IN THE HIGH COURT OF
THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
Suit No. 2525 )
of 1996 )
1. TEO CHEE HEAN
(NRIC No. 0158131/G)
2. CH'NG JIT KOON
(NRIC No. 0816644/G)
3. OW CHIN HOCK
(NRIC No. 0036442/H)
4. CHIN HARN TONG
(NRIC No. 0001050/B)
5. KER SIN TZE
(NRIC No. 0398064/B)
6. SENG HAN THONG
(NRIC No. 0098408/F)
TANG LIANG HONG
(NRIC No. 1096110/F)
D E F E N C E
1. Paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the Statement of Claim are admitted.
2. Insofar as the words set out in paragraph 11 of the Statement of Claim were spoken by the Defendant, and insofar as they were spoken to Ahmad Osman in the presence of Leong Mun Kwai, paragraph 11 is admitted. In all other respects paragraph 11 is denied.
3. Insofar as the Defendant's words referred to the First Plaintiff by name and were in direct response to a question in which the First Plaintiff was named (but not otherwise) it is admitted that the Defendant's words would have been understood to refer to the First Plaintiff. It is denied that the Defendant's words referred to the other Plaintiffs either jointly or severally.
4. It is denied that the words spoken by the Defendant bore the meanings alleged in paragraph 13 of the Statement of Claim.
5. It is denied that the said words bore by innuendo the meanings alleged in paragraph 14 of the Statement of Claim.
6. Further or alternatively the
words spoken by the Defendant were true in substance and in fact.
PARTICULARS OF MEANING
i. that the Plaintiffs 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 Plaintiffs, by acting as aforesaid, have 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 Plaintiffs 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 education 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 1994 the Defendant gave a talk to 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 in (i) above.
iii. In December 1996 the Defendant was nominated as a candidate in the forthcoming General Election on behalf of the Worker's Party ("the WP"). He stood as a candidate in the Cheng San GRC. The Plaintiffs in this action and the Plaintiffs in Suits Nos. 2524 and 2523 of 1996 and Suits Nos. 70 and 97 of 1997 (hereinafter referred to as the "related actions") are all prominent members of the People's Action Party ("the PAP") . It is their fervent wish to prevent by all possible means the election of any opposition Member of Parliament in Singapore. In support of this allegation the Defendant will rely, inter alia, upon statements made on behalf of the PAP by the Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, and reported respectively in the issue of the Straits Times for 30 and 31 December 1996 to the effect that of course he was biassed and wanted to keep the Defendant out of Parliament; that he was so determined to stop the Defendant 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 on the numbers of those attending WP rallies and (after discovery) on the surveys of voters' 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 how best to ensure that he was discredited and in due course defeated. The Defendant will give further 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 Plaintiffs 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
(b) a Chinese chauvinist;
(c) anti-English educated;
(d) a dangerous character;
(e) being against the 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 Plaintiffs and by the Plaintiffs in the related actions in the run-up to the General Election (all of which received, as the Plaintiffs in this and the related actions knew and intended, the widest publicity in the press and were read by the electors in the Cheng San GRC constituency):
(a) as reported in the issue of the Straits Times for 27 December 1996, the First Plaintiff 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 that he (Teo) had concluded that the Defendant was an extremist; that if elected the WP candidates would undermine Singapore's political stability, bankrupt the country and sow disharmony in the community;
(b) according to the same issue of the Straits Times the Prime Minister, a prominent member of the PAP and a Plaintiff in a related action, described the Defendant as a "dangerous character"; a covert opponent of the government's education policy, especially on Chinese language and culture; as playing and plugging a very dangerous line and as a person with "extreme ideas".
(c) in the same article it was reported that the Second Plaintiff 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";
(d) the article also reported that the Fifth Plaintiff 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;
(e) the article went on to refer to comments about the Defendant made by the Third Plaintiff. 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;
(f) the Straits Times for 27 December 1996 also published an article on the PAP's first election rally at Hougang Stadium entitled "Jeya and Tang are strange bedfellows: SM". The article reported that Lee Kuan Yew, a prominent member of the PAP and a Plaintiff in a related action, had accused the Defendant and J.B. Jeyaretnam, the head of the Workers' Party, of being "language chauvinists" brought together by political opportunism and that the Defendant was a "Chinese-language chauvinist". Mr Lee went on to state that both men's cultural chauvinism proved they were political opportunists. Mr Lee also alleged that the Defendant had stated that there were too many Christians in Parliament;
(g) on 27 December 1996 the Straits Times published an article entitled "Serious Men vs Opportunists". This article reported comments made by the Prime Minister and Lee Kuan Yew 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 views would undermine Singapore's racial peace. Mr Lee stated that the Defendant was "anti-English-educated and anti-Christian." The Prime Minister also stated that:
(i) 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
(ii) 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.
(h) 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.
(i) The same article reported that at the same rally the Fifth Plaintiff 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 Singapore's trade, tourism and reputation.
(j) In an article published in the Straits Times on 29 December 1996 entitled "PAP focuses on Tang Liang Hong threat" it was reported that the Third Plaintiff had stated that the Defendant posed a danger to Singapore's multi-cultural and multi-racial society. The Second Plaintiff 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 Singapore's multi-racial and multi-lingual society. Among the documents were letters from the Fourth Plaintiff, the Second Plaintiff and the Fifth Plaintiff. 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 Lee Kuan Yew had stated that the Defendant's views on race and culture were dangerous.
(k) On 30 December 1996 the Straits Times, in an article entitled "PM Goh: I'm ready to go to court" reported a speech made by the Prime Minister at a PAP rally in Jalan Besar. The Prime Minister used the speech to repeat his allegations that the Defendant is a Chinese chauvinist.
(l) 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 the Sixth Plaintiff 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.
(m) On 31 December 1996 the Business Times, under the heading "Heard and Seen", quoted Lee Kuan Yew as saying of the Defendant: "If he's 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".
(n) In three official election pamphlets published by the PAP allegations were made against the Plaintiff.
(i) A pamphlet entitled "Open letter to Cheng San voters: Tang Liang Hong's 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".
(ii) A pamphlet entitled "Open Letter to Singaporeans. PM, sue: Sue us. Tang Liang Hong's Dangerous Views (II)" stated that the Defendant holds "extreme views on Chinese language and culture". It went on to state that in 1994 the Defendant told the First Plaintiff that there were too many Christians and English-educated people in the Government and that the Defendant's subsequent denial of this statement meant that he was also a liar. The pamphlet also reported that he had told the Sixth Plaintiff in April 1996 that there were too many Christians in the Cabinet. It then went on to say that the Prime Minister and Lee Kuan Yew believed that the 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 Hong's Dangerous Views (III)" it was stated that the Defendant's views endangered Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious society.
(o) 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 Plaintiffs no reason to suppose otherwise. The Defendant repeats paragraph (i) of these Particulars.
(ix) accordingly there was no basis in truth for the charges levelled against the Defendant by the Plaintiffs in this and the related actions, all of whom were guilty of deliberately or recklessly misrepresenting the Defendant's 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) on 1st January 1997 the Defendant lodged with the police two reports in regard to the matters referred to in paragraph (x), to the full terms of which the Defendant will refer at trial.
(xii) in the General Election on 2 January 1997, the WP candidates received 44,132 votes. But the PAP candidates received 53,553 votes. Accordingly the Defendant was not elected. The Defendant will contend that the Plaintiffs in this action and the related actions achieved, by foul means and by spreading falsehoods about the Defendant, the objective of preventing the Defendant being elected.
7. The Defendant will, if necessary, rely on Section 8 of the Defamation Act.
8. Further, or in the further alternative, the said words were published by the Defendant in order to defend himself against charges and attacks which had been levelled 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.
(i) The attacks on the Defendant which will be relied on are those referred to in sub-paragraphs (vi) and (vii) of paragraph 6 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 viewers to whom the Plaintiffs in this action and in the related actions had addressed their charges against the Defendant.
9. 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 15 of the Statement of Claim is not admitted.
10. Paragraph 16 of the Statement of Claim is admitted.
11. The Defendant repeats paragraph 3 hereof. Paragraph 17 of the Statement of Claim is denied.
12. The Defendant repeats paragraphs 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 hereof. Paragraph 18 of the Statement of Claim is denied.
13. 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 19 of the Statement of Claim is not admitted.
14. It is denied that the Defendant is responsible for the republications alleged in paragraph 20 of the Statement of Claim or that such republications were the natural and probable result of the republication in the Straits Times. The re-republications are too remote for the Defendant to be liable therefor.
15. The Defendant repeats paragraph 3 hereof in response to paragraph 21 of the Statement of Claim.
16. Paragraph 22 of the Statement of Claim is denied.
17. Paragraph 23 of the Statement of Claim is denied.
18. Paragraph 24 of the Statement of Claim is expressly denied. The Plaintiffs suffered no damage by reason of the words spoken by the Defendant. Alternatively if any such damage was suffered by the Plaintiffs, it was suffered by reason of the attacks on the Defendant in which the Plaintiffs joined (as alleged in the Particulars under paragraph 8 hereof) and on that account the Defendant should not be held liable therefor.
19. It is denied that the Plaintiff is entitled to aggravated damages whether by reason of the matters particularised in paragraph 25 of the Statement of Claim or at all.
20. Save as hereinbefore expressly admitted the Defendants deny 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 day of January, 1997.
Solicitors for the Defendant
To the abovenamed Plaintiffs and
their solicitors, Harry Elias & Partners
Singapore (Yr ref: HE/TCM/97-424744/TT312)