2006-02-09 12:59:02 UTC
said on Thursday that former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok
Tong had served a bankruptcy petition on him for failing to make libel
Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party,
lost a three-year legal fight against defamation suits brought by Lee
and Goh in January 2005, and was ordered to pay S$500,000 ($306,200) in
damages for a case dating back to the 2001 parliamentary elections.
"I haven't been able to pay so they have served the bankruptcy
petition. There is not much I can do now except to defend myself in
court," Chee told Reuters.
Chee, a free speech proponent, has already lost his right to contest
the next general election after being fined for speaking in public
without a permit.
A High Court official confirmed that a bankruptcy petition was filed on
Chee on Jan. 5 and that the High Court would hear the petition on
Friday. Davinder Singh of law firm Drew & Napier, who represents Lee
and Goh, declined to comment. He is also a PAP member of parliament.
Almost all Singapore's best-known opposition figures have faced legal
action at some time by prominent members of the ruling People's Action
Opposition and critics such as rights group Amnesty International say
that defamation lawsuits brought by Singapore leaders are designed to
cripple the opposition. But Singapore's leaders say it is necessary to
safeguard their reputations.
Chee, a former university lecturer, defended himself during the trial
last year as he said he was unable to get a Singapore law firm to
represent him. The Singapore court rejected his requests to have
foreign lawyers defending him.
Chee was found guilty in August 2002 of defaming Lee and Goh during the
run-up to the 2001 election, by questioning their use of public funds.
Known for his strong criticism of the government, Chee has had several
clashes with the ruling party. In 1997, he was ordered to pay S$315,000
to PAP member S. Vasoo and two other parties after Chee said that his
sacking from the university was politically motivated.
The ruling PAP -- now led by Lee Kuan Yew's son, Prime Minister Lee
Hsien Loong -- has dominated parliament since independence in 1965. It
won 82 of 84 seats in November 2001 elections and has never lost more
than four seats in any election. Chee's party has no seats.
Chee said it is likely that he would be made a bankrupt but that he
would continue to push for democratic rights.
"I don't have to stand as a candidate to bring about democracy. I can
always help others," he said.