong in the witness box to cross-examine them.

The matter only went to open court when I appealed the registrar’s decision. Even then, I could not call witnesses and cross-examine Messrs Lee and Goh during the appeal.

You write in your correction that “Dr Chee chose not to take them on. He failed to turn up in Court or appoint a lawyer to cross-examine them.” The hearing was conducted while I was away from Singapore. That was the only reason why I was not present.

When I returned to Singapore I applied for the hearing to be reconvened but the courts turned it down. If I did not want to confront Messrs Lee and Goh, why did I ask for the hearing to be reconvened?

A demonstration of how cowardly Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong were is the fact that they had had applied for the date of the hearing to assess damages to be brought forward despite knowing that I was not in Singapore. That they subsequently withdrew their application is cold comfort to me because their intention of wanting to conduct the hearing in my absence had been made abundantly clear.

Regarding the point about calling witnesses in the present case, it would be pointless to discuss the matter in court as Messrs Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong had already indicated they were going to apply for summary judgment. The issue of witnesses will be raised at the next pre-trial conference if the plaintiffs do not go for summary judgment.

There is a fresh case before the courts and important issues to be tried in the present lawsuit that the Lees have taken against myself and Ms Chee Siok Chin. If Mr Lee Kuan Yew again goes for summary judgment and – again – avoids getting into the witness box and be cross-examined, the truth will be made plain for all to see.

Chee Soon Juan

Secretary-General

Singapore Democratic Party