January 21, 2006
THE Economist has apologized to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and has agreed to pay damages for statements in the London-based magazine's obituary on Devan Nair, Singapore's former president.
"We recognise that the statements attributed to Mr Lee in the obituary ... are false," the Economist said in the latest issue. "We apologise to Mr Lee for having published them, and we unreservedly withdraw them."
The magazine added it has agreed to pay Lee, Singapore's founding prime minister, damages and indemnify him for all costs in connection with the disputed article.
Nair, the country's third president who served from 1981 to 1985, died of heart failure at the age of 82 in Canada last December 7.
The apology was in response to a letter from Yeong Yoon Ying, Lee's press secretary. In her letter published above the apology, she noted that a remark Nair had attributed to Lee was unfounded.
According to Nair, in 1981, when Workers' Party leader J.B. Jeyaretnam won a by-election, Lee said he would "make him crawl on his bended knees and beg for mercy".
Yeong also wrote that in the years after his bout of alcoholism in 1985, Nair made many other unfounded statements.
Nair left Singapore for the United States and eventually settled in Canada.
SIR – In your obituary you wrote “by Mr Nair's account, Mr Lee promised to crush him [J.B. Jeyaretnam], crying ‘I will make him crawl on his bended knees and beg for mercy.’ That image had haunted Mr Nair before, as the worst expression of arrogant colonialism” (“Devan Nair”, December 24th).
This and many other statements Mr Nair made after his bout of alcoholism in 1985 were unfounded. One statement he made in 1991 forced Mr Lee Kuan Yew to sue him and the Canadian Globe & Mail in Toronto. The matter was settled when Mr Nair's two sons issued this statement, reported in the Globe & Mail on July 1st 2004:
“Mr C.V. Devan Nair, aged 80, has been diagnosed as suffering from the beginning stages of dementia, an ailment which affects his memory. He is no longer able to give evidence in court proceedings.
“On March 29th 1999, the Globe & Mail published an article by Mr Marcus Gee. The article quoted Mr Nair as saying that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had Singapore government doctors slip hallucination drugs to Mr Nair to make him appear befuddled.
“Having reviewed the records, and on the basis of the family's knowledge of the circumstances leading to Mr Nair's resignation as president of Singapore in March 1985, we can declare that there is no basis for this allegation.”
Yeong Yoon Ying