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Rule 'by' Law in Singapore

There’s nothing positive about politically motivated and ruinous defamation suits

Kelvin Teo, in his article, wrote “..it can be ironically argued that defamation suits may end up being a positive selective pressure in improving the quality of political discourse.”

Ng E-Jay has written a good piece in response to that article.

I’m not a lawyer or academic or politician or university student. But i’ve been an activist for quite a bit of time and i can say that there’s nothing positive about the PAP’s (ab)use of politically-motivated defamation suits against its opponents, or to be more specific, those opponents whom they strongly feel are a threat to them and their hold on power.

Teo refers to Dr Chee Soon Juan, the late J B Jeyaretnam and Tang Liang Hong and “positive selective pressure” with regards to these defamation suits.

Let’s just imagine if any one of these individuals simply said the chicken crossed the road. It would have been twisted, mangled, taken out of context and what not, and whoever said it will be accused of calling the PAP and/or its leaders chicken – meaning cowards – and thus defamatory and get sued.

Meaning, defamation suits are used to painfully ridiculous levels to silence those opponents whom the PAP feels are a real threat to them and their hold on power  and it doesn’t really matter what these opponents said/wrote as long as they are rid off.

Not only are such lawsuits very damaging for the individuals targeted. They are also damaging to the country itself because when it comes to politics (writing and/or talking about it) it still creates self-censorship & fear among the majority of the populace who take away one message from these politically motivated defamation lawsuits: why get involved in such things, open mouth and get sued!

I’ll end here with these links to two reports by IBAHRI and LRWC.

International Bar Association Human Rights Institute July ’08 Report [PDF]

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada Oct ’07 Report [PDF]

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Discussion

11 thoughts on “There’s nothing positive about politically motivated and ruinous defamation suits

  1. Let’s just imagine if any one of these individuals simply said the chicken crossed the road. It would have been twisted, mangled, taken out of context and what not, and whoever said it will be accused of calling the PAP and/or its leaders chicken – meaning cowards – and thus defamatory and get sued.

    Fine, OK. Let’s take Dr Chee’s defamation suits as an example. In 2001, he accused then PM Goh of misleading Parliament over loans to Indonesia, and he was sued. In 2006, the SDP accused the govt of being run like NKF. They were given the opportunity to apologise, but Dr Chee refused, and he was sued again for defamation.

    So are his claims “twisted, mangled, taken out of context”?

    are also damaging to the country itself because when it comes to politics (writing and/or talking about it) it still creates self-censorship & fear

    Really? Many blogs are openly critical of the govt. I think the govt’s message is clear – those who accuse them baselessly deserve it. It’s not clear-cut whether the fear of defamation suits actually acts as a barrier for
    those who wish to speak up against the govt.

    Posted by eternalhap | April 9, 2009, 12:41
  2. So defamation lawsuits are the ONLY way as far as counter-arguments go and there’s no other way for the PAP government to counter-argue other than to bring it to the Courts, sue them for millions of dollars, win and ruin them…???

    Many blogs might be openly critical of the govt but i’m talking about the majority of the general populace who are not bloggers, online forummers, etc, etc. In any case, these blogs are still quite a small part of the Singapore blogosphere as a whole.

    Posted by jacob69 | April 9, 2009, 14:23
  3. So defamation lawsuits are the ONLY way as far as counter-arguments go and there’s no other way for the PAP government to counter-argue other than to bring it to the Courts, sue them for millions of dollars, win and ruin them…???

    No, I never said or implied that. If you’ve read my comment carefully, I’m implying defamation suits against Dr Chee seem to be valid. Your article is based on the context that defamation suits are political weapons of the PAP. This is valid as well, but you miss out the fact that some remarks are truly defamatory.

    Posted by eternalhap | April 9, 2009, 14:46
  4. If “some remarks are truly defamatory”, then it shouldn’t be a problem for the PAP govt to make its counter-arguments via the govt-controlled local news media and let the populace decide. Unfortunately, they don’t and they also don’t give the other side a chance since the news media is so pro-govt. Instead the PAP prefer to “firers-take-aim-and-shoot” defamation lawsuits.

    Furthermore, i don’t think organisations like IBA and LRWC would have even bothered to produce lengthy reports if not for the PAP’s uncanny ability to win such cases.

    Posted by jacob69 | April 9, 2009, 14:56
  5. …if you assume that everything opposition politicians write will get mangled (which is what u’ve done with your chicken crossing the road example), then sure, it’s a big problem.

    but it’s really a ridiculous example that doesnt contribute to proving your end point.

    Posted by ... | April 10, 2009, 11:17
  6. I believe what these defamation suits have done is to create an environment in which most opposition politicians think twice (or even agonise over it a couple of times) whether they should say/write anything publicly.

    Because in such an environment, they can get shot with the arrow of a defamation suit for doing so, as and when the PAP wants to and it serves its purpose. In fact, the PAP doesn’t necessarily have to do anything after its string of defamation wins because these suits & victories hang like a sword over most opposition parties.

    Furthermore, i did mention in my post “or to be more specific, those opponents whom they strongly feel are a threat to them and their hold on power.” These latter individuals are the ones who’ll have a BIG bullseye painted on them in such an environment.

    In fact nowadays such suits, or the threat of them, are so common in General Elections that people begin to wonder even before nomination day who the PAP will target next!

    Posted by jacob69 | April 10, 2009, 14:34
  7. Good post, Jacob.

    Posted by X | April 11, 2009, 13:48
  8. Thank you ‘X’. 🙂

    Posted by jacob69 | April 11, 2009, 21:02

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 9 Apr 2009 - April 9, 2009

  2. Pingback: The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 15 - April 11, 2009

  3. Pingback: Passing of Public Order Bill: ‘We, the citizens of Singapore’ are not free from blame « Jacob’s Weblog - April 15, 2009

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