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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

One opinion from the Young Republic discussions

The following is an opinion from one of our subscribers. As I repeat, IT IS ONLY AN OPINION BY SOMEONE.

To be fair and balanced here, may I also add that the House Of Lords upheld then DPM Goh Chok Tong's side in a lawsuit launched against him by Jaybix.

A full account of Charles Gray's cross examination can be found in Jaybix's book "make it right for singapore". And in this editor's opinion, GCT held a fairly consistent line then. If you're curious, ask Jaybix if he will supply you a copy the next time you see him outside your neighbourhood MRT station. Alternatively try looking for it in your neighbourhood public library ( surprise surprise! The NLB stocks Jaybix's books!)

Remember, decide for yourself!

Jie Kai.

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Background

To anyone who actually believes that James Gomez is dishonest and a liar etc.. I suggest that you attend the WP rallies and listen to what they have to say, instead of relying on the media for information. Please do remember that this is the media ranked 140th out of 167 in the world.

I have followed every election keely since 1997 and I have also read extensively about the incidents in 1988 with regards to Francis Seow. While I am not so foolish as to take what the opposition says at face value, I urge everyone here not to do the same for the PAP. Read factual accounts, based on past trends and make your own judgement.

The Defamation Suit Trap

To me, it is clear what the PAP is trying to do. They are trying to round on Gomez and assassinate his character. He is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation. Watch what happens. It is perfectly conceivable now that he says "I am not the liar, Wong Kan Seng in the liar" and I assure you that defamation suits galore will immediately start pouring in. This is based on the "doctrine of innuendo" that the Singapore courts have evolved, to which there is completely no objective test. I have provided 3 examples of precedents for this:

1. Tang Liang Hong

In 1997, they labelled Tang Liang Hong "a dangerous man", a "racist", "Chinese chauvinist" etc, allegations which were all untrue. The fact is that Teo Chee Hean had heard Tang speak at a dinner function in 1994, where the latter urged more members from the Chinese community to step forward, as the number of English educated in the Cabinet was disproportionate to their actual number in society. Strange then that they waited 3 years to bring this up. Just like Inderjit Singh in this case, Teo was the 'whistle blower' whose intention was to warn Singaporeans of this so-called dangerous man.

Tang refuted their claims by calling them 'lies', and this invited 13 defamation suits, with damages totalling some $6+ million, because this implied 'by innuendo' that the Ministers were morally bereft, dishonest and therefore unfit for office. Tang's assets were frozen BEFORE the court had reached a verdict, and his wife (who had nothing to do with it at all) was made a co-defendant in the case.

2. J.B. Jeyaretnam

At a rally during the same election, J.B. Jeyaretnam held up a police report which Tang had made against the PAP leaders for slandering him and tarnishing his reputation. Police reports are supposed to be confidential. However, Wong Kan Seng retrieved the police report (so much for the separation of powers) and passed it on to Lee Kuan Yew, who released it to the press. Then 13 PAP leaders sued both Tang and Jeyaretnam for defaming them, by insinuating that the leaders were guilty of a criminal offence and therefore unfit for office.

Jeyaretnam was also sued for saying "I have a police report which Mr Tang has made against Mr Goh Chok Tong.." because this was implying that Goh was a criminal and therefore unfit for office. In the first instance, the court awarded "derisory damages" to Goh because it held that the lawsuit had been brought frivolously. "Derisory damages" amounted to $20,000 - hardly "derisory". This was largely due to Goh admitting, under cross examination from Charles Gray QC (now Mr Justice Gray) that he had had "an excellent year", in contrast to his claims in his affidavit that his reputation, both locally and internationally, had been severely impugned by Jeyaretnam's words. Interesting then that the trial judge, Rajendran J, was subsequently removed, and Mr Justice Gray is now barred from appearing as counsel in Singapore courts because he is a person of 'questionable moral character'. Goh appealed against the judgement of Rajendran J on the basis that the damages awarded were "manifestly inadequate", and the Court of Appeal duly increased the sum ten-fold, to $200,000. Jeyaretnam, who had already paid off millions in damages, still remains an undischarged bankrupt to this day.

3. Chee Soon Juan

During the 2001 elections, Chee Soon Juan asked Goh Chok Tong during a community walkabout, using a loudhailer, "Prime Minister, where is the money?" This was held to be an insinuation that Goh was corrupt, dishonest and unfit for office. Duly, Chee was made to pay $500,000 in damages, and, as the court held in a 'summary judgement' earlier this year, was subsequently made a bankrupt. How convenient that the elections were to be held this year, eh?

Can you not notice the trend here?

I am not anti-PAP in my personal political outlook, but I believe that their politics of slander and character assassination are most unbecoming of a Government who has accomplished so much. There is no doubt in my mind that Wong Kan Seng, Lee Kuan Yew and George Yeo et al are trying to bait Gomez into making one of those "implicitly" defamatory remarks so that they can destroy him once and for all, because thus far, all of the Workers' Party leaders have been very astute in terms of making their public comments. What good is Lee's "dare" to Gomez to sue him, when it is unequivocally clear that Lee effectively owns the courts? The incident involving the Cheng San polling centres in 1997 and then-AG Chan Sek Keong has been given sufficient consideration in another thread, and shall not be discussed further. Wong Kan Seng noted that Gomez's apology "had been drafted by a lawyer" and was therefore "insincere". He means that Gomez's apology is overly tactful, and as a result, the PAP has little room with which to rub further salt in his wounds. I believe Gomez has, given the cirumstances, acted very prudently in doing so.

Now, they are trying to bait Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang. If you read their latest response, again they have been very careful. Low merely says that he never planned to field Gomez in Ang Mo Kio. He never expressly accused anyone of lying, nor did he even go so far as to say that "what the PAP says is untrue". What else do you expect him to do, with the threat of the cripping defamation suits loomimg over his head?

Refusal to Engage Policy Points

It is also telling that the PAP has steadfastly refused to debate the WP's policy points. They refuted the WP's manifesto saying it was "dangerous" but without giving any specific details of why this would be so, save the same old rhetorical arguments as to why GRCs are important, why government-led unions are important. In fact, in response to WP's suggestion that the PAP gets out of the unions, Lee Hsien Loong merely gave examples of other parties in other countries that are linked to the unions, and took a humourous jibe at the fact that the WP was not befitting of its name "Workers' Party". They also did not respond to Perry Tong's points about healthcare, I have had the privilege of listening to sound clips of his speech, and I think they are very sound policy suggestions.

They said that the policy of free healthcare has been proven to be disastrous overseas due to long queues (I presume they are referring to the NHS, and they are right) but that was never Perry Tong's point. They failed to respond to his suggestions to lower GST on medical supplies and to set up a medicine manufacturing hub in Singapore to both lower the costs of medicine and to create more jobs. And they repeatedly accuse the WP of failing to suggest ways to create more jobs. Their response to other points in relation to public transport have also been dealt with only in passing, in a dismissive manner rather than substantively. Unsurprisingly, the proposals made by Perry Tong (who is a Berkeley grad and a management consultant) and Tan Wui-Hua (who is CFO of a billion dollar company) have been given almost no airtime, with the media instead choosing to focus on the Gomez "scandal".

Question of Intention

As to those who believe that Gomez is truly dishonest, an electioneering rat, and a person of dubious moral character, I have this question to ask. Where is the evidence that this is so? Because Inderjit Singh and Wong Kan Seng say so? If you were to watch the video recordings, what do they actually show? Nothing, other than the fact that Gomez indeed placed the forms in his bag, and questioned the Elections Department about the submission of his forms.

Now, why do you think the PAP has come out and 'exposed' Gomez? In order to warn Singaporeans of this dangerous man who is out to harm them at his own expense?

Has it never occurred to you that the PAP is a politicial party trying to win an election, and that there is a realistic chance that they may lose Aljunied GRC?
Has it never occurred to you that this outcome would be unfavourable to them?

I cannot believe, for the life of me, how some people actually believe that the PAP is 'exposing' Gomez out of altruism and goodwill. So, when Gomez does something, it is serving his own selfish ends, but no PAP member would ever do such a thing? Please stop believing the 140th ranked Singapore media, and have a look at the rallies, the independent political blogs, and internet forums to get the true 'feel of the ground'. The media has lionised the PAP leaders and made them appear to be larger than life, but at the end of the day, we musn't forget that Wong Kan Seng and George Yeo are as much politicians as James Gomez is . At this point, it is their word against his, and I am choosing to believe his account, not because I am biased against the PAP, nor because I am outraged at the sheer disgracefulness of what they are doing, but because I have seen this happen many times before, and based on track record, past evidence and trends, I am inclined to believe that they are assassinating Gomez's character in order to gain political mileage, or rather, to destroy the WP's political mileage (which has become rather significant in recent months).

Objective Test

If we were to apply the 'Objective Test' to this incident, that is, what would a reasonable-thinking, objective third party think -

1. Is Gomez trying to orchestrate an elaborate and deceitful plot in order to discredit the entire elections department in order to gain political mileage?

OR

2. Did he genuinely forget to submit his forms?

I believe most reasonable thinking people would go with the latter. The former is hard to believe because so far in this election, the WP's main issues have been policy ones, unlike the SDP who have been focusing their efforts on disparaging the PAP's underhand tactics. The WP has taken jibes at these underhand tactics, primarily the use of upgrading to entice voters, but they have not made it their main election platform. I don't think Gomez would 'break ranks' with the party's stand, I think it appears that the WP is actually taking a very united stand this time round, and they seem determined to focus on 'bread and butter issues' as opposed to liberal ideals etc.

Of course, Wong Kan Seng would tell you that the ENTIRE WP created this impression so as to deceive Singaporeans, and lull them into believing that they were genuinely concerned about their well-being, when in fact they are actually opportunists who are trying to get into Parliament by any means necessary. Even though Low has already said that ALL the WP candidates are prepared to lose.

Now, to consider the second possibility. Is this even remotely as far-fetched as the scenario above?

Have you never seen anyone insist to a teacher that "I am sure I have handed my assignment in" only to realise that the assignment was actually in his bag?

I think that comparison is much more apt than George Yeo's far-fetched and tenuous 'shoplifting' analogy, where the subject-matter is concerning theft, i.e. removing something, as opposed to failing to submit something.

Burden of Proof

Lastly, why has the burden of proof now shifted on Low, Gomez and the WP to disprove the PAP's allegations? Whatever happened to the rule that a person was innocent until found guilty? So far, what conclusive evidence do we have that Gomez is guilty? A video which suggests nothing by way of wrongdoing, and a bunch of opinions from Wong Kan Seng, Lee Kuan Yew and Inderjit Singh, who are all PAP members, and who can all be presumed to have a conflict of interests with the subject-matter here.

Just because a bunch of PAP politicians say so, does it mean Gomez is guilty?

Look at Wong Kan Seng's "statement", upon more careful scrutiny I think you will find that he draws very tenuous links and fails to substantiate most of them. It is laced with self-righteous rhetoric, and fails to convince me that Gomez was indeed trying to orchestrate a plot to discredit the Elections Department and the PAP. One must realise that this is a very serious allegation to be making, so it needs to be well substantiated. I do not think the standard of proof has been at all satisfied here.

So why has the burden of proof shifted to Gomez? Are you telling me that in Singapore law, there is a doctrine of "presumed" immorality/dishonesty just because someone is from a party other than the PAP?

Conclusion

For voters who are in Aljunied and any other WP-contested constituencies, I must urge you to consider your vote very carefully. Do not be taken in by what the PAP and the sycophantic 140th ranked media says, research the facts and the precedents yourself, and if you arrive at the conclusion that you should indeed be voting for George Yeo, then so be it.

But please do not distract yourselves from the main issues here. Please also familiarise yourself with what George Yeo et al stand for, and compare this with what Sylvia Lim and the WP stand for.

"If you are not of a certain economic class, then you shouldn't even be thinking about going to [the casino].. you should stick to 4D, Toto and Horseracing"

This is what George Yeo said about whether Singaporeans would be allowed to visit the casino. In my honest opinion, it smacks of arrogance, haughtiness and elitism.

As I've said, I am not a WP supporter nor am I anti-PAP, I personally take a more holistic view, that whatever benefits Singapore as a whole, ought to be done. I think Ngiam Tong Dow's interview posted in the other thread was spot-on. Singapore needs to be bigger than the PAP, and people need to accept that. I just think that it's dangerous for us media consumers to accept, at face value, whatever we are told.

The PAP talks about making an informed choice, debating the bigger issues, "clean and fair elections", etc. Well, suffice to say that whoever has made those promises, has gone down more than a notch in my estimation.

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