The Online Citizen

Call for sedition charge against US blogger to be dropped

June 05
10:45 2008

From Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a case brought by the authorities under the Sedition Act against blogger Gopalan Nair, a 58-year-old American lawyer, who criticised the Supreme Court’s handling of a defamation case.

Nair, who allegedly emailed a judge to criticise her handling of the high profile political case, has been held in custody since 31 May. His trial is set for tomorrow and he faces up to three years in prison and a fine equivalent to nearly 2,400 euros.

“We urge the authorities to drop charges against Gopalan Nair, who has only exercised his right of free expression. This charge is improper and will add to the intimidation of bloggers and Internet users who express themselves about Singapore’s political life”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

Nair is accused of sending an email to Judge Belinda Anq Saw Ean telling her that she had mishandled a defamation case pitting former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his son, the current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, against the leader of the Singapore Democratic party (SDP) Chee Soon Juan and his sister, Siok Chin. These last two were today sentenced to 12 and 10 days respectively in prison for “contempt of court”.

“We express our solidarity with Chee Soon Juan and Siok Chin wrongly charged with defamation. We call for their immediate release. This sentence only confirms our opinion that Gopalan Nair was providing a news service on his blog by showing how this case was conducted,” the organisation added.

Nair denied having emailed the judge and said that all his publications on the trial hearings were posted on his blog. He had particularly criticised the final day of the trial, during which Lee Kuan Yew reportedly said that he wanted to sue all Internet users who were guilty of defaming him online.

In an article posted on his blog on 30 May, Nair said: “There is no doubt in the Singaporean sense, I have defamed him and his Prime Minister son, not only in my last blog post but in almost all my blog posts since my blog’s inception in December 2006”. He also gives the name of the hotel in which he is staying and the telephone numbers where he can be reached.

Nair was arrested in Singapore on 31 May for “insulting a public servant” under Article 13D of the Miscellaneous offences Act, because of his criticism of the judge. His lawyer learned today that Nair is being charged under the Sedition Act (http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/). His blog remains accessible in Singapore.

He worked in Singapore for ten years before leaving for the USA in the 1990s and is an active member of Singapore’s Workers’ Party (http://www.wp.org.sg/party/history/1991_2000.htm) and stood at parliamentary elections in 1998 and 1991. He took US citizenship in 2005.

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  • Loky

    Very well presented indeed. I don’t know whether her arguments allude to this, but she made me realise something:

    1) Detractors may know full well that current ministerial salaries deserve to be increased to match even modest benchmarks; however, they may be arguing against the whole process *for the sake of arguing*, knowing that the government will characteristically never ever concede its stance. This whole public debate/outcry process thus serves only as an intellectual exercise for the sake of drama, a sort of way to subtly remind the “less aware” people that even the most logical arguments will not be accepted or integrated into any compromises.

    2) By the same token, the People who are able to voice their opinions in public via the press, may be doing it because they *resent* the ministers. Only the government thinks highly of its own ministers and their achievements. In the eyes of the man in the street, they are not doing as much or as well as they are expected to, and definitely, the current style of government is not well accepted. So instead of verbalising the vast area that is resentment, they just single out the more restricted scope of logical arguments against a hefty pay rise.

  • shoestring

    I don’t think the people who voiced their disapproval are doing so for the sake of arguing, nor do they resent the ministers (not sure why you put those in asterisks). Of course that is what the proponents would have us believe that these are just green-eyed monsters stirring up and unnecessary irrational storm.

    People are genuinely concerned about the kind of leadership we have, their attitude to public service and their succession, because they will have a long term impact on Singapore (which does not exist for the sake of just the elites) especially the human aspects. As of now, Singapore is all about money as far as I can see.

    This is a big issue, not a trivial one.

  • Lim Yew Kwong

    It is rather interesting to read about the debates over Minister’s and Civil Service upcoming review with the latest suggesting an up to 100% increase by as much as a whopping S$1million dollars. While I agree with what our Minister Mentor and the Prime Minister said in justification of the propose rise that has met with different degrees of resentment, the flip side is not only not been able to retain top talents which is very much needed to take Singapore forward, it will probably allow corruption to seep in, in which case it would have a disastrous effect on Singapore. The older Ministers and Senior Civil Service in particular really deserve to be paid their worth as they have proven themselves over the years however caution should be factored in as these younger Ministers have yet to prove themselves especially those that has just been elected into the government in the last election. These new Ministers or Senior Civil Service personnel cannot claim any credit till perhaps two terms in office which can be measured more accurately.

    I hope that the upcoming salary review is not only for the Ministers and Senior Civil Service but across the board such as members of the Armed Forces, Home Team rank and file.

    The percentage of resignations from the Police Force announced recently is not a good sign as these junior and senior officers sacrificed a lot more of their time, such as being on “standby”, giving up their public holidays, working irregular hours and are not compensated adequately either by overtime or time off in lieu.

    Some even forked out their own tranportation cost to take them to their assigned unit in the middle of the night where transport means is only by taxis at 50% surcharge.

    If the respective Ministries choose to turn a blind eye, it will show that the people at the top are only concerned with their own interests and highlighting their contributions but not that of the “rank and file” and more people are going to quit the armed forces and the police force once their contractual term ends especially the younger ones who has the potential to make it to the top of the ladder.

    Singapore’s security is at stake here and it is not something that only a few good men can do anything about it.

  • Annie Lim

    Harry and his partners in crime are just using all these lame excuses to raid the Singapore tax dollars!

  • http://metropoleo.blogspot.com Leo

    Ms Lim’s points were well put and as she built her argument and spelt out the disjunct between leaders and people, she held my attention.

    Then she got to this point, “For while the ideal political leader is imbued with nobility of purpose and altruistic instincts, the ideal CEO is impelled by the very opposite – raw ambition and ruthless drive. The first set of qualities is desirable for a life of public service; the second would be disastrous.”

    From all the jokes and stereotypes about politicians, I do not know if an “ideal political leader” as she describes exists.

    I would like to believe that such idealistic people exists. But the reality is that most people with talent choose to exercise their talent for their own benefit.

    There are few Mother Teresas or Dalai Lamas in this world and the fact that these are spiritual and religious leaders says something about their calling. For every Mother Teresa, there are tens if not hundreds of Saddam Husseins, Hitlers, Stalins, Pinochets, Idi Amins, and Ferdinand Marcos who are morally ambiguous if not downright evil, to the sadly incompetent like George Bush, Habibie and Abdurrahman Abdul Wahid.

    The reality is that hell is paved with good intentions. The situation in Thailand is an example. The coup was meant to reverse the damage of a corrupt Premier, but well intentioned or not, the effect has been less than laudable.

    Indonesia’s Suharto was also corrupt, but he nevertheless kept things stable. After he was overthrown, there was a series of ineffective presidents that did little to bring the country forward effectively. Well-intentioned though they may be.

    Ms Lim’s description of the politician reminds me more of a social worker. And while I respect and admire the social worker, I am not sure that a social worker would necessarily make a good political leader. A friend of mine once commented in the aftermath of the overthrow of Suharto: so what if he’s corrupt. At least he’s competent. Instead there’s now a series of honest, incompetent presidents. And we’re not even sure if they are honest.

    My point simply is this: the “ideal politician” does not exists. Or he does not exist in sufficient numbers to form the government. Ms Lim practically confers sainthood on the selfless, sacrificing politician. You may find one in every 2 or 3 generations. The rest of the time, you make do with people who would be CEOs.

    In the absence of competent selfless people, the reality is that we have to make do with competent selfish people. And to ensure the competent selfish people are not tempted to corruption, we must pay them well.

    Perhaps if we had, we would not have had the sad incident of Mr Teh Cheang Wan.

  • LKY's Mother

    I don't mind paying even 20 million dollars to the prime minister provided that post is opened to global competition.

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  • JEROME PANG

    Keep up the good work of this site.Really good alternative views.
    My two cents worth on the Ministers Pay Rise.

    David Marshall In 1994:

    I've got nothing against money. I'd like to have money myself! I'd like to
    have a house and a garden and dogs and a car and a chauffeur but, look,
    I've got a flat. I've got a swimming pool attached to the flat. I've not
    even got a car but I use taxis. I have a dignified way of life without
    being wealthy.

    I don't see the necessity of owning a Mercedes-Benz and a swimming pool
    and a couple of mistresses. I think we've got our values all wrong.

    You know $96,000 a month for a Prime Minister and $60,000 a month for a
    minister. What the hell do you do with all that money? You can't eat it!
    What do you do with it? Your children don't need all that money.

    My children have had the best of education. In fact, I'm very proud of
    them. One of them is a senior registrar to two major hospitals in Oxford.
    Another of them is a consultant in European law to the Securities and
    Investment Board in the United Kingdom. They've had their education. There
    are no complaints.

    I never earned $60,000 a month or $90,000 a month. When I was Chief
    Minister, I earned $8,000 a month.
    Look, what is happening today is we are encouraged to and are becoming
    worshippers of the Golden Calf.

    We have lost sight of the joy and excitement of public service, helping
    our fellow men. The joy and excitement of seeking and understanding of the
    joy of the miracle of the living the duty and the grandeur. We have lost
    taste for heroic action in the service of our people.

    We have become good bourgeois seeking comfort, security. It's like seeking
    a crystal coffin and being fed by intravenous injections through pipes in
    the crystal coffin; crystal coffins stuck with certificates of your
    pragmatic abilities.

  • http://theonlinecitizen.com theonlinecitizen

    Hi Jerome,
    Thanks for the compliment. We try to do our best. ;)
    Also thanks for the quote by David Marshall. It's such a shame that we no longer hear words like that, huh? All we've heard is how "extraordinary", "exceptional", "special" and even "unique" our government is, so that they can justify their ridiculous salaries.
    I wonder what David Marshall would be thinking if he was around today.
    Andrew
    theonlinecitizen

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