Singapore's democratic consolidation is very slow and weak. Defamation and libel suits, against opposition politicians and political dissidence, do not encourage politcal participation and public debate that are essential for democracy to properly function. In 2001, J.B. Jeyaretnam lost his parliamentary seat after being declared a bankrupt for not paying the massive damages awarded to PAP members in a series of defamation suits. Read the statement on J.B.Jeyaretnam's appeal.
STATEMENT BY J.B.JEYARETNAM
I submitted an application for my discharge from bankruptcy at the end March this year, three years after I was adjudicated a bankrupt in January 2001 offering to pay a total of twenty percent (20%) of all the debts.
My application was opposed by:-
(i) The Offical Assignee
(ii) Eight of the plaintiffs in the suit brought against me,The Workers' Party and Mr A. Balakrishnan for libel over an article in the newletter of the Workers' Party. They filed the petitions in brankruptcy and I was made a bankrupt on their petitions.
(iii) Mr. Goh Chok Tong, who had filed proof of debt from the balance due to him under a judgement obtained against
me in 1997. The Judgement was for $100,000-00, again forlibel. i had paid him $69,000-00 and there was a balance
of $31,000-00. Mr. Goh filed proof of debt for the balance after I was made brankrupt and is opposing my
discharge refusing to accept 20% of the balance.
(iv) Mr. S. Jeyakumar, the Minister for Law under whose ministry the Official Assignee comes and four other PAP MPs. Jayakumar and the four had obtained judgement against all the members of the Executive Council of the Workers' Party, which inlcuded me, at the same time the eight plantiffs, mentioned in (i) brought their action. Jayakumar's action was also for libel
over the same article.
Mr. Jayakumar and his co-plaintiffs were awarded a total of $200,000-00 out of which $100,000-00 was paid by the Party and thereafter Mr. Jayakumar garnished $66,666-00 that I had personally obtained in a judgement against a solicitor. So in all they have been paid $166,666-00 - $100,000-00 by the Party and $66,666-00 - personally by me. Mr. Jayakumar and his co-plainrtiffs filed proof of debt for the balance after I was made bankrupt and they are objecting to my discharge refusing to accept 20%.
I am planning to appeal against the decision of the Assitant Registrar to a Judge of the High Court.
3rd May 2004
Defamation suits stifle political particiption
The Singaporean government has a history of using civil defamation suits to stifle political opposition and participation. Such defamation suits place unreasonable restrictions on the right of Singaporeans to peacefully express their opinions and to participate freely in public life.
In 2001, J.B. Jeyaretnam lost his parliamentary seat after being declared a bankrupt for not paying the massive damages awarded to PAP members in a series of defamation suits. Due to this, he is also barred from standing for parliamentary seats in future elections. Jeyaretnam believes the defamation suits against him were politically motivated to remove him from parliament.
"My purpose in entering politics was to try and bring about a democratic system of government. The job has not been done yet, and I feel that as long as God gives me the health and the strength, then I will carry on the fight to bring about responsible opposition in Parliament." J.B. Jeyaretnam, quote in the article "Still Standing", by The Star dated 7 September 2003.
Sources and Relevant Links:
J.B.Jeyaretnam Declared A Bankrupt 07 February 2001
J.B.Jeyaretnam - Appeal against Bankruptcy Orderon the 19th January 2001.
Think Centre J.B.Jeyaretnam: Defender of Human Rights 21 November 2003
Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada: Defamation in Singapore: Report to LRWC In the matter of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam and two Appeals in the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Singapore Gail Davidson and Howard Rubin (August 2001)