Too expensive to appeal in Singapore

August 26, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

PM Goh Chok Tong and SM Lee Kuan Yew have written to Dr Chee Soon Juan through their lawyers to say that they will not object to Dr Chee’s appeal to engage QC to argue the appeal against the summary judgment decision that was made in favour of Messrs Lee and Goh on Monday, 19 August 2002.

Find out, through the exchange of letters between Drew & Napier and Dr Chee (below), what is really going on.

Drew & Napiers letter to Dr Chee:

Dear Sir,

1. The Senior Assistant Registrar, Mr Toh Han Li, has awarded judgment to our clients, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew. He has found that your defence of duress and intimidation is not bona fide and is hopelessly flawed and manifestly unreasonable.

2. You informed the Court that you had legal advice, including the assistance of QC, William Henic Nicholas, an expert in the law of defamation, in preparing your defence.

3. According to this mornings Straits Times, you have said that you intend to appeal Mr Toh’s decision. Our clients welcome your decision to appeal and suggest that you apply for a QC to represent you at the appeal.

4. Early this year, when you applied for a QC, our clients did not oppose your application. But you were unable to persuade the Court to let you have a QC. You could have appealed to the Court of Appeal but did not do so.

5. Months ago, you were advised by the High Court to apply for an extension of time to appeal for your QC, but you chose not to do so.

6. Our clients ask that you reconsider your decision. They want you to know that they will not oppose both your application to extend time to appeal for a QC and your request for QC to represent you.

7. Our clients will agree to any reasonable adjournment of your appeal to set aside the judgment so that you can get a QC to argue them.

Yours faithfully,

Drew & Napier

Dr Chee’s reply:

Dear Sir,

I refer to your letter of 20 August 2002 where you say that your clients, Messrs Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, would not oppose my applications to extend the time to appeal for QC or my request for QC.

You deliberately fail to mention that in order for me to appeal the decision for QC, I have to pay a security deposit of $20,000, an amount I can ill-afford. May I also point out that such a requirement was put in place your clients.

If your clients are genuinely interested in seeing justice being done and not just make wayang out of it this matter, they can easily do away with such a requirement, and once and for all make justice in Singapore attainable for everyone, not just the rich and powerful.

This excludes the $2,000 fee that I need to pay for every QC application that I make. For people like your clients and corporations like SingTel and IDA, this is peanuts. For most Singaporeans and me, however, this is heard-earned money which we cannot afford.

Like everything in Singapore, Singaporeans have to pay and pay even to seek justice.

As for the decisions not to allow QC for me, may I remind you that the Courts first turned down my request for Mr Stuart Littlemore, QC, who was judged not suitable to practice in Singapore. When I made a second application for Messrs Henric Nicholas and Martin Lee, QCs, the Courts then told me that my case was not complex enough. If this case is so simple and straightforward, then why did your clients seek the services of Senior Counsel such as yourself? Obviously they want the best. What about me?

When you argue your clients case before the Judge against someone like me who has no legal training on a matter as complex as defamation, can you say, hand on heart, that it is a fair fight?

No matter how you try to cut it the truth is that, first, I have been denied lawyers, and, second, now with summary judgment entered in favour of your clients, I don’t even have a trial.

Sincerely,

Chee Soon Juan