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.
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