IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE

 

Suit No. 76 )

)

of 1997 )


Between

TONY TAN KENG YAM
(NRIC No. S1136758E)


...Plaintiff
 

and
 

  • TANG LIANG HONG
    (NRIC No. S1096110F)
  • TEO SIEW HAR
    (NRIC No. not available)
  •  

    ... Defendants

     

    DEFENCE OF FIRST DEFENDANT

    1. The First Defendant contends that this suit, along with Suits Nos. 2523, 2524 and 2525 of 1996 and Suit Nos. 70, 82, 172, 181, 182, 187, 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, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Statement of Claim are admitted.
       
    3. Paragraph 6 of the Statement of Claim is admitted, save that it is averred that Mr. J. B. Jeyaretnam never read the police report handed to him and consequently there was no republication in law.
    4. The First Defendant admits that he is responsible in law for the republication by Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam of words to the effect that he had filed two police reports against "Mr Goh Chok Tong and his team". In all other respects paragraph 7 of the Statement of Claim is denied.
       
    5. Paragraph 8 of the Statement of Claim is not admitted.
       
    6. Paragraph 9 of the Statement of Claim is denied.
       
    7. It is denied that the First Defendant is responsible for the republications alleged in paragraphs 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the Statement of Claim or that such republications was the natural and probable result of the original publication of the police report or of the republication to Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam. The republications outlined in paragraphs 10, 11 and 12 of the Statement of Claim are too remote for the First Defendant to be liable for therefor.
       
    8. Paragraph 13 of the Statement of Claim is admitted.
    9.  

    10. It is denied that the words published by the First Defendant in the police report bore the meanings alleged in paragraph 14 of the Statement of Claim.
       
    11. It is denied that the words published by the First Defendant in the police report bore the innuendo meanings alleged in paragraph 15 of the Statement of Claim.
       
    12. Further or alternatively, the words published by the First Defendant were true in substance and in fact :

       

    PARTICULARS OF MEANING

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

     11.1 The Plaintiff has combined with others ("the person named in the police report") to make untrue and defamatory allegations to the effects that the First Defendant is an anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist; anti-English educated; and that some of his statements were calculated to cause racial and social disharmony and disruption in Singapore.

    11.2 By making the allegations set out in paragraph 11.1 herein to the mass media the Plaintiff and the persons named in the police report incited or caused many people to believe the allegations to be true and further caused or incited or might cause or incite religious extremists to hate the First Defendant so as to give rise to a real apprehension of serious harm to members of his family and to him.

    11.3 In the premises there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the Plaintiff and the other persons named in the police report had or might have committed an offence or offences against the penal code, or at the very least the conduct of the Plaintiff and the persons named in the police report merited investigation by the police and, if appropriate, measures being taken in order to protect the First Defendant and his family from physical harm.

    PARTICULARS OF JUSTIFICATION

    11.1 The First Defendant is not an anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist or anti-English educated. His statements were not calculated to cause social or racial disharmony or disruption in Singapore. He is not a racist or a trouble-maker. On the contrary he is and was at all material times a firm believer in religious, educational and racial harmony.

    11.2 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 the talk could possibly warrant the conclusion that the First Defendant was a racist or held any of the views referred to under the Particulars of Meaning.

    11.3 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. The Plaintiff in this action, the Plaintiffs in the related actions referred to in paragraph 1 of the Defence and referred to in the police report as set out in paragraph 3 of the Statement of Claim, are all prominent members of the Peoplesí 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 First Defendant will rely inter alia upon statements made on behalf of the PAP by Prime Minister Goh 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 that 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".

    11.4 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 PAP.

    11.5 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, and those named in the police report complained of herein, 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.

    11.6 As a result of the deliberations referred to at paragraph 11.5 above, the Plaintiff along with the Plaintiffs in the related actions over the period from 25 December 1996 until the General Election made a large number of public statements concerning the First 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 the Malay-educated;

    (f) being anti-Islam; and

    (g) being anti-Malay.

    11.7 In support of the contention in paragraph 11.6 above the First Defendant will rely by way of example on the following statements made by the Plaintiff, the Plaintiffs in the related actions, and the persons named in the police report, in the run-up to the General Election (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) :

    (a) The First Defendant will also rely on the series of articles referred to in paragraph 15(6) of the Statement of Claim.

    (b) 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 one of the related actions and a person named in the police report, 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;

    (c) according to the same issue of the Straits Times Prime Minister Goh 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";

    (d) in the same article it was reported that Chíng Jit Koon, a prominent member of the PAP, a Plaintiff in a related action, and a person named in the police report, has 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";

    (e) the article went on to refer to comments about the First Defendant made by Dr Ow Chin Hock, a prominent member of the PAP, a Plaintiff in a related action and a person named in the police report. 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;

    (f) 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 Lee Kuan Yew, a prominent member of the PAP, a Plaintiff in a related action and a person named in the police report, had accused the First Defendant and J. B. Jeyaretnam, the head of the Workersí Party, of being "language chauvinists" brought together by political opportunism and that the First Defendant was a "Chinese-language chauvinist". Mr. Lee went on to state that both menís cultural chauvinism proved they were political opportunists. Mr. Lee also alleged that the First 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 Prime Minister Goh and Lee Kuan Yew 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. Mr. Lee stated that the First Defendant was "anti English-educated and anti-Christian." Prime Minister Goh also stated that :

    (i) several Members of Parliament had urged that the First Defendant should not be allowed to enter Parliament as his views could divide the country; and that

    (ii) the First Defendant had said in a speech in 1994 that many Cabinet Ministers and top civil servants were Christians and English-educated. Prime Minister Goh stated that this was a "dangerous position" as it amounted to advocating a racial quota system for appointments to top posts rather than 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 Goh 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. Prime Minister Goh went on to imply that the First Defendant would damage racial harmony in Singapore.

    (i) 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.

    (j) On 29 December the Straits Times published an article entitled : "English education, religion donít affect duties : Dr Tan". The article quoted the Plaintiff at length. He endorsed the PAPís campaign against the First Defendant. He also supported the analogy made by Ker Sin Tze between the First Defendant and the Australian MP, Pauline Hanson, as set out in paragraph (i) above.

    (k) In an article published in the Straits Times Interactive 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 Prime Minister Goh had released several documents to the press regarding the First Defendant and that he had stated 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 Ham 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 First 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 First Defendantís views on race and culture were dangerous.

    (l) On 30 December 1996 the Straits Times, in an article entitled "PM Goh: Iím ready to go to court" reported a speech made by Prime Minister Goh at a PAP rally in Jalan Besar. He used the speech to repeat his allegations that the First Defendant is a Chinese Chauvinist.

    (m) 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 and a prominent member of the PAP, 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.

    (n) On 31 December 1996 the Business Times, under the heading "Heard and Seen", quoted Lee Kuan Yew 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".

    (o) In three official 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. 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 Singaporeís should sit in a sedan chair and the English-educated should carry the sedan chair".

    (ii) A pamphlet entitled "Open Letter to Singaporeís. PM, said: 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 the Plaintiff and Lee Kuan Yew believed that the First Defendant was a "Chinese chauvinist, anti-Christian and anti-English educated".

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

    (p) 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 Prime Minister Goh on the previous evening regarding the First Defendant. Prime Minister Goh had 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, who had expressed anti-Asian views which had divided Australia 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.

    (q) 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 Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew 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 racist views or behave in a racist and abusive manner towards other people.

    (r) On 31 December 1996 the Straits Times published an article entitled : "Why Chinese chauvinism will destroy Singapore : SM". The article reported a speech made by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew 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 language over other races, cultures and languages. The racial conflict that would come about as a 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.

    (s) 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, prominent member of the PAP, a Plaintiff in related actions and a person named in the police report, and the Plaintiff had stated that the First Defendant was an anti-Christian and anti-English-educated Chinese chauvinist extremist 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 the battle for Cheng San".

    11.8 The First 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 First Defendant repeats paragraph 11.1 of these Particulars.

    11.9 Accordingly there were no basis in truth for the defamatory charges levelled against the First Defendant by the Plaintiff. The First Defendant will invite the inference that persons named in the police report combined together intentionally to misrepresent the First Defendantís beliefs and opinions for their own political ends.

    16.10 Further the false accusations of racism, chauvinism, religious bigotry and threatening to undermine the political stability of Singapore were themselves calculated to cause social and racial disharmony and/or amounted to incitement to individual groups to oppose and threaten to harm the First Defendant and to his family. As such they amounted, or alternatively there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that they amounted, to offences against the penal code so as to merit investigation by the police or at the very least the conduct of the Plaintiff and the persons named in the police report merited investigation by the police, and, if appropriate, measures being taken in order to protect the First Defendant and his family from physical harm. The offence against the penal code referred to herein included :

    1. The First Defendant will, if necessary, rely on section 8 of the Defamation Act.
    2. Further, or in the further alternative, the First Defendant had a legal and/or civic and/or moral and/or social duty to publish the police report to the police regarding the aforesaid conduct of the Plaintiff and the persons named in the police report. Alternatively, by publishing the report to the police the Plaintiff was acting in the reasonable protection of his family and himself against risk of physical injury. The police had a corresponding duty or interest to receive the police report. Accordingly the said words were published on an occasion of qualified privilege.

    PARTICULAR

    13.1 The Plaintiff and the other persons named in the police report had committed or may reasonably have been suspected of having committed, and were reasonably expected to further commit offences against the penal code, as specified in paragraph 11.10 herein, so as to merit investigation by the police.

    13.2 The attacks upon the First Defendant relied on are those referred to in paragraph 11.7 herein. The First Defendant repeats those paragraphs.

    13.3 The impact of those attacks was heightened by the great number of them over a relatively short period of time, such that the attacks upon the First Defendant became central or alternatively a major element of the General Election campaign. The Defendant also relies on the dramatic escalation of those attacks immediately prior to the filing of the police report, such that the First Defendant was in fear of a further and yet more serious escalation in the ferocity of the attacks. The Defendant refers to those statements made by a number of persons named in the police report in and set out in paragraphs 11.7 (n), (p), (q) and (r) herein, which were published on 31 December 1996.

    13.4 The attacks received the widest coverage in the press and the greatest air-time on television and on the radio in Singapore.

    13.5 The attacks used strong and emotive language such as was likely to incite persons to hate the First Defendant and his family and to want to cause him and his family physical harm.

    13.6 In order to protect himself and his family and those closely associated with him, the First Defendant had a duty to request help of the appropriate authority, the police force.

    13.7 The First Defendant and his family were threatened with physical danger as a result of the emotive language deployed against him. 

    1. Paragraph 16 of the Statement of Claim is denied
    2. Paragraph 17 of the Statement of Claim is expressly denied. The Plaintiff suffered no damage by reason of the words published by the First Defendant. Alternatively, if any such damage was suffered by the Plaintiff, it was suffered by reason of the attacks on the First Defendant in which the Plaintiff joined (as alleged in paragraph 11.7 herein) and on that account the First Defendant should not be held liable therefore
       
    3. Paragraph 18 and 19 of the Statement of Claim are admitted.
    4. It is denied that the Plaintiff is entitled to aggravated damages by reason of the matter particularised in paragraph 20 of the Statement of Claim or at all.
       
    5. Save as herein expressly admitted or averred, every allegation in the Amended Statement of Claim is denied.


     

    Dated this ______th day of February, 1997

     

    ___________________________ Solicitors for the First Defendant





    IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE
     

    Suit No. 76 )

    of 1997 )
     

    Between

    TONY TAN KENG YAM
    (NRIC No. S1136758E)

    ...Plaintiff

    and

  • TANG LIANG HONG
    (NRIC No. S1096110F)

  • TEO SIEW HAR
    (NRIC No. not available)
  •  

    ... Defendants

     

    DEFENCE OF THE FIRST DEFENDANT

     

    MR ONG CHEONG WEI

    TANG & COMPANY

    #09-22

    NO. 1 COLOMBO COURT

    SINGAPORE 179742

     

    Filed this _______th day of February 1997