In defence of my stand on the chilling effects of defamation laws.
This week several blogs seem to have succumbed to the “chilling effects” I described in my letter to the Wall Street Journal (bottom) and removed my original letter to the WSJ after MICA put up a rebuttal. Son of a Dud, Reinventing the Rice Bowl is not a political blog but as this debate affects all bloggers and goes to the heart of my integrity, I have reproduced the letter below.
Interestingly my letter has been republished by the Wall Street Journal in today’s print edition.
For some context please do look at the original WSJ article about Singapore (“Singapore Blog Flap Heats Up, which prompted my letter .
Whilst this may look like a debate with two sides to the issue being presented (and is definitely a notch above the level, of debate we get about our laws in our own country) I feel that the MICA letter was not really in defence of the defamation laws at all. MICA are simply wrong. This has been pointed out by many including bloggers such as Subra whose article supporting my stand can be seen on his blog , Article 14. here, http://article14.blogspot.com/2012/03/who-got-facts-wrong-kenneth-jeyaretnam.html
Why would MICA make such a foolish gaffe? The letter I wrote was a warning about the chilling effects of defamation laws. I didn’t make my letter personal. Some names attached to the facts had to be mentioned but no-one was derided. My letter was in defence of freedoms and against policies, a system and a mindset that hold us back. I feel the response however, was merely a thinly veiled excuse for a personal attack on me and my integrity and maybe that is how the facts got overlooked.
That smear campaign and the tactics to discredit me have been going on since day one. It is the continuation of the theme that started with the condolence letter I received from the son and continued with the father insulting a dead man and Dr Chee by calling them “Duds”. Post election I even watched a round-up on television where Gillian Koh of the Institute of Policy studies spoke of the Opposition as being divided into the approved Opposition, the Worker’s Party and the rest who were the Riff-Raff. Seriously? Riff Raff.
I later met Gillian at an official reception held by The American Embassy where we were both guests. She was quite apologetic and claimed that this was a phrase that LKY had used and she was merely parroting. Actually I have never heard of him using that specific phrase. Anyway the casual use of extremely derogatory terms is telling. These are the same people who tell us that in our Asian society politics works best when everyone aims to that Confucian ideal of junzi ( being a gentleman).
A a politician all these insults are water off a duck’s back. As all my blog readers know I responded by taking on the Moniker ‘Son of a Dud’ which is now the domain for this blog.
But to accuse me of misrepresenting facts is very damaging indeed. It goes to the heart of my professional status as a fit person to be registered with bodies such as the FSA. Anyone who reads the MICA letter should therefore take note that I am not the kind of person who would seek to misrepresent facts. It is seriously damaging to suggest so.
Whilst my letter was put up here and there by our MSM , MICA’s response went everywhere and I mean everywhere. They didn’t even use, ” MICA has accused KJ ” or “KJ allegedly misrepresented facts” . They all reported it as a straight ” Kenneth Jeyaretnam misrepresented….” Naturally being our Media not one of them contacted me for a response or to ask me if I wanted to rebut the MICA letter so only their view went out.
I stand by my letter . The PDF is a little hard on the eyes so I have reproduced it below in its original form except I have re-attached a link that the WSJ editor removed.
Thank you for highlighting the chilling effect the use of defamation laws has on freedom of expression in Singapore (“Singapore Blog Flap Heats Up,” World News: Asia, Mar. 2-4).
As The Wall Street Journal is aware, my father, Reform Party founder Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, was sued numerous times for defamation, culminating in being bankrupted over a few words in an article published in the Workers’ Party newspaper that he did not write and in a language (Tamil) whose written form he did not understand. This resulted in him losing his seat in Parliament and not being able to stand again before he died, which was of course the key objective. Since then it has been clear that defamation suits, which in Singapore are tried by a judge not a jury and in political cases have typically resulted in much higher damages than in non-political cases, are too useful a tool for the ruling party to give up.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been quick to use the defamation tool himself in the past, having sued a number of international publications, including your newspaper. He has also sued numerous individuals, including my father. In the 2011 election Mr. Lee said that “in the heat of an election campaign…you will find unwise speeches being made, which is why sometimes, after elections, sometimes, after elections,you’ve got court cases to deal with.”something to the effect that the courts were there to deal with defamatory statements made in the heat of the election.
On the other hand, people are learning how to sidestep the restrictions. For example, in the Reform Party’s statement on the budget, I avoided the minefield of the PM’s wife’s appointment as head of Temasek but still questioned why senior management kept their jobs after the losses sustained in 2008.
Also encouraging is the way people came forward to donate money to pay off Democratic Party Secretary General Chee Soon Juan’s fine and keep him out of jail during the election. http://sonofadud.com/democracy/to-help-keep-my-political-rival-out-of-jail/
This gives some small hope that the tactics the People’s Action Party leaders employed in the past will no longer work.
The Reform Party