Sunday Times

SEP 21 1997

Govt welcomes Amnesty observer

THE Government welcomes Amnesty International's representative, Queen's Counsel Gerard McCoy, who will be here tomorrow to attend the hearing of lawyer Tang Liang Hong's appeals. "The Government hopes that he will stay and monitor carefully the case from beginning to end, and give a faithful report of how the rule of law is upheld in Singapore," a spokesman for the Ministry of Information and the

Arts said yesterday, in response to press queries. The human rights group had said on Friday that the New Zealand barrister, based in Hongkong, would monitor the hearing, set for two days in the Court of Appeal. Amnesty was concerned over reports that the Singapore Government had used civil defamation suits against political opponents in a way which violated their right to express their convictions and prevented them from acting in public life.

Mr Tang is appealing against the $8.075 million damages he has to pay 11 PAP leaders, including Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who sued him for words and actions before, during and after the January General Election.

Justice Chao Hick Tin, who awarded the damages, ruled in May that the People's Action Party men were justified in calling Mr Tang an anti-English educated, anti-Christian, Chinese chauvinist. Mr Tang, who will be represented by QC Charles Gray and Mr J. B. Jeyaretnam, is also appealing against a decision by Justice Lai Kew Chai.

The judge had dismissed the Workers' Party candidate's application to stop him (Justice Lai) from hearing the PAP men's application for a Mareva injunction to freeze Mr Tang and his wife's assets. Mr Tang alleged that Justice Lai was biased.

Mr Tang's defence against the defamation suits was also dismissed by the High Court (in fact, Mr Tang's defences were struck out in March by Justice Goh Seng during an 'urgent night hearing' in March for failure to disclose his assets as ordered by Justice Lai Kew Chai), after he failed to comply with its orders to declare his assets. Another Amnesty observer, Canadian judge Paul Bentley, was here last month to monitor the hearing of the defamation suits against Mr Jeyaretnam for allegedly defaming PM Goh, SM Lee and other PAP leaders at a WP election rally on Jan 1.