Chee to MM Lee: I'll press on with defamation suit

  Straits Times
September 13, 2004

Ex-PMs seek heavy damages from opposition leader

DR CHEE Soon Juan has vowed to continue a previously filed defamation claim against Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

But before doing so, he has challenged Mr Lee to dispense with lawyers and conduct his own case - and to have the court proceedings televised 'live' for Singaporeans to 'hear the unvarnished truth'.

He also said he should not have to pay a security deposit before proceeding with his claim.

In an open letter addressed to Mr Lee dated Sept 11, the Singapore Democratic Party chief, who was in Taiwan recently, said he would return to Singapore to continue his suit against Mr Lee.

But Dr Chee complained of the 'uneven playing field'.

Unlike Mr Lee, Dr Chee said he was 'not a millionaire' and, therefore, did not have 'the luxury of engaging an expensive lawyer'.

He also had to 'fight the courts to get a Queen's Counsel', unlike Mr Lee, who has a Senior Counsel to represent him.

'This seems a tad unfair.

'Given such a scenario and your standing in Singapore, you wouldn't want the people to see that your fight with your opponent takes place on less than an even playing field, would you?' he said.

He then suggested that Mr Lee do away with his lawyer and conduct his own case. This will allow him to cross-examine Dr Chee personally in court.

To avoid the 'slanting and spinning by the media', and to let Singaporeans hear the 'unvarnished truth', Dr Chee suggested that the court proceedings be televised live.

'This way your victory will be all the sweeter. Otherwise your triumph in court will ring hollow.'

His statement comes a week after he stayed away from a court hearing on Sept 6, to assess damages he has to pay Mr Lee and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong for defaming them in the 2001 polls.

After that hearing, Dr Chee issued a statement saying it took place in his absence because the two leaders wanted to avoid being cross-examined by him.

This prompted Mr Lee to issue a challenge on Sept 9, calling on Dr Chee to prove that he was not afraid of being cross-examined or of cross-examining Mr Lee or SM Goh in court.

Dr Chee could show this by proceeding with a defamation claim filed on Dec 22, 2001 against Mr Lee, after Mr Lee called him a 'fraud, liar, cheat and political gangster'.

But as Dr Chee had done nothing since then to proceed with his claim, there was only one explanation:

That he was afraid of being cross-examined and of cross-examining Mr Lee, said Mr Lee's statement.

Dr Chee claimed the delay was due to the expenses of getting a lawyer and said he planned to press on with his suit.