Posted by temasektimes on March 14, 2012
The Singapore government has issued a stern rebuke to Reform Party Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s letter to the Wall Street Journal accusing him of misrepresenting ‘basic facts.’
In the latter published last Wednesday, Mr Jeyaretnam claimed that defamation lawsuits over an August 1995 article in the Workers’ Party publication – against his father, the late Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, caused him to lose his seat in Parliament and “not being able to stand again (in an election) before he died”.
In a letter to the WSJ published on Monday, Mr Peer M. Akbur, press secretary to Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim, wrote:
“The author of the article, the editor of The Hammer and the Executive Council of the Workers’ Party (of which J B Jeyaretnam was a member) acknowledged that the article was ‘completely false and baseless’ and accepted responsibility for it. They published an unqualified apology in The Straits Times on Nov 23, 1995 and agreed to pay costs and damages.”
He added that the lawsuit did not cause Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam to lose his seat in Parliament as he was not even a MP at that time and neither did it stop him from contesting in the 1997 General Election which led to him being selection as a Non-Constituency MP.
Mr Peer also used the Workers Party’s performance in the last general election to illustrate his point that Singapore is a functioning democracy:
“In a healthy democracy, vigorous political debate does not involve defamatory attacks. In Singapore’s 2011 General Election, the same Workers’ Party that J.B. Jeyaretnam once led achieved its best performance since independence, with several MPs elected into Parliament. It faced no lawsuits. Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam and his party also contested the General Election, albeit less successfully.”
Read Mr Jeyaretnam’s letter to WSJ here
Posted in News | Tagged: Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Wall Street Journal | 1 Comment »
Posted by temasektimes on March 14, 2012
Thank you for highlighting the chilling effect the use of defamation laws has on freedom of expression in Singapore (“Singapore Blog Flap Heats Up,” World News: Asia, Mar. 2-4).
As The Wall Street Journal is aware, my father, Reform Party founder Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, was sued numerous times for defamation, culminating in being bankrupted over a few words in an article published in the Workers’ Party newspaper that he did not write and in a language (Tamil) whose written form he did not understand. This resulted in him losing his seat in Parliament and not being able to stand again before he died, which was of course the key objective. Since then it has been clear that defamation suits, which in Singapore are tried by a judge not a jury and in political cases have typically resulted in much higher damages than in non-political cases, are too useful a tool for the ruling party to give up.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been quick to use the defamation tool himself in the past, having sued a number of international publications, including your newspaper. He has also sued numerous individuals, including my father. In the 2011 election Mr. Lee said that “in the heat of an election campaign…you will find unwise speeches being made, which is why sometimes, after elections, sometimes, after elections,you’ve got court cases to deal with.”something to the effect that the courts were there to deal with defamatory statements made in the heat of the election.
On the other hand, people are learning how to sidestep the restrictions. For example, in the Reform Party’s statement on the budget, I avoided the minefield of the PM’s wife’s appointment as head of Temasek but still questioned why senior management kept their jobs after the losses sustained in 2008.
Also encouraging is the way people came forward to donate money to pay off Democratic Party Secretary General Chee Soon Juan’s fine and keep him out of jail during the election. This gives some small hope that the tactics the People’s Action Party leaders employed in the past will no longer work.
The Reform Party
Source: Wall Street Journal
Posted in Letters | Tagged: Challenging Singapore's defamation laws, Kenneth Jeyaretnam | 1 Comment »