Friday, June 09, 2006

Judiciary has not moved to check the Executive's misuse of the law

The local media, heavily influenced & controlled by the PAP government, reported that the Prime Minister & Minister Mentor, son & father tag-team, won their defamation suit against the Singapore Democratic Party.

First, here's what Amnesty International has said over the years about the politics of defamation in Singapore:

Singapore's leaders claim they seek only to defend their reputations, and that they would lose the confidence of the electorate if they failed to sue when defamed. Amnesty International believes the use of civil defamation suits by the PAP is both disproportionate and politically-motivated and appears to be aimed primarily at dissenting voices regarded as having the potential to challenge the PAP's political hegemony.

Amnesty International believes that civil defamation suits are being misused by the Executive to intimidate and deter those Singaporeans holding dissenting views. The suits have a 'chilling' effect on Singapore's political life and place unreasonable and unacceptable restrictions on the right of Singaporeans to freely hold and peacefully express their opinions.

Whereas imprisonment of political opponents under the ISA has declined, the Executive's use of civil defamation suits to bankrupt opponents through the courts - and so prevent their participation in public life - constitutes an emerging pattern. In such cases the Singapore Judiciary has not moved to check the Executive's misuse of the law in this way.

In fact the government's resort to civil defamation suits to intimidate and deter those Singaporeans seeking to dissenting views may well have a more subtle and insidious effect than the ISA, in that such suits are not so likely to provoke domestic and international protest.
The recent defamation suit stems from an article about the National Kidney Foundation saga which was published in the SDP's newsletter, New Democrat (top, right). Here's the article in full:
Government's role in the NKF scandal

Ministers went out of their way to defend NKF even as people were unhappy over the organisation’s operations.

In all the hand-wringing and breast-beating by the Government over the NKF issue, Singaporeans must not lose sight of one thing: Such a scandal is inevitable given the kind of secretive and non-accountable system, bred by the PAP.

The Government now tries to exonerate itself by playing the innocent and gullible party duped by greedy NKF officials.

It forgets that in April 2004, Minister Khaw Boon Wan had, in reaction to public unease about the NKF, sought to appease Singaporeans by telling them that the Ministry of Finance “would have reacted many years ago” if there was any breach of rules by the NKF. (See Channel News Asia report on right.)

At the same time the Second Minister for Finance, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, said that the NKF had “quite a sound record” because it spends “more than 80 percent of its funds on its beneficiaries” (See Straits Times report on right) whom we now know are not kidney patients.

Clearly, alarm bells were raised. People could see that something was wrong and they had expressed their unhappiness over the years.

And yet, the Government which had the power to do something, chose not to.

Not only did it choose not to rein in NKF but it also continued to praise the charity and encouraged people to donate to it.

With assurances from not one but two Ministers, the charity went on its merry way.

The question that is on everyone’s lips is: If Mr TT Durai had not taken out the legal suit, would the Government have bothered to look into the NKF records? NKF would in all likelihood have continued to operate with the Government’s blessings.

The NKF fiasco is not about bad practices. It is not even about negligence on the Government’s part.

It is about greed and power.

It is about the idea that the political elite must be paid top dollar, no matter how obscene those amounts are and regardless of who suffers as a result of it.

It is about a system engineered over the decades by the PAP that ensures that it and only it has access to public information and by fiat decides what is allowed and what is not.

It is about what a “democratic society, based on justice and equality” should not be.

Singaporeans must note that the NKF is not an aberration of the PAP system. It is, instead, a product of it.

To ensure that there is transparency and that Singaporeans are kept informed of matters directly affecting them and their future, the Government must:

One, disclose the breakdown of the cost of building HDB flats and the profits HDB makes.

Two, reveal where and how GIC uses our savings.

Three, disclose the salaries of the top executives of Temasek Holdings and other GLCs.

Four, declare the assets and incomes of its Ministers.

Five, reform the election system to ensure that it is free and fair.

It goes without saying that someone must be held accountable over the sordid NKF affair. However, real accountability starts much higher up.
The PAP keeps winning all these defamation suits. Maybe that's why they allowed casinos to be built here...hmmm..maybe they thought their winning streak in the Courts will also be replicated in these casinos!

Jokes aside, instead of engaging the issues in a proper debate the PAP resort to the misuse of defamation suits. It's a clear abuse of the law by the PAP. What's equally bad is the fact that the judiciary just goes along with this abuse. And they call this justice.

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