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
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.