Chee Never Stops, Never Surrenders, Never Surprises

Dr Chee fashions himself more as a civil disobedience activist rather than a politician. The more he feels he is cut off from mainstream politics because of the media and government’s actions steered by the PAP, the more Dr Chee subscribes to civil disobedience antics. Everything he does now has to be loud and colourful so as to attract attention and controversy.

Dr Chee Soon Juan has probably reached a peak in his political career. This is the closest he can get to a debate with the MM Lee Kuan Yew as he cross-examined the patriarch himself. The court proceedings are not about defamation per se, as both sides have hurled defamatory comments about each other even in court. The court proceedings are about the effectiveness of using such choke tactics on Dr Chee Soon Juan who just never stops in his showmanship brinkmanship politics. The PAP are happy to oblige him rather than ignore him, an unwise move on their part as they are giving him the very attention he craves for.

But what can Dr Chee think of next? The pattern of him being defamed, sued, fined and even jailed, in no particularly order, is becoming more and more regular. It is no wonder Dr Chee came up with his Tak Boleh Tahan campaigns to reflect his personal angst. I think that Dr Chee can never win an election. However, what his unpopular antics do achieve are to showcase how insecure and mean the current PAP government are towards the opposition.

International Herald Tribune
Critic confronts Lee in Singapore court
By Seth Mydans
Thursday, May 29, 2008
SINGAPORE: “Mr. Lee, we get to meet at last.”

The founding father of modern Singapore, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, sat in the witness box this week.

Facing him was one of his most dogged critics, Chee Soon Juan, an opposition politician, taking the opportunity of a courtroom confrontation to challenge Lee directly.

Chee and his sister, Chee Siok Chin, had already been convicted of libel for articles implying corruption in Singapore’s government that were published in a newsletter in 2006.

The three days of hearings, which ended Wednesday, were held to determine how much in damages they now owe to Lee and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The judge said she would consider the arguments and issue her ruling later.

It was the first time that Lee, 84, had faced a cross examination by a political opponent in court, said Chee’s lawyer, M. Ravi.

Chee made the most of his moment, choosing to conduct the cross examinations himself.

“I couldn’t make this up, even if I wanted to, how much justice has been gagged, bound up, kicked, raped, quartered, and then, at the very last moment, the dagger plunged right through,” he said in the open court hearings, according to local media reports.

It was an extraordinary confrontation between the country’s most dominant figure and a powerless but insistent critic.

The battleground was a familiar one in Singapore, the libel suit. Lee has made it a point to pursue his critics in the courts, determined to put them in their place and, he says, to clear his name.

“They know me by now,” Lee said of the people of Singapore, “that if anybody impugns the integrity of the government, of which I was the prime minister, I must sue.”

He added: “There are various parts of this government which do not comply with Western practices, including the law of libel. But it is a system that has worked.”

Lee and other Singapore leaders have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from lawsuits against their critics and have been accused by human rights groups of using the lawsuits to silence opposition.

Chee is already bankrupt after failing to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars in libel damages to Lee and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for remarks he made in the 2001 elections.

None of the critics contest Lee’s success in building Singapore into one of the region’s most prosperous and stable countries since it became independent in 1965. Even opponents like Chee credit him with bringing the good life to a tiny, resource-poor city-state.

But there seemed to be more than policy involved in the two men’s courtroom confrontation.

Lee expressed what seemed an extraordinary sense of vulnerability, even to the words of a lone critic, while his antagonist described a compulsion – even a mission – to challenge power at any cost.

“If I did not take him seriously, and he keeps on repeating this, and others repeat this, at the end of the day, I and the party that I used to lead will be totally destroyed,” Lee told the court.

For Chee the issue seemed to run just as deep. “I may remain a bankrupt for the rest of my life as a result of my obstinacy,” he said. “It is not a position one aspires to, but it is a cause I find worthy of battle and a call, though sometimes I may resist, I will ultimately trust and obey.”

He added: “I cannot deny that I get angry and even bitter with Mr. Lee Kuan Yew over the things that he has said and done to me and others. But through the years, I have seen the bigger picture and developed a sense of calm and equanimity that comes with knowing my role in society.”

Clearly, after years of political clashes, the two men do not care for each other, and they did not mince words in court.

“He’s a liar, a cheat, and altogether an unscrupulous man,” Lee said of Chee. “I could also add that I’ve had several of my own doctors who are familiar with such conduct,” he continued, “tell me that he is near-psychopath.”

As for what Chee thinks of Lee: “I don’t hate you,” he told the man facing him on the stand. “I feel sorry for you. I think you cut a pitiable figure.”

In the end, the point of contention was the price in political and civic freedoms that Singapore has had to pay for its prosperity.

“The final test is what Singapore was when I became prime minister in 1959 and what Singapore is now,” Lee said in court. “We had less than $100 million in the kitty.” Today, “global financial services assess Singapore to have sovereign wealth funds of over $300 billion.”

Chee responded with a list of the grievances of the opposition, which he described as the silencing of political opponents, the closing down of independent media and “and all your shenanigans, including making sure that I’m not allowed to speak during an election rally.”

Is all that justified, he asked, because “now we have $300 billion in our kitty?”

Chee’s legal troubles continue. Because of his vigorous behavior during the hearings this week, he has been charged with contempt of court. He is scheduled for a hearing on that charge on Friday and could face a term in jail.


Mas Selamat’s Escape: Closure and Managing Public Expectations

With these actions, plus the COI report released last month, the government expects closure.

I presume that the hunt for Mas Selamat is still on as that is the only means of atonement. The government has been eager to show self-flagellation and that it is not a cover-up by sacking the Superintendent of the centre, who is equivalent to the Commanding Officer in an army camp from what I hear. The person who this Superintendent reported to was also removed of his duties. Compared to the commando drowning incident where the Chief Commando Officer was removed but not sacked, the Home Affairs Ministry went higher up the food chain in searching for heads to roll. This is rightly so as the severity of the escape is not light at all if the fugitive comes back to bomb Singapore in a vengeance streak.

I felt that the punitive measures were fair and there was no scapegoats, but it should have gone higher up the hierarchy. Those at the top should not be sacked as that is too vindictive, but another round of humbling apology to befit a real closure to this entire debacle.

Singapore sacks superintendent of detention centre over escape

SINGAPORE (AFP) — Singapore has sacked the superintendent of a detention centre where an alleged extremist leader escaped through a toilet window, the interior minister said Monday, while his deputy has been demoted.

Two elite Nepalese Gurkha guards who had escorted Mas Selamat Kastari to the toilet were also demoted, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng told parliament.

Kastari, the alleged Singapore leader of the extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), made his escape from Whitley Road Detention Centre on February 27 after asking for a break during a visit by family members.

His flight punctured Singapore’s reputation for solid security and sparked the biggest manhunt in the country’s history.

Kastari remains at large and is believed to have fled to neighbouring Indonesia, where other JI leaders are suspected to be based.

The superintendent and his deputy were the two most senior officers in charge of “ground management” at the centre, which is run by the Internal Security Department, Wong said.

The pair were “held accountable for the lack of supervision over the subordinate officers implicated, which resulted in lapses” that enabled Kastari to escape, the minister said.

A special duty operative, her supervisor, two other officers and the chief warder were also disciplined, Wong said.

An inquiry into the escape cited windows without grilles, surveillance cameras that were not working and a slow reaction from guards as likely contributing to Kastari’s flight.

Kastari was accused of plotting to hijack a plane in order to crash it into Singapore’s Changi Airport in 2001 but was never charged. He was being held in the city-state under a law that allows for detention without trial.

What now for FEER?

FEER is being sued by MM Lee and PM Lee over a 2006 pro-Chee Soon Juan article. Those familiar with the Lees’ pattern of lawsuit to counter defamation against them would know that this tactic is specifically for opposition members like JBJ and Dr Chee Soon Juan, but not Workers’ Party or Singapore Democratic Alliance members so far. This lawsuit tactic, with the adamant right of reply, is also used on foreign publications if they report something that is allegedly defamatory. The PAP reasons that defamation of PAP leaders especially by the foreign media cannot go unchallenged as the allegations which undermined the legitimacy of the government is read by both an international and Singapore audience. Double the insult, so to speak.

There is something about history repeating when the PAP brings people to court in Singapore. I have this feeling that the Lees would win the case and FEER would have to pay damages, which would then be donated to a charity, reinforcing the Lees’ moral high ground explanation that what they are doing is based on principle and not profit.

Is Singapore’s judiciary going to accede to the Lees’ call for summary judgment? The Lees’ position implies that they are going to win and there is no point going to trial. If the court goes into summary judgment and presumably the PAP wins, they again confirm the allegation that the judiciary in PAP political cases is almost always biased in favour of the PAP. It is more interesting if the court plays it out, Singapore then has to wait and see how the case unfolds first before we can understand how the judiciary is thinking. Whenever such cases are brought to trial, I would like to think that the PAP would one day lose.

Maybe we should be asking, what not for Singapore’s judiciary?

Lawyers for PM, MM apply for summary judgment
Friday • May 16, 2008
Ansley Ng

LAWYERS for the Far Eastern Economic Review (Feer) will present their case in court today, to fight off an application for a summary judgment made by lawyers for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

In a closed-door hearing in the chambers of Justice Woo Bih Li yesterday, the lawyers for the Lees argued their case for a summary judgment — a court decision that is awarded in favour of the plaintiff without going through a hearing — against the publication.

They are suing the Hong Kong-based publication and its editor Hugo Restall for publishing an allegedly defamatory article in July 2006.

Last year, Feer lost in its bid to have the case heard outside of Singapore and for the right to engage a Queen’s Counsel (QC) to defend it.

They claimed that many Senior Counsels — the Singapore equivalent of QCs — here lack experience in libel suits and declined or did not respond when asked to act for Feer.

Lawyers for the Lees are claiming a summary judgment, arguing that Feer’s case has no merit.

The Patriarch Speaks on Taiwan

The Patriarch’s message to the new Taiwanese government on official and unofficial Singapore-Taiwan ties with the Taiwanese media as the wild card,

“When Lee Hsien Loong was Deputy Prime Minister, he visited Taiwan. The Taiwanese media made big play of his visit. Beijing objected and suspended all government to government negotiations with us. Our Free Trade Agreement with Beijing has still not being signed after four years. New Zealand that started this negotiations after Singapore, have concluded the Free Trade Agreement. Beijing uses its economic and political clout to counter acts it sees as against its interests.”

“If cross-straits relations become friendly and cooperative again, and if there is no media publicity on my visits as in 1970s, ‘80s and early ‘90s when I frequently visited Taiwan, I will be able to visit Taiwan. But when such visits are used by Taiwan’s media to provoke Beijing, they set back Taiwan-Singapore interactions. It has made Singapore repeatedly re-affirm its one-China policy. If you return to the earlier practice of no publicity, our interaction will be quiet but more productive.”

Another Minister Goes Down

But not ours. Taiwan, a rambunctious democracy where fighting in parliament is ridiculously seen as a reflection of passion in politics, is going to have a new Foreign Minister very soon. $30 million intended for buying over PNG in the China-Taiwan chequebook diplomacy has vanished. Embezzlement in a foreign policy that the Foreign Minister has direct control of and therefore he could not escape the ritual sword in the tummy, politically speaking. So much for the DPP and bring back the KMT. Also, I wonder what that bank account in Singapore is all about.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister James Huang bowing as announcing his resignation in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, May 6, 2008.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008

TAIPEI: The foreign minister of Taiwan and two other top officials resigned Tuesday over a botched attempt to win diplomatic recognition from Papua New Guinea, a scandal that has stirred public outrage against the outgoing government just two weeks before it is to step down.

Taipei was embarrassed by the public disclosure that about $30 million, which had been intended for Papua New Guinea in exchange for its switching diplomatic allegiance from Beijing, had disappeared.

Foreign Minister James Huang tendered his resignation over the case Tuesday. Vice Premier Chiou I-jen also resigned from the cabinet, a day after he left the Democratic Progressive Party and said that he would retire from politics. Vice Defense Minister Ko Cheng-heng resigned later Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

In 2006, the government wired the $30 million to an account in Singapore that was controlled by two middlemen who had been enlisted by Taipei for the secret diplomatic gambit. After negotiations with Papua New Guinea foundered, Taiwan requested the money back, but to no avail.

Now, one of the middlemen – Ching Chi-ju – is on the run. The government says it does not know what became of Ching or the money.

The diplomatic scandal is the latest in a series of blows to the government of President Chen Shui-bian, which has been deeply unpopular for its perceived mismanagement of the economy and a string of corruption cases. Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party was badly beaten in elections in January and March.

“People feel humiliated by the government’s incompetence,” said George Tsai, a political analyst at Chinese Culture University in Taipei. “It’s a joke to the outside world – how could the government be cheated like this? It’s proof to many that they’re a bunch of Boy Scouts and amateurs.”

Chiou, the vice premier, had been one of the key players in the overture to Papua New Guinea. He insisted Tuesday that he had not pocketed any money in the affair, amid reports in The United Evening News and other news media outlets that some of the $30 million may have been earmarked as kickbacks for Taiwan officials.

Chiou is widely viewed as one of the key architects of the rise to power in 2000 of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. His fall from grace is therefore a sharp blow for a party whose morale had already been low.

Taiwan and China have long engaged in so-called checkbook diplomacy to lure diplomatic allies to their sides. Taiwan and China both refuse to establish official ties with countries that maintain ties with the other. All the major powers recognize Beijing, but the two sides have long competed for the allegiances of smaller countries, using promises of aid.

In recent years, the growing clout of China has given it an edge in this contest. Now, only 23 countries – mostly small, marginal ones – recognize Taiwan, compared with 30 when the pro-independence party took power in 2000.