IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
 

Suit No. 187 of 1997 )

Between
 

GOH CHOK TONG
(NRIC No. S0046428G)
 

and
 

1. TANG LIANG HONG
(NRIC No. S1096110F)

2. TEO SIEW HAR
(NRIC No. S0531156Z)

 

DEFENCE OF THE FIRST DEFENDANT


1. The First Defendant contends that this suit, along with Suits No. 2523, 2524 and 2525 of 1996 and Suits No. 70, 76, 82, 172, 181, 182, 188 and 244 of 1997 ("the related actions") is an abuse of the process of the Court and should be struck out or stayed. This Defence is served without prejudice to that contention.

2. Paragraphs 1 to 10 of the Statement of Claim is admitted.

3. The First Defendant admits that he is responsible in law for the republication in the Straits Times of the words admittedly spoken by him. It is denied that the First Defendant is responsible for republications other than that in the Straits Times and the Straits Times Interactive or that such republications were the natural and probable result of the republication in the Straits Times. Any republications other than in the Straits Times are too remote for the First Defendant to be liable therefor. Otherwise, paragraph 11 of the Statement of Claim is not admitted.

4. Paragraph 12 of the Statement of Claim is admitted.

5. The First Defendant admits that he is responsible in law for the republication in the Straits Times of the words admittedly spoken by him. Otherwise paragraph 13 of the Statement of Claim is not admitted.

6. It is denied that the words complained of bore the meanings pleaded in paragraph 14 of the Statement of Claim.

7. Further, or alternatively the words spoken by the First Defendant were true in substance and fact.

PARTICULARS OF MEANING
 

The First Defendant will justify the said words in the following meanings :

    1. The Plaintiff, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew ("SM Lee"), Teo Chee Hean, Chíng Jit Koon, Ow Chin Hock, Chin Harn Tong, Ker Sin Tze and Seng Han Thong are using defamation proceedings in order to overwhelm the First Defendant with litigation so that he will be put to huge expense and will be unable to pursue his political career, rather than to restore and vindicate their reputations.
    2. Such behaviour amounts to an abuse of the process of the Court.

 
PARTICULARS OF JUSTIFICATION 

7.1 In or about August 1994 the First Defendant gave a talk to the Zeng Yi Association at a National Day dinner, which was attended by Teo Chee Hean, about religious harmony and the steady development of society. Nothing in that talk could possibly warrant the conclusion that the First Defendant was a racist or held any of the views on race and Christianity which were later attributed to him by SM Lee and the Plaintiffs in the related actions. 

7.2 In December 1996 the First Defendant was nominated as a candidate in the forthcoming General Election on behalf of the Workersí Party ("the WP"). He stood as a candidate in the Cheng San GRC. It is the fervent wish of the Plaintiff and the Plaintiffs in the related actions to prevent by all possible means the election of any opposition Members of Parliament in Singapore. In support of this allegation the First Defendant will rely inter alia upon statements made on behalf of the Peoplesí Action Party ("PAP") by the Plaintiff and reported respectively in the issue of the Straits Times for 30 and 31 December 1996 to the effect that of course he was biased and wanted to keep the First Defendant out of Parliament; that he was so determined to stop the First Defendant getting into Parliament that he was himself standing in the Cheng San GRC constituency and that the fact the First Defendant appeared to be a reasonable man of moderate means was "a difficulty that they (viz. the PAP) were going to solve and that they had to plug away and tell people there is a danger". 

7.3 As the election campaign in the said constituency proceeded, the indications were that the First Defendant was a popular candidate who had every prospect of succeeding in being elected. The First Defendant will rely in particular of the numbers of those attending WP rallies and (after discovery) on the surveys of votersí intentions carried out on behalf of the PAP. 

7.4 The First Defendant will invite the Court to infer that the senior members of the PAP, including most if not all of the Plaintiffs in this and the related actions, became concerned at the prospect of the First Defendant being returned as a Member of Parliament and deliberated how best to ensure that he was discredited and in due course defeated. The First Defendant will give further particulars of this allegation after discovery and/or interrogatories and/or service of witness statements. 

7.5 As a result of the deliberations referred to at paragraph 7.4 above the Plaintiff and Plaintiffs in the related actions combined together falsely to attribute to the First Defendant views which he does not hold and to misrepresent statements made by him with the intention of discrediting him in the estimation of the Singapore electorate and so preventing his election as a Member of Parliament and his destruction as a political force in Singapore. Such statements were made both during the campaign leading up to the General Election and after the General Election. These announcements variously described the First Defendant as:

  1. anti-Christian;
  2. a Chinese chauvinist;
  3. anti-English educated;
  4. a dangerous character;
  5. being against the Malay-educated;
  6. being anti-Islam; and
  7. being anti-Malay.

7.6 In support of the contention in paragraph 7.5 above the First Defendant will rely by way of example on the following statements made by the Plaintiff and the Plaintiffs in the related actions in the run-up to the General Election and afterwards (all of which received, as their authors knew and intended, the widest publicity in the press and were read by the electors in the Cheng San GRC constituency):

    1. as reported in the issue of the Straits Times for 27 December 1996, Rear Admiral Teo, the Environment Minister and a prominent member of the PAP, a plaintiff in a related action, alleged that at a dinner he had attended in Singapore in 1994, the First Defendant had said "improper things", drawn outrageous implications and indulged in dangerous talk, with the result that he (Teo) had concluded that the First Defendant was an extremist; that if elected the WP candidates would undermine Singaporeís political stability, bankrupt the country and sow disharmony in the community;
    2. according to the same issue of the Straits Times, the Plaintiff described the First Defendant as a "dangerous character"; a covert opponent of the governmentís education policy, especially on Chinese language and culture; as playing and plugging a very dangerous line and as a person with "extreme ideas",
       
    3. in the same article it was reported that Mr. Chíng Jit Koon had stated that the First Defendant had "rather extreme and insensitive" views on culture and ethnic issues, and stated that the First Defendant "was inclined to speak like a Chinese chauvinist", 
    4. the article went on to refer to comments about the First Defendant made by Dr. Ow Chin Hock. He stated that he had two reservations about the First Defendant : his "extreme positions on Chinese language and culture issues" and his "emotional and temperamental" nature;
       
    5. the Straits Times for 27 December 1996 also published an article on the PAPís first election rally at Hougang Stadium entitled "Jeya and Tang are strange bedfellows : SM". The article reported that SM Lee had accused the First Defendant and J.B. Jeyaretnam, the head of the Workers' Party, of being "language chauvinists" brought together by political opportunism and that the First Defendant was a "Chinese-language chauvinist". SM Lee went on to state that both menís cultural chauvinism proved that they were political opportunists. He also alleged that the First Defendant had stated that there were too many Christians in Parliament;
    6. on 27 December 1996 the Straits Times published an article entitled "Serious Men vs Opportunists". This article reported comments made by the Plaintiff and SM Lee that the First Defendant was a "Chinese chauvinist" who held "radical views" on the promotion of the Chinese language and culture in Singapore. They warned that these views would undermine Singaporeís racial peace. SM Lee stated that the First Defendant was "anti-English-educated and anti-Christian." The Plaintiff also stated that:
    1. several Member of Parliaments had urged that the First Defendant should not be allowed to enter Parliament as his views could divide the country; and that
    2. the First Defendant had said in a speech in 1994 that many Cabinet Ministers and top civil servants were Christians and English-educated. The Plaintiff stated that this was a "dangerous position" as it amounted to advocating a racial quota system for appointments to top posts rather than one based on meritocracy.
    1. On 28 December 1996 the Straits Times reported on a Hong Kah GRC rally which took place on 27 December 1996. The article, entitled "PM to Tang : repeat 1994 statements in public", reported that the Plaintiff had alleged that the First Defendant, at a dinner in 1994, had stated that there were too many English educated Christian ministers and permanent secretaries. The Plaintiff went on to imply that the First Defendant would damage racial harmony in Singapore.
    2. The same article reported that at the rally Ker Sin Tze stated that if the First Defendant were elected to Parliament, minority communities would feel very uncomfortable. He went on to state that the election of the First Defendant would cause a similar result as that which occurred in Australia following the MP Pauline Hansonís remarks about race and culture: Singaporeís trade, tourism and reputation would be damaged.
       
    3. On 29 December 1996 the Straits Times published an article entitled: "English education, religion donít affect duties: Dr. Tan". The article quoted Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, a Plaintiff in a related action and a senior member of the PAP at length. He endorsed the PAP campaign against the First Defendant. He also supported the analogy made between the First Defendant and the Australian MP, Pauline Hanson, by Dr. Ker Sin Tze, as set out in paragraph (h) above.
       
    4. In an article published by the Straits Times on 29 December 1996 entitled "PAP focuses on Tang Liang Hong threat" it was reported that Dr. Ow Chin Hock had stated that the First Defendant posed a danger to Singaporeís multi-cultural and multi-racial society. Chíng Jit Koon had also been a participant in the press conference. The article also reported that the Plaintiff had released several documents to the press regarding the First Defendant and that he had stated that the First Defendant would, if elected to Parliament, have a "damaging impact" on Singaporeís multi-racial and multi-lingual society. Among the documents were letters from Chin Harn Tong, Chíng Jit Koon, Ow Chin Hock and Ker Sin Tze, all of whom were prominent members of the PAP and plaintiffs in the related actions. All of these letters stated that the First Defendant held extreme positions on issues such as Chinese language, culture and civilization. The article also reported that SM Lee had stated that the First Defendantís views on race and culture were dangerous.
       
    5. On 30 December 1996 the Straits Times, in an article entitled "Prime Minister Goh : Iím ready to go to court" reported a speech made by the Plaintiff at a PAP rally in Jalan Basar. He used the speech to repeat his allegations that the First Defendant is a Chinese chauvinist.
       
    6. In an article entitled "More Chinese-educated needed in parliament too many Christians in cabinet" published on 31 December 1996 in the Straits Times, statements made by Seng Han Thong at a PAP rally on 30 December 1996 were reported. He stated that the First Defendant had told him that more Chinese-educated people were needed in Parliament and that there were too many Christians in the Cabinet.
       
    7. On 31 December 1996 the Business Times, under the heading "Heard and Seen", quoted SM Lee as saying of the First Defendant: "If heís against the English-educated, he must be against the Malay-educated even more. If he is against Christianity, he must be against Islam even more because Islam represents even a deeper exclusiveness. So this approach must be destructive".
       
    8. In three official election pamphlets published by the PAP allegations were made against the First Defendant:

(i) An official election pamphlet published by the PAP entitled "Open Letter to Cheng San voters: Tang Liang Hongís Dangerous Views" was issued by the 5 PAP candidates for the Cheng San GRC, including the Lee Yock Suan, a prominent member of the PAP and a plaintiff in a related action. The letter was republished in the Straits Times on 31 December 1996. The pamphlet described the First Defendant as an "extremist on Chinese culture and language" and falsely reported the First Defendant as having stated that "Chinese-educated Singaporeans should sit in a sedan chair, and that the English-educated should carry the sedan chair". 

(ii) A pamphlet entitled "Open letter to Singaporeans. PM, SM: Sue us. Tang Liang Hongís Dangerous Views (II)" stated that the First Defendant holds "extreme views on Chinese language and culture". It went on to state that in 1994 the First Defendant told Teo Chee Hean that there were too many Christians and English-educated people in the Government and that the First Defendantís subsequent denial of this statement meant that he was also a liar. The pamphlet also reported that he had told Seng Han Thong in April 1996 that there were too many Christians in the Cabinet. It then went on to say that SM Lee and the Plaintiff believed that the First Defendant was a "Chinese chauvinist, anti-Christian and anti-English-educated".

(iii) In a pamphlet entitled "Open letter to Singaporeans. Support PM, Reject Tang Liang Hong. Tang Liang Hongís Dangerous Views (III)" it was stated that the First Defendantís views endangered Singaporeís multi-racial and multi-religious society.

    1. On 31 December 1996 the Straits Times published an article entitled "Tang must be dealt with before the damage is done". The article reported comments made by the Plaintiff on the previous evening regarding the First Defendant. The Plaintiff stated that the First Defendant possessed extreme views on Chinese language and culture which would damage Singapore and its relations with other countries. He warned that the First Defendant held similar views to the Australian MP, Pauline Hanson, who had expressed anti-Asian views which had divided Australians and caused increased attacks against immigrants. Such had been the revulsion at her remarks that Malaysia had reconsidered its policy of sending its students to Australian universities.
       
    2. On 31 December 1996 the Straits Times published an article entitled "Chinese-educated must decide what they want for the future". In the said article SM Lee stated that the First Defendant had behaved like the racist Australian MP, Pauline Hanson, who expressed racist views on language and culture; that he intended to introduce a Chinese dominated society which would destroy racial peace by causing conflict between the different races in Singapore; and that it was important to create a society in which people such as the First Defendant were not able to express racial views or behave in a racist and abusive manner towards other people.
       
    3. On 31 December 1996 the Straits Times published an article entitled: "Why Chinese chauvinism will destroy Sípore: SM". The article reported a speech made by SM Lee on the previous day. It reported that he had stated that the First Defendant was a Chinese chauvinist and that if Singapore allowed his Chinese chauvinism to infect Singapore it would result in its destruction. It would cause the Chinese to seek a dominant role for their race, culture and languages over other races, cultures and languages. The racial conflict that would come about as the result of this would be similar to that which occurred in Rwanda, Somalia, the Lebanon and former Yugoslavia. It would result in the deaths of a significant proportion of the population of Singapore. Singapore could go the way of Beirut; its highly successful, wealthy and peaceful status would be destroyed by inter-racial warfare.
       
    4. On 1 January 1997 the Lianhe Zaobao published an article entitled "Two Deputy Prime Ministers Join the Campaign to Assist Cheng San Constituency". The article reported that Lee Hsien Loong and Tony Tan Keng Yam had stated that the First Defendant was an anti-Christian and anti-English-educated Chinese chauvinist whose views could cause great problems for Singapore. Mr. Lee was also reported as stating that the First Defendant constituted a threat to the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society of Singapore. A similar report appeared in the Straits Times on the same date under the heading: "DPMs join in battle for Cheng San".
       
    5. On 2 January 1997 the Straits Times published an article entitled "PAP leaders put reputation at stake in Cheng San". The article reported that the Plaintiff had stated at a rally on the previous evening that he was so determined to stop the First Defendant from entering Parliament that he was entering the battle for Cheng San GRC to fight against the dangerous Chinese chauvinism represented by the First Defendant.
       
    6. On 7 January 1997 the Straits Times published an article entitled "Letís take the middle path to maintain racial harmony." It reported that the Plaintiff had stated that the First Defendant had chauvinistic views and that if people such as the First Defendant entered Parliament their attempts to make Chinese the dominant language in Singapore would threaten racial harmony. 

7.7 The First Defendant had not in truth expressed extremist views either at the dinner in 1994 or on any other occasion. He is not an anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist or anti-English-educated or a racist. His views would not cause social or racial disharmony or disruption in Singapore. On the contrary he is and was at all material times a firm believer in religious, educational cultural and racial harmony. He had given the Plaintiff and the Plaintiffs in the related actions no reason to suppose otherwise. Accordingly there was no basis in truth for the defamatory charges leveled against the First Defendant by SM Lee. The First Defendant will invite the inference that Plaintiff and the Plaintiffs in the related actions combined together to misrepresent the First Defendantís beliefs and opinions for their own political ends. 

7.8 On 30 December 1996 the First Defendant gave an interview to Ahmad Osman of the Straits Times. During the course of the interview the First Defendant stated that the allegations made against him, namely that he is an anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist, were lies. The interview was published by the Straits Times on the following day. Subsequently SM Lee, the Plaintiff, Teo Chee Hean, Chíng Jit Koon, Ow Chin Hock, Chin Harn Tong, Ker Sin Tze and Seng Han Thong decided in combination with one another to issue proceedings against the First Defendant for defamation. The essence of their claim was that the First Defendant had called them liars during the course of the aforementioned interview. On 31 December 1996 SM Lee served a Writ of Summons in Suit No. 2523. On 1 January 1997 The Plaintiff caused a Writ of Summons in Suit No. 2524. On 1 January 1997 Teo Chee Hean, Ch'ng Jit Koon, Ow Chin Hock, Chin Harn Tong, Ker Sin Tze and Seng Han Thong served a Writ of Summons in Suit No. 2525. The Statements of Claim in all three actions were served on 10 January 1997. The First Defendant will contend that the purpose and motive of the plaintiffs in instituting these actions was to utilise the judicial process in order to further impede the First Defendantís chances of political success in Singapore. 

7.9 On 1 January 1997 the First Defendant filed two police reports to the Kreta Ayer Neighbourhood Police Post. One of the reports complained about the activities of The Plaintiff, Teo Chee Hean, Lee Yock Suan, Ow Chin Hock, Tony Tan, Ker Sin Tze, Chin Harn Tong, Ch'ng Jit Koon, SM Lee, Seng Han Thong and Lee Hsien Loong. It alleged that those persons had made a number of statements calculated to make the public believe that the First Defendant was an anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist; anti-English-educated; and that some of his statements will cause social and racial disharmony and disruption in Singapore. It further stated that these allegations were groundless, without factual basis and intended to harm the First Defendantís reputation and to defame him. The report went on to state that the persons named in the report had, as a result of the publication of their statements: incited certain groups of people to believe that the First Defendant is anti-Christian and anti-English-educated persons; were likely to incite religious extremists to hate the First Defendant and to cause harm to him and members of his family; and repeatedly challenged and provoked the First Defendant to make statements in public which they have said may cause social disorder in Singapore. the First Defendant requested the police to investigate these matters on an urgent basis. 

7.10 On 13 January 1997 Lee Hsien Loong served a Writ of Summons in Suit No. 70 of 1997. On 14 January 1997 Tony Tan Kang Yam served a Writ of Summons in Suit No. 76 of 1997. On 20 January 1996 Lee Yock Suan served a Writ of Summons in Suit No. 82 of 1997. These three actions were for defamation founded on the contents of the police report filed by the First Defendant on 1 January 1997. The First Defendant will contend that these proceedings were instituted in order to overwhelm him with litigation so that he will be put to huge expense and will be unable to pursue his political career, rather than to restore and vindicate the reputations of the Plaintiffs.  

7.11 Subsequently, six further actions for defamation have been issued against the First Defendant as follows: 

(i) Suit No.172 of 1997 by SM Lee and Lee Hsien Loong;

(ii) Suits No. 181 of 1997 by SM Lee;

(iii) Suits No. 182 of 1997 by SM Lee;

(iv) Suits No. 187 of 1997 (this action ) by the Plaintiff;

(v) Suits No. 188 of 1997 by Teo Chee Hean, Ch'ng Jit Koon, Ow Chin Hock, Chin Harn Tong, Ker Sin Tze and Seng Han Thong; and

(vi) Suits No. 244 of 1997 by the Plaintiff.  

The First Defendant will contend that these proceedings were instituted in order to overwhelm him with litigation so that he will be put to huge expense and will be unable to pursue his political career, rather than to restore and vindicate the reputations of the Plaintiff.  

7.12 In support of the contention that the defamation actions listed above were part of an ongoing political campaign against him by the Plaintiff and the Plaintiffs in the related actions, who were prepared to resort to any means available not only to defeat the First Defendant at the General Election but to ruin him politically, the First Defendant will rely on:

(i) The Writ of Summons in Suits No. 2523 and 2525 were served on the First Defendant at a Workers' Party rally at the Hougang Stadium on 31 December 1997.

(ii) The letters before action in Suits No. 2523, 2524 and 2525, which were written in similar terms, made identical requests that the First Defendant withdraw any defamatory allegations made against the Plaintiffs and to read out apologies to the Plaintiffs at a Workers' Party rally not later than 9 p.m. on 1 January 199, the eve of polling day, and publish apologies to the Plaintiffs in the Straits Times on 2 January 1997, polling day itself. The First Defendant declined to comply with these demands. 

(iii) At 9.15 p.m. on 1 January 1997 the Plaintiff chose to announce to a PAP rally that he and the other Plaintiffs would pursue their actions for defamation, namely Suits No. 2523, 2524 and 2525, against the First Defendant. This statement was reported in the Straits Times on 2 January 1997. 

(iv) On 1 January 1997 the plaintiff publicly announced that the case would be a "very expensive court" battle for the First Defendant. This comment was reported in the Straits Times on 2 January 1997.

(v) On 1 January 1997 Lee Hsien Loong challenged the leaders of the Workers' Party to call the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff liars for calling the First Defendant a Chinese chauvinist so that the matter could go to court. This comment was reported in the Straits Times on 2 January 1997. 

(vi) In the premises, the First Defendant will rely on the sheer number of defamation actions brought against the First Defendant, the coordinated manner in which they were prosecuted, the striking similarities between letters before action and Statements of Claim issued by each Plaintiff, an the combining of the Plaintiffs to obtain a Mareva injunction against him. 

(vii) Neither the Plaintiff, SM Lee nor the Plaintiffs in the related actions have sought to make any complaints against those newspapers that published the alleged libels.

7.13 Although no judgment had been entered or liability established, Mareva injunctions were applied for on 27 January 1997 by the Plaintiffs in Suits Nos. 1116, 2523, 2524, 2525 of 1996 and Suits Nos. 70, 76, 82, 172, 181, 182 187 and 188. Such an application by the plaintiffs in a libel action before judgment is unprecedented. Furthermore, the Plaintiffs in those actions applied for Teo Siew Har, the First Defendantís wife, to be joined as the Second Defendant in the actions, despite the fact that there is no subsisting cause of action against her. Consequently, a Mareva injunction should not have been applied for against her. It is also contended that the amount of the Mareva injunction, S$11,200,000 is disproportionate to any damages likely to be awarded to the Plaintiffs.  

7.14 On the evening of 27 January 1997 Teo Siew Har, having earlier been prevented from carrying out a brief visit to friends in Malaysia, returned home only to be served, on the instructions of the said Plaintiff, with the said Mareva injunction. Immediately following that, at 11.00 p.m., her home was raided by a group of at least ten people claiming to be tax officials. They stayed at her home until 4:00 a.m. the following morning. During the course of the visit many of the Tang familyís personal possessions were handled. The men took away 76 boxes of Teo Siew Harís and the First Defendantís documents as well as a number of personal possessions. At the same time the First Defendantís law practice, Tang & Co., was raided in a similar manner. 

8. Paragraphs 15 and 16 of the Statement of Claim are denied. 

9. It is denied that the Plaintiff is entitled to aggravated damages whether by reason of the matters set out in paragraph 17 of the Statement of Claim or at all. Paragraph 17 of the Statement of Claim is denied. 

10. Unless expressly admitted above, all allegations in the Plaintiffís Statement of Claim are denied and the Plaintiffs put to proof of them.
 

Dated this 4th day of March, 1997.


______________________________

Solicitors for the First Defendant

 

 

 

To : The Plaintiff and his Solicitors

M/s Allen & Gledhill (SHK/FMS/js/000945/975)

36 Robinson Road

#18-01

Singapore 068877

  

IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE

 

Suit No. 187 of 1997 )

Between

GOH CHOK TONG
(NRIC No. S0046428G)

... Plaintiff/s

and

1. TANG LIANG HONG
(NRIC No. S1096110F)

2. TEO SIEW HAR
(NRIC No. S0531156Z)

... Defendant/s

__________________________________________________

DEFENCE OF THE FIRST DEFENDANT

__________________________________________________

 

 

MESSRS. TANG & COMPANY

ADVOCATES & SOLICITORS

C/O J B JEYARETNAM & CO.

ADVOCATES & SOLICITORS

1 COLOMBO COURT

#09-22

SINGAPORE 179742

TEL: 337-2371

FAX: 337-2035

 

Filed this 4th day of March 1997