IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE

 

 

Suit No. 2523 of 1996

Between

 

LEE KUAN YEW
(NRIC No. S0000003/E)

 ... Plaintiff

 And

 TANG LIANG HONG
(NRIC No. S1096110/F)

 ... Defendant

 

 DEFENCE

1. Paragraph 1 and 2 of the Statement of Claim is admitted.

2. Paragraph 3 of the Statement of Claim is admitted.

3. The Defendant does not plead to paragraph 4 of the Statement of Claim, which pleads evidence.

4. Paragraph 5 of the Statement of Claim is admitted.

5. The Defendant admits that he is responsible in law for the republication in the Straits Times of the words admittedly spoken by him. Otherwise paragraph 6 of the Statement of Claim is not admitted.

6. It is denied that the Defendant is responsible for the republications alleged in paragraph 7 of the Statement of Claim or that such republications were the natural and probable result of the republication in the Straits Times. The re-publications are too remote for the Defendant to be liable therefor.

7. Insofar as the words spoken by the Defendant referred to "SM" (but not otherwise) it is admitted that the Defendantís words would have been understood to refer to the Plaintiff.

8. It is denied that the words spoken by the Defendant bore the meanings alleged in paragraph 10 of the Statement of Claim.

9. It is denied that the said words bore by innuendo the meanings alleged in paragraph 11 of the Statement of Claim.

10. It is in any event denied that the Plaintiff is entitled, either in support of his contention that the Defendantís words spoken on 30 December 1996 would have been understood to refer to him, or in support of his contention that the said words bore the innuendo meanings pleaded, to rely on newspaper articles and letters written and published after 30 December 1996.

11. Paragraph 12 of the Statement of Claim is not admitted.

12. Further or alternatively the words spoken by the Defendant were true in substance and in fact.

PARTICULARS OF MEANING

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

PARTICULARS OF MEANING

i. that the Plaintiff had combined with others in the course of the General Election campaign falsely to attribute to the Defendant views which he does not hold and further to misrepresent what the Defendant has said with the deliberate intention of discrediting the Defendant in the estimation of the Singaporean electorate and so preventing his election as a Member of Parliament;

ii. that the Plaintiff, by acting as aforesaid, had committed or may reasonably be suspected of having committed an offence against the Penal Code so as to merit investigation by the police;

iii. that the Plaintiff had in conjunction with other senior members of the PAP resorted to dubious and unfair tactics designed to deceive the Singapore voters as to the character and political opinions of the Defendant and thereby ruin his chances of being elected.

 PARTICULARS OF JUSTIFICATION

i. The Defendant is neither anti-Christian nor anti-Islam nor anti-Malay nor a Chinese chauvinist nor anti-English educated nor a danger to society. On the contrary he is and was at all material times a firm believer in religious, educational and racial harmony.

ii. In or about August of 1994 the Defendant gave a talk 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 Defendant was a racist or held any of the views referred to at (i) above.

iii. In December 1996 the 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. The Plaintiffs in this action and in Suits No. 2524 of 1996, 2525 of 1996, 70 of 1997 and 82 of 1997 (hereafter called "the related actions") are all prominent members of the Peoplesí Action Party ("the PAP"). It is their fervent wish to prevent by all means that the election of any opposition Member of Parliament in Singapore. In support of this allegations the Defendant will rely inter alia upon statements made on behalf of the PAP by the Prime Minister 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 Defendant out of Parliament; that he was so determined to stop the Defendant from getting into Parliament that he was himself standing in the Cheng San GRC constituency and that the fact that the 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".

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

v. The 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 Defendant being returned as a Member of Parliament and deliberated on how best to ensure that he was particulars of this allegation after discovery and/or interrogatories and/or service of witness statements.

vi. As a result of the deliberations referred to at (v) above, the Plaintiff along with the Plaintiffs in the related actions over the period from 26 December 1996 until the General Election made a large number of public statements concerning the Defendant in which he was variously described as :-

(a) anti-Christian;

(b) a Chinese Chauvinist;

(c) anti-English educated;

(d) a dangerous character;

(e) being against Malay-educated;

(f) being anti-Islam; and

(g) being anti-Malay.

vii. In support of the contention in sub-paragraph (vi) above the Defendant will rely by way of example on the following statements made by the Plaintiff and by the Plaintiffs in the related actions in the run-up to the General Election (all of which received, as the Plaintiff 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 same issue of the Straits Times for 27 December 1996, Rear Admiral Teo, the Environmental Minister and a prominent member of the PAP and a Plaintiff in one of the related actions, alleged that at a dinner he had attended in Singapore in 1994 the Defendant had said "improper things", drawn outrageous implications and indulged in dangerous talk, with the result the he (Teo) had concluded that the Defendant was an extremist; that is elected the WP candidate 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 Prime Minister, another Plaintiff in one of the related actions, described the Defendant was "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, a prominent member of the PAP and a Plaintiff in a related action, had stated that the Defendant had "rather extreme and insensitive" views on culture and ethnic issues, and had stated that the Defendant "was inclined to speak like a Chinese chauvinist";
     
  4. the article also reported that Dr Ker Sin Tze, a prominent member of the PAP and a Plaintiff is a related action, had said that the Defendant held radical views on the promotion of Chinese language and culture, and had pushed for 45 per cent of teaching hours in primary schools to be devoted to Chinese. He stated that the Defendant had also once said: "English-educated Chinese who do not have a good grasp of their culture and do not feel embarrassed about it are likely to lack respect for their own kind and confidence in themselves." He also alleged that the Defendant had said that the knowledge which really mattered in life and which determined the quality of life for Chinese people could only be expressed in Chinese, not English;
     
  5. the article went on to refer to comments about the Defendant made by Dr Ow Chin Hock, a prominent member of the PAP and a Plaintiff in a related action. He stated that he had two reservations about the Defendant: his "extreme positions on Chinese language and culture issues" and his "emotional and temperamental" nature;
     
  6. 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 the Plaintiff had accused the Defendant and J. B. Jeyaretnam, the head of the Workersí Party, of being "language chauvinist" brought together by political opportunism and that the Defendant was a "Chinese-language chauvinist". The Plaintiff went on to state that both menís cultural chauvinism proved they were political opportunists. He also alleged that the Defendant had stated that there were too many Christians in Parliament;
     
  7. on 27 December 1996 the Straits Times published an article entitled "Serious Men vs. Opportunists". This article reported comments made by the Plaintiff and the Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, that the Defendant was a "Chinese Chauvinist" who held "radical views" on the promotion of the Chinese language and culture in Singapore. They warned that these viewswould undermine Singaporeís racial peace. The Plaintiff stated that the Defendant was "anti-English-educated and anti-Christian." The Prime Minister also stated that:
    1. several Members of Parliament had urged that the Defendant should not be allowed to enter Parliament as his views could divide the country; and that
       
    2. the Defendant had said in a speech in 1994 that many Cabinet Ministers and top civil servants were Christians and English-educated. The Prime Minister 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.
       
  8. 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 Prime Minister had alleged that the Defendant, at a dinner in 1994, had stated that there were too many English-educated Christian ministers and permanent secretaries. The Prime Minister went on to imply that the Defendant would damage racial harmony in Singapore.
     
  9. The same article reported that at the same rally Ker Sin Tze had stated that if electors voted for the Defendant, minority communities would feel very uncomfortable and that if elected his views on race and immigration would damage Singaporeís trade, tourism and reputation.
     
  10. In an article published in 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 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 Prime Minister had released several documents to the press regarding the Defendant and that he had stated that the 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 are prominent members of the PAP and plaintiffs in related actions. All of these letters pointed out that the Defendant held extreme positions on issues such as Chinese language, culture and civilization. The article also reported that the Plaintiff had stated that the Defendantís views on race and culture were dangerous.
     
  11. On 30 December 1996 the Straits Times, in an article entitled "PM Goh: Iím ready to go to court" reported a speech made by the Prime Minister at a PAP rally in Jalan Besar. He used the speech to repeat his allegations that the Defendant is a Chinese chauvinist.
     
  12. 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, a prominent member of the PAP and a Plaintiff is a related action, at a PAP rally on 30 December 1996 were reported. He stated that the Defendant had told him that more Chinese-educated people were needed in Parliament and that there were too many Christians in the Cabinet.
     
  13. On 31 December 1996 the Business Times, under the heading "Heard and Seen", quoted the Plaintiff as saying of the 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 deeper exclusiveness. So this approach must be destructive."
     
  14. In three official pamphlets published by the PAP, allegations were made against the Plaintiff.
    1. A pamphlet 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 Lee Yock Suan, a prominent member of the PAP and a plaintiff in a related matter. The letter was republished in the Straits Times on 31 December 1996. The pamphlet described the Defendant as "an extremist on Chinese culture and language" and falsely reported the Defendant as having stated that "Chinese-educated Singaporeans should sit in a sedan chair, and the English-educated should carry the sedan chair".
       
    2. A pamphlet entitled "Open Letter to Singaporeans. PM, sue: Sue us. Tang Liang Hongís Dangerous Views (II)" stated that the Defendant holds "extreme views on Chinese language and culture". It went on to state that there were too many Christians and English-educated people in the Government and that the 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 the Plaintiff and the Prime Minister believed that the Defendant was a "Chinese chauvinist, anti-Christian and anti-English educated".
       
    3. In a pamphlet entitled "Open letter to Singaporeans. Support PM, Reject Tang Liang Hong. Tang Liang Hongís Dangerous Views (III)" it stated that the Defendantís views endangered Singaporeís multi-racial and multi-religious society.
       
  15. 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, a prominent member of the PAP and a plaintiff in a related action, had stated that the 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 Defendant constituted a threat to the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society of Singapore.

viii The Defendant had not in truth expressed extremist views either at the dinner in 1994 or on any other occasion; he is not a racist or a chauvinist; above all, he wants to achieve harmony in the multi-ethnic Singaporean community. He had given the Plaintiff no reason to suppose otherwise. The Defendant repeats paragraph (i) of these Particulars.

ix Accordingly there were no basis in truth for the charges leveled against the Defendant by the Plaintiff and by the Plaintiffs in the related actions, all of whom were guilty of deliberately or recklessly misrepresenting the Defendantís beliefs and opinions for their own political ends and of engaging in dubious and unfair election tactics designed to ruin the chances of the Defendant being elected;

x. further the false accusations of racism, chauvinism, religious bigotry and threatening to undermine the political stability of Singapore were defamatory of the Defendant and/or calculated to cause social and racial disharmony and/or amounted to incitement to individual groups to oppose and threaten harm to the Defendant and to his family. As such they amounted or might well have amounted to breaches of the Singapore penal code and merited investigation by the police;

xi. in the General Election on 2 January 1997, the WP candidates received 44,132 votes. But the PAP candidate received 53,553 votes. Accordingly the Defendant was not elected. The Defendant will contend that the Plaintiff, along with the Plaintiffs in the related actions, achieved, by foul means and by spreading falsehood about the Defendant, his objective of preventing the Defendant being elected.

13. The Defendant will, if necessary, rely on section 8 of the Defamation Act. 

14. Further or in further alternative the said words were published by the Defendant in order to defend himself against the charges and attacks which had been leveled against him by the Plaintiff and others, which charges and attacks had received the widest possible publicity throughout Singapore. Accordingly the said words were published on an occasion of qualified privilege.

PARTICULARS

i. The attacks on the Defendant which will be relied on are those referred to in sub-paragraph (vi) and (vii) of paragraph 12 hereof. 

ii. the publicity accorded to those attacks was that they received the widest coverage in the press in Singapore (and elsewhere) and the greatest air-time on television and on the radio in Singapore (and elsewhere).

iii. the defence mounted by the Defendant to the said charges was contained in the words complained of herein and was addressed to those readers, listeners and viewer to whom the Plaintiff and the Plaintiffs in the related actions had addressed their charges against the Defendant.

15. Paragraph 13 of the Statement of Claim is expressly denied. The Plaintiff suffered no damage by reason of the words spoken by the Defendant. Alternatively if any such damage was suffered by the Plaintiff, it was suffered by reason of the attacks on the Defendant in which the Plaintiff joined (as alleged in the Particulars under paragraph 14 hereof) and on that account the Defendant should not be held liable therefor.

16. It is denied that the Plaintiff is entitled to aggravated damages whether by reason of the matters particularized in paragraph 14 of the Statement of Claim or at all.

17. Without prejudice to the generality of the denial in paragraph 17 hereof, the Defendant will contend that sub-paragraphs (e) to (k) of paragraph 14 of the Statement of Claim inclusive disclose no entitlement to aggravated damages because there is no allegation that these matters caused injury or hurt to the Plaintiff.

18. Save as hereinbefore expressly admitted the Defendant denies each and every allegation of fact contained in the Statement of Claim as if the same were set forth herein and specifically traversed.

 

Dated the 24th January 1997.

 

Solicitor for the Defendant 

To : The above named Plaintiff

and his Solicitors

Messrs Drew & Napier

(Ref : HRK/DS 90314/DN-LKY.WPD/cl (DS 2A)