Opposition's grand old man
    can't run for parliament

  Agence France Presse
September 1, 2005

VETERAN opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam said Thursday, Sept 1, his latest court appeal against a bankruptcy ruling had been rejected, leaving him ineligible to run in the next general elections.

"I am afraid again I have not received the justice that I had a right to expect," lawyer Jeyaretnam, 79, the longtime opponent of Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, 82, said in a statement.

Under Singapore law, a bankrupt person cannot run for public office.

Jeyaretnam was declared bankrupt for being unable to pay around S$600,000 (US$357,143) in defamation damages awarded to leaders of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), including former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.

There is persistent speculation that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the 53-year-old son of Lee Kuan Yew, will call for elections this year or next, well before the 2007 deadline, in order to seek his own mandate.

The younger Lee took over in August 2004 from Goh, 64, who in turn inherited the job from the senior Lee as part of Singapore's managed political succession process. The city-state has been ruled by the PAP since independence in 1965.

Jeyaretnam said his offer to sell a house he owns in Malaysia for $275,000 to partially pay off the debts was rejected by judge Andrew Ang.

"The judge said he could not pluck an amount from the air and decide what I should pay," he said.

The former secretary-general of the Workers' Party has been one of the few politicians to successfully stand up to the PAP, which has scored overwhelming victories in every election since 1959, when self-rule was introduced in the then-British colony.

In 1981 he became the first opposition politician to win a seat in parliament but the PAP's defamation suits eventually crushed his career.

Human rights groups have criticised the government for using libel laws as a tool to silence critics such as Jeyaretnam. The city-state's leaders argue they need to take legal action to protect their reputations.