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Internal Security (Act/Dept), Singapore's Human Rights

Ex-ISA detainee’s lawsuit against Singapore Govt thrown out by High Court

See my posts here and here about Michael Fernandez’s lawsuit against the Government. Read also these reports here and here[PDF].

Ex-ISA detainee’s suits thrown out

He started legal action against Govt for alleged torture, unlawful detention

By Tessa Wong, Feb 19, 2011

A LAWSUIT brought against the Government by a former detainee for alleged torture was thrown out of court, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) told The Straits Times yesterday.

Also struck out by the High Court was a related suit claiming unlawful detention.

The lawsuits were brought by Mr Michael Fernandez, 77, a leftist unionist who was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) from 1964 to 1973.

He initiated legal action last December, naming the Attorney-General, the legal representative of the Government, as the defendant.

This was followed a month later by a second suit claiming that a portion of his detention was unlawful.

The AGC applied to strike out the cases, arguing that they disclosed no reasonable cause, and were frivolous and vexatious and an abuse of court process.

Mr Fernandez was a trade unionist who, among other things, led a month-long strike involving 11,000 workers in October 1963. He was detained under the ISA the following year.

The Government accused him of being a member of the Communist United Front. He has denied the accusation, saying he was only a workers’ rights activist.

In his writ, he alleged that during his detention, he was force-fed, manhandled, deprived of sleep, and made to live in conditions that were ‘not humanely habitable’, among other things. He claimed unspecified damages.

He filed a similar lawsuit against the Malaysian government, which is still pending. At the time of his arrest in September 1964, Singapore was part of Malaysia. Singapore left Malaysia in August 1965.

This is a report about another case involving ex-ISA detainee Dr Lim Hock Siew. See also my posts here and here.

Lim Hock Siew sues four parties over book

Offending words tarnished my reputation, says ex-political detainee

By Cai Haoxiang, Straits Times, Feb 17, 2011

FORMER political detainee Lim Hock Siew, 80, is suing four parties for defamation over a news item in a book, Chronicle Of Singapore: Fifty Years Of Headline News (1959-2009).

He is claiming damages and a court injunction to stop the defendants repeating the words in the particular item. The book recounts Singapore’s history through summary reports from newspapers and news magazines.

The four being sued are book publisher Editions Didier Millet (EDM), the National Library Board (NLB), book editor-in- chief Peter Lim, and printer Tien Wah Press.

Dr Lim was a political activist first with the People’s Action Party and then with the opposition Barisan Sosialis.

In 1963, he was arrested and detained without trial for nearly 20 years before his release in 1982.

Dr Lim is taking issue with a news item on page 77, headlined ‘Lim Chin Siong hurt in prison fight’.

The item, culled from newspapers, said Dr Lim and his supporters were in a fight at Changi Prison with fellow detainee Barisan Sosialis secretary-general Lim Chin Siong and his supporters.

Details of the fight and a reported injury to Mr Lim were first published in 1965 in The Straits Times and in the Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh.

But in 1966, the newspapers – in court hearings on libel suits against them by Dr Lim and Mr Lim – settled the cases with the payment of a sum of money.

In statements read out in court at the time, their lawyers confirmed there was no truth in the allegations about Dr Lim and Mr Lim that appeared in the articles.

The article was based on information from an outside source which was believed at the time to be reliable and genuine, but subsequently found to be false, the lawyers added.

The lawyer for The Straits Times noted the newspaper took the earliest opportunity to print a correction and apology.

In the case of Dr Lim and Mr Lim, The Straits Times admitted to publishing the words complained about, but denied that these defamed the two men.

Sin Chew admitted defaming Dr Lim and paid $7,000 in damages. It did not admit defaming Mr Lim but paid him an undisclosed sum.

In the suit Dr Lim filed this month, he cited various articles in 1966 and said these made clear ‘there was no truth in the report that there was a fight’.

The news item Dr Lim complained about appeared in both the first edition of the book in 2009, and in a reprint last year. EDM published the book in association with the NLB.

Mr Peter Lim, a former editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings’ English and Malay newspapers, oversaw the book’s editorial team.

Dr Lim, represented by lawyer R. Joethy, said in his writ of summons filed on Feb 10 that, because of ‘widespread publication’ of the offending words, his reputation has been ‘seriously’ tarnished and that he has ‘suffered considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment’.

Dr Lim issued letters to the defendants last December demanding a withdrawal of the offending words, an adequate apology, as well as damages and costs.

The writ said that EDM, through its lawyers, offered an apology on Jan 31, but in terms unacceptable to Dr Lim. The other defendants had not complied with his demands.

An NLB spokesman said yesterday the matter was in the hands of its lawyers. Mr Peter Lim and EDM declined comment while Tien Wah Press did not respond to queries.


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