Monday, July 31, 2006

Where's The Defamation Part?

On 30 July 2006, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin filed their affidavits for the summary judgement hearing scheduled for 3 August 2006. The affidavit presented their case against the Lees. During the May 2006 General Election, Father Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had sued Dr Chee and Ms Chee for defamatory remarks published in the Singapore Democratic Party newsletter.

The first part of the affidavit has this introduction:

A. Test of what is defamatory

1. In the Halsbury Laws of Singapore, the test of whether a statement is defamatory or not, the Courts must consider:

a. What meaning the words would convey to the ordinary person.

b. Whether the reasonable person would be likely to understand them in a defamatory sense.

c. The views of the community as a whole, and not just that of a limited class.

Read the article printed in the New Democrat and try to spot the defamation if you can:

The Government's Role in the NKF

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 exone-rate 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.

Mr Khaw categorically endorsed the NKF's dealings and called on the charity to "continue" to remain "transparent" in its operations.

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" 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 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 whole sordid NKF affair. However, real accountability starts much higher up.