13 February 1998
TANG LIANG HONG’S PRESS STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO
BANKRUPTCY ORDER INITIATED BY LEE KUAN YEW
I believe that the people of Singapore and the world were not surprised when the Singapore Court at the application by Lee Kuan Yew declared me bankrupt on 7 February 98 for not paying the judgment sums ordered against me in favour of Lee Kuan Yew. I have refused to pay him for the very reason that Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong and other People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders do not deserve even one cent from me.
I am also not surprised that Lee Kuan Yew never served me with the bankruptcy application papers as required under the Bankruptcy Rules, nor was my attention drawn to such application before the hearing. Lee Kuan Yew can do anything as he pleases in Singapore. This explains why I did not have counsel to represent me in court when Lee Kuan Yew made the application to bankrupt me. There is a catch built in to deter me. If I complain, the court will, as it used to repeatedly in the previous proceedings, say that if I am not satisfied with its ruling, I can appeal against its decision. Each time , I was without fail faced with two equally poor choices – to incur large sums to go on appeal again and again or just to stomach it. This is the typical conduct of Singapore court when it comes to politically sensitive cases.
Singapore Government has been well-known worldwide for its infamous use of Singapore judicial system for political purposes to ruin its political opponents. Even the United States Government - Singapore’s political, economic and military ally in South-East Asia - pointed this out in its report on Singapore Human Rights Practices for 1997 saying that although Singapore’s Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, "the Singapore Government in practice restricts the independence of the judiciary" and that "many judicial officials, especially Supreme Court judges, have close ties to the ruling party (PAP) and its leaders" and that "the judiciary reflects the views of the executive in political sensitive cases."
During the last Singapore general election hustings in late December 1996, Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong and their cabinet colleagues and other PAP leaders collectively and falsely defamed me, amongst many other things, as an anti-Christian, anti-Islam, anti-English-educated Chinese chauvinist who was the Singapore version of Miss Pauline Hanson of Australia and who would help China to turn Singapore into a China base in South East Asia. Their false accusations put me and my family in immediate danger. I called them liars and for that they sued me for defamation.
On 1st January 1997, I made two police reports against them and sought police protection for me and my family. Within 2 hours from my making the police reports, the partisan Singapore police force secretly released my police reports to Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong to enable them to release the reports to the press for publication for PAP’s political benefits during election. They sued me for defamation for the republication of the police reports by the press.
This is the moral standard of the PAP leaders who have repeatedly claimed "moral authority to rule Singapore".
When I said that they were abusing the legal process by instituting multiple defamation suits to ruin me, they sued me for defamation too.
When I said to the press that I did not trust Goh Chok Tong’s statement which was reported in the press that I would not be arrested should I return to Singapore, I was sued too for defamation.
One can see easily how industrious the PAP leaders are in generating multiple and profitable defamation suits because they have known for sure the Singapore Courts will definitely deliver judgments in their favour in any event.
In January and February 1997, before trial and before judgment, Lee Kuan Yew and the other PAP leaders respectively, before Justice Lai Kew Chai easily obtained orders for Mareva Injunction to join my wife as a second defendant to the multiple (13) defamation suits which do not concern her at all, and for appointment of receivers (Nicky Tan Ng Kuang of Price Waterhouse, Singapore) to seize my assets and the assets of my wife and our children and my wife’s niece. Under the terms of the Mareva Injunction, my wife and I were also ordered to disclose our assets on a worldwide basis. In his application, Lee Kuan Yew merely alleged without evidence that my wife has held her assets in trust for me. In this way, the PAP leaders were already in the legal process of seizure of assets against me and my family before trial and judgment. This was unique and unprecedented in libel law. Singapore judiciary scores another world record for legal innovation.
On 10th March 1997, the industrious Singapore High Court, in an unusually urgent late night-hearing from 7.30 pm till 9.30 pm,, went even further to strike out all my Defences to their defamation suits, by reason of my failure to disclose to them my assets on a worldwide basis. In this way, Lee Kuan Yew and the other PAP leaders effortlessly won their legal battles without having had to produce evidence to prove their cases against me in court for cross-examination. At the same time, the falsehood of their absurd defamation claims and their mean and dirty conduct can avoid public examination. In this way, they also succeeded in preventing me from exposing them publicly in court.
It is interesting to note that the PAP leaders’ applications to strike out my Defences were originally fixed for hearing on 10th March 1997 before Justice Lai Kew Chai. I made an application to disqualify him from hearing the said applications against me on the ground of bias as (i) he was also one of the "early-bird buyers"like Lee Kuan Yew and members of his family of Hotel Properties Ltd’s (HPL) luxurious properties with huge discounts, which was one of the subject matters of those PAP leaders’ claims before him; and (ii) he was a close friend of Lee Kuan Yew and his family. The court also fixed my application for hearing before Justice Lai Kew Chai himself on that same day in the morning. After lengthy arguments between my counsel, Mr J B Jeyaretnam, and the counsel for Lee Kuan Yew and the other PAP leaders, which lasted till late in the evening, he dismissed my application to disqualify himself. At the same time, he ordered Mr J B Jeyaretnam to be personally responsible to pay the legal costs of the parties and referred his conduct to the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Society for investigation. (This part of his order against Mr Jeyaretnam personally was thrown out by the Court of Appeal in November 1997.)
However, to save the situation from undesirable consequences, Justice Lai disqualified himself by his own conduct in that he dared not hear Lee Kuan Yew and the other PAP leaders’ applications to strike out my Defences. Instead, immediately after dismissing my application that evening, he directed that the PAP leaders’ applications be transferred to another judge, Justice Goh Joon Seng, for hearing that evening. Voluminous documents must have to be rushed to the courtroom of Justice Goh and placed before his desk like a hill. By then it was already 7.30 pm in the evening. It is amazing to note that Justice Goh also performed another judicial miracle by being able to read and digest, within less than an hour, voluminous documents relating to 12 lawsuits and to make a decision there and then by striking out my Defences, at 9.30 pm. that very same night.
In mid-March 1997, Lee Kuan Yew’s offensive statements as contained in one of his affidavits filed in court in which he described the Malaysian state of Johor as a place "notorious for shootings, muggings and car-jackings,"offended the people and the government of Malaysia and caused a very serious diplomatic row between Singapore and Malaysia. Lee Kuan Yew had to apologise twice to the people and government of Malaysia for that and promised to apply to Court to delete his offensive statements from the records of the Singapore High Court in May 1997 when the Court would sit for assessment of damages against me.
However, for reasons best known to himself, and to my and everybody’s surprise, Lee Kuan Yew submitted the application to Court on 24 April 1997 which came up for hearing on 28 April 1997. The presiding judge, Lai Kew Chai, acceded to his application, but shockingly, blamed me for drawing the attention of the Malaysians to Lee Kuan Yew’s offensive statements and ordered me to pay Lee Kuan Yew’s legal costs for the application without Lee Kuan Yew even asking for it in his application. Apparently, the judge was all out to please and soothe the "Lord" of Singapore. This order, once again, shook public confidence in the Singapore judiciary.
In May 1997, the Singapore High Court assessed and awarded unprecedented huge sums (over S$8 million) of damages against me for all the PAP leaders’claims, including all their intentional deceitful claims that I had caused the republication of my police reports by the press. This award, which shocked Singapore and the world, was made by Justice Chao Hick Tin –
(a) after having refused my application to allow me to be represented by an English Queen’s Counsel in the proceedings for assessment of damages against me;
(ai) after having at the forceful request from Lee Kuan Yew’s counsel, ordered the complete destruction from the court records of evidence of my detailed Affidavit affirmed in Malaysia on 28th April 1997 which contained evidence, among other things, that the PAP leaders were lying in their claims against me; and
(aii)after having accepted many intentionally misleading and deceitful statements found and contained –
(i) in the various Statements of Claim of Lee Kuan Yew and the other PAP leaders, in their many affidavits filed in Court;
(ii) in Lee Kuan Yew and the other PAP’s personal testimony in Court, and also
(iii) in the submissions of their lawyers, both oral and written.
One can see that Lee Kuan Yew could through his counsel in court, dictate to the court as to what evidence should and what evidence should not, remain as records of the court.
On 26 March 1997, in another of his own defamation suits against Mr J B Jeyaretnam, Lee Kuan Yew applied to the Singapore High Court and obtained an Order of Court to compel Mr J B Jeyaretnam to disclose whether Mr Jeyaretnam had released my police reports to the press for republication, and to compel him to pay S$400 to Lee Kuan Yew as legal costs for this application. This clearly indicated Lee Kuan Yew’s deliberate attempt to conceal from the public the fact that he was the one who had released my police reports to the press for republication, so that he and the other PAP leaders could justify their claims against me, as well as against Mr J B Jeyaretnam, for defamation for the republication of the police reports and to enable them to inflate their claims for damages against both of us.
In August 97, under cross-examination by Mr George Carmen QC, (Mr J B Jeyaretnam’s English Counsel) Goh Chok Tong, at the hearing of his own defamation suit against Mr J B Jeyaretnam, disclosed for the first time that it was he who authorised Lee Kuan Yew to release my police reports to the press for re-publication.
This disclosure by Goh Chok Tong under oath was very significant for the following reasons:-
In November 1997, while everyone was waiting to see the response to my multiple appeals against the Singapore High Court judgments in favour of Lee Kuan Yew and the other PAP leaders, in view of the aforeaid vital and crucial disclosure by Goh Chok Tong in Court in August 1997, the Singapore Court of Appeal, with a view to contain political damages and to salvage the reputation of the Singapore judiciary, the regime of the PAP government, and with an attempt to assure the public that there was still justice in the Singapore judiciary, merely sliced a portion off the huge damages awarded against me by the High Court, purportedly to represent that portion of award granted on the basis of the deceitful claims for which I was held by the Court of Appeal not to be responsible for the republication of the two police reports.
However, instead of referring the deceitful conduct on the part of Lee Kuan Yew, the other PAP leaders and their respective counsel to the police, the Law Society and/or other law-enforcing agencies for their investigation, the Court of Appeal quickly and humbly exonerated them from legal responsibility for their deceitful conduct by accepting their unfounded and feeble explanation that the High Court Judge (who assessed and awarded the damages) was misled into believing that I was the one who had caused the republication of the police reports by the press because the issue "as to who actually released the police reports to the press for publication" was not raised at the proceedings for assessment. This ruling of the Court of Appeal was made against a mountain of evidence before it, which evidence pointed to the opposite direction.
To help the PAP leaders, the Court of Appeal even made a misleading and unfounded remark that when I made the police reports, I probably intended to boost my electoral chances, while conveniently and intentionally ignoring the very fact that I made those reports with a clear intention to seek police protection in the wake of the collective and massive but false, vicious and wicked accusations against me by the PAP leaders.
On each occasion of hearing before the Singapore Court, the PAP leaders were permitted without fail by the Singapore Court, to launch their political attacks against me whenever they came to give evidence in person in court. The "self-disciplined"Singapore journalists (as part of the regime of the Singapore Government) would then pick them up and re-launch them in the press, through radio and television stations, in a massive way against me in Singapore and throughout the region, yet all can avoid legal responsibility for that by claiming privilege if sued for defamation by me, on the ground that they were merely reporting court proceedings. This precisely explains as to how another wicked, malicious and baseless accusation against me by Lee Kuan Yew in court on 28th April 1997 that I was underwritten by foreign agency in my legal battles with them, spread like fire in Singapore and throughout the region.
Upon my public challenge to him to repeat his false accusation outside the Singapore Court precinct and disclose the name of my backer, Lee Kuan Yew chickened out and chose to remain silent on this up to this day.
When Lee Kuan Yew and other PAP leaders applied for Mareva Injunction to freeze my assets and the assets of my wife and our children, they assured to the court and subsequently to the public through the media that I would not be deprived of the use of my money so frozen by the Court to defend myself, as they had had no intention to do so. Part of the terms of the Mareva Injunction also stipulated this. Yet, in reality, while the Singapore High Court only allowed the PAP leaders to make use of the money so seized to pay their and the receivers’ costs and expenses in Singapore as well as overseas, to fish for evidence against me and my wife, the Court refused to allow me and my wife to make use of our money so seized to pay my own and my wife’s legal costs. Payments were made by the receiver to various parties, including Blake Dawson Waldron, Price Waterhouse-KL, Clifford Chance-HK, Clifford Chance-London, Shearn Delamore & Co. This demonstrates clearly that they had right from the very beginning planned and intended to incapacitate me by depriving me and my wife of our financial means to defend ourselves against their unfounded claims. In fact, Lee Kuan Yew’s counsel was surprised when told by my then counsel in March 1997 that I would fight on after they had struck out all my defences and entered judgments against me in March 1997. They must have thought that by then, they should have (to quote Lee Kuan Yew’s own words in Court) "debunked" and "demolished"me and could close an extremely ugly chapter in Singapore’s history. Much to their disappointment and frustration, I managed single-handedly to carry on the battle with them.
I have been advised by English counsel that I still have good grounds to file suits to set aside the judgments entered against me for my failure to comply with the Mareva Injunction Order as that Order was obtained by, among other things, deceitful misrepresentation and, by their failure to make full and frank disclosure to the judge as required by law.
I still have to help my wife in her on-going legal battles with the PAP leaders who have seized her and our children’s assets on their unfounded claim that my wife has held those assets in trust for me. There has been no basis whatsoever for the claim as there has been no such trust in existence in my favour. The Mareva Injunction is void against her on the ground above-stated. The claim of trust is just a sham to provide an excuse to strip my wife of her assets. If Lee Kuan Yew said so, the Court must find it to be so in any event.
Now, the judiciary has faced the tough task to accomplish the mission to "legally" fulfill Lee Kuan Yew’s wish irrespective that there is no evidence to support that allegation of trust, as no one in the whole Singapore judiciary would dare to make any finding contrary to his allegation. The judges are human too and share with ordinary Singaporeans the common feeling of fear prevailing and permeated throughout Singapore society. They would want to keep their well-remunerated "honourable"posts and would not like to be the first judge in Singapore legal history to face proceedings, as provided for under the Singapore Constitution, for removal from office on the ground of "inability… to properly discharge the function of office". So, to fulfill Lee Kuan Yew’s wish has become a problem of the judiciary of Singapore. The court has to accomplish the mission. The law has to be massaged to make it flexible to meet, at least a very substanial part, if not all, of Lee Kuan Yew’s demand on my wife’s assets. I believe the Singapore Court is now amassing "legal" grounds to divide up her assets to be shared between my wife and the PAP leaders. In this way, just like the reduction of award against me by the Court of Appeal, it will look good politically. At the same time, the PAP leaders can avoid paying damages for wrongful seizure and legal costs.
The above accounts for the Singapore judiciary’s acrobatic twists and turns.
To avoid public scrutiny on the deprivation of my wife’s assets through "legal process of Singapore style", the Singapore High Court has already strangely refused my wife’s applications to direct the PAP leaders to serve statements of claim to identify which portions of her assets are said to be held in trust for me. This, again, demonstrates that under "the rule of law" of the PAP brand, the PAP leaders, being cabinet ministers and members of parliament, are more equal than my wife as an ordinary litigant before the Singapore Court. Therefore, unlike ordinary litigants, the PAP leaders do not have to specify and state their claims precisely and clearly before they go to court and seize other person’s assets. The Mareva Injunction is still hanging around my wife’s neck obliging her to disclose her assets on a worldwide basis up to the limit of S$11.2 million.
Armed with the same privilege, the PAP leaders again successfully applied to the Singapore High Court for an unusual order that the PAP leaders’ cases against my wife be conducted in chambers and by way of exchange of Affidavits between the parties.
My wife applied to the Singapore High Court to have the claims against her to be conducted in open court instead of in chambers like any other ordinary cases but her application was disallowed. The purpose is apparently to prevent World Human Rights Organisation from sending their observers to attend the hearing and to contain embarrassment, and also to assist the PAP leaders to avoid to have their alleged evidence of trust to be subject to public scrutiny, so that her assets can be swallowed quietly and comfortably and beyond public knowledge.
The Singapore High Court also refused my wife’s application for the admission of an English Queen Counsel, Mr Leolin Price QC, to represent her in these multiple litigations.
The PAP leaders’ cases against my wife is a matter of public interest, as many women in Singapore have been waiting for the result of the PAP leaders’ claims against my wife so as to gauge and ascertain their respective own rights in similar situation where they also own properties in their own names like my wife.
Very unusually and well after a good period of more than 13 months since the seizure of her properties, and long after my wife filed her affidavits as ordered by the Court more than six months earlier, the PAP leaders disobeyed the order of court by not filing their affidavits as ordered. Instead, they performed another judicial miracle by going back to the same judge who changed his own order (a judge does not have power to change his own order after having made it as that order can only be changed by a higher court) (so that they do not have to file affidavits in exchange with my wife’s affidavits as ordered) and granted them an extension of time for a further three months for them to enable the receiver to go round the town to fish for evidence to establish the allegation of trust, by recording statements and demanding affidavits from past and present officials of Banks, namely United Overseas Bank Ltd and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd, both of Singapore, with which my wife had and has maintained accounts.
To ensure smooth annual renewal of their bank licences, not one of the two Singapore Banks (or any other bank in Singapore) dare to contest or resist such application on the ground of banking secrecy in cases of this nature. This clearly demonstrates that at the time the Mareva Injunction was granted, there was also no evidence before the Singapore High Court to support the Mareva Order. They therefore now need further evidence. Up to this stage, the receiver still has not completed collection of evidence. The receiver now has taken over the burden of proof from the PAP leaders and to collect evidence at my and my wife’s expenses. How clever they are! And yet, the Singapore High Court granted the Order more than 13 months ago to seize my wife’s assets. In this respect, one can say that the Singapore High Court also practises Chinese values of ancient times when Chinese district or provincial judges used to chop off accused persons’heads before going to the imperial court to ask for the emperor’s permission to do so ( "XIAN ZHAN HOU ZOU") .
Armed with an order of court to compel bank officials to give statements and file affidavits concerning banking activities of bank’s customer, to help them to build up their case of an alleged (non-existent) trust, the PAP leaders have blatantly coerced them into violating the principle of banking secrecy. This practice by the PAP leaders as the principal cabinet ministers of the government in power will definitely go to undermine public confidence in Singapore’s banking industry and will place Singapore economy at risk, as the banking industry is the most vital part of Singapore economy, and in turn banking secrecy is central to banking industry. This, in addition to their lack of evidence to support the allegation of trust, explains why my wife’s matters have been ordered by the Singapore High Court to be heard in chambers instead of in open court - to avoid washing dirty linen in public.
I firmly believe that the nature of the PAP leaders’ claim against my wife and their way of doing it, and those intended affidavits from those bank officials concerned shall come to the full knowledge of the public, and they definitely will, and they shall shock the Singapore banking industry. The question will then arise as to how much confidence of local as well as foreign depositors of funds, amounting to billions of dollars, will remain intact, in view of the conduct of the Singapore government and the ruling of the Singapore judiciary, with regard to banking secrecy. I doubt those depositors will feel safe and comfortabe to rely on the practice of the banking industry of Singapore, to protect their interests, bearing in mind the fact that BG Lee Hsien Loong, one of the two Deputy Prime Ministers of Singapore, and being one of the Plaintiffs in the PAP defamation suits against me and my wife, is now also the head of the Monetary Authority of Singapore who is supposed to have known such thing better as banking secrecy. Notwithstanding, the PAP leaders have done what they have done in these matters.
The farce of the claims by the PAP leaders against me and my wife and the way they have done it, have no doubt created "legal history" and also have exposed the true colours and character of the whole regime of the PAP government and its leaders, who have their repeated boast hung round their mouths that they have practised democracy and upheld the rule of law and defended the sacred principle of independent judiciary.
When Lee Kuan Yew applied for bankruptcy order against me for not having paid him the undeserved judgment award, he must have, as an experienced politician, realised that he had also bankrupted himself, his PAP government and the Singapore judiciary, both politically and morally, long ago.