Malaysia-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Lawyers For Liberty (LFL)’s civil suit against Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam was not ‘struck out’ by the Kuala Lumpur High Court, said founder N Surendran in a statement last Friday (2 October).
This is contrary to the claim made by the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) a day prior that LFL’s action was dismissed by “the High Court of Malaysia” on 21 September.
“In fact, LFL’s civil suit had simply expired as it was not served yet upon Mr Shanmugam,” said Mr Surendran.
He added that the Kuala Lumpur High Court, on the date mentioned by MHA, had allowed LFL to refile its civil suit against Mr Shanmugam under his capacity as Singapore’s Home Affairs Minister.
The court granting leave for LFL to refile its civil suit, said Mr Surendran, is a sign that its suit “was far” from ‘baseless’ as claimed by MHA.
Mr Surendran also highlighted that MHA “deliberately did not mention this important fact in their press statement”.
“We can now confirm that LFL has re-filed the civil suit against the Singapore Home Minister K Shanmugam in the KL High Court.
“We will be vigorously prosecuting this civil suit, which is intended to protect the freedom of expression of Malaysians against encroachment by a foreign country,” he said.
Touching on MHA’s claim that LFL never served its court papers on Mr Shanmugam, Mr Surendran alleged that the Ministry’s statement had “dishonestly” omitted that the Attorney-General of Singapore had “refused to accept service” of the said court papers by a letter dated 13 February.
“In short, Mr Shanmugam and the Singapore government were desperately trying to avoid or delay service of the court papers upon him,” he added.
MHA statement ‘incorrect and irresponsible’, serves as ‘apt case’ for POFMA notice to be served against Ministry: LFL advisor N Surendran
MHA’s statement last Thursday, said Mr Surendran, serves as “an apt case” for a “notice” under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to be issued against the Ministry itself.
The statement, he said, was “incorrect”, “irresponsible” and “intended to mis-characterise what happened in the KL High Court and mislead the public in both Singapore and Malaysia”.
Mr Surendran stressed that MHA “made so many false or misleading claims in its statement” last Thursday.
S’pore refuses to grant immunity to former SPS officer who supplied evidence of alleged brutal execution methods used in Changi Prison: LFL
Responding to MHA’s claim that LFL has failed to support the allegations of brutal execution methods carried out in Singapore’s Changi Prison, Mr Surendran reiterated that LFL had “repeatedly asked” the Singapore government to grant immunity to the former Singapore Prison Service (SPS) officer who had supplied LFL evidence regarding the matter.
“But Singapore has refused to grant immunity to enable this whistleblower to give evidence in the Singapore courts,” he said.
This, said Mr Surendran, is one of the ways in which the Singapore government allegedly ensures that “the truth about” the alleged brutal execution methods in Changi Prison “remained buried”.
“Singapore’s relentless attacks upon LFL is akin to ‘shooting the messenger’. Instead of hurling abuse at LFL, Singapore should address global concerns of its draconian and brutal death penalty regime.
“We call upon the government of Singapore to disclose the real truth about its execution methods, and to review its discriminatory and unjust use of the death penalty. The truth cannot remain buried forever,” stressed Mr Surendran.
LFL ‘never served’ court papers on Home Affairs Minister, ‘discontinued’ applications to renew the said papers: MHA
MHA in a statement last Thursday (1 October) said that LFL “never served” its court papers on Mr Shanmugam, and that the papers had “subsequently expired”.
The Ministry also alleged that LFL had “discontinued its applications to renew the papers and to serve them on the Minister in Singapore” for reasons that the NGO had not purportedly made known.
“LFL’s conduct in commencing its legal action, publicising the same, and then failing to prosecute the matter, leading to its striking out by the High Court of Malaysia, is consistent with how LFL has conducted itself so far,” said MHA.
The Ministry also branded the allegations “sensational”, “wild and completely untrue”, and claimed that “nothing was put forward” by LFL “to substantiate” the allegations.
“LFL’s legal action was baseless, and that is shown by the fact it has now decided not to continue the legal action,” said MHA last Thursday.
“Proper procedure” not followed, no one “authorised in Malaysia to accept service of process” on behalf of Home Affairs Minister or S’pore govt: MHA
In a new statement to The Straits Times on Saturday (3 October), MHA reiterated that the Kuala Lumpur High Court had struck out LFL’s legal action — filed in January through an originating summons.
This originating summons was valid for six months – meaning that LFL’s legal action had expired in July, MHA told ST.
While noting that LFL had applied to renew the originating summons, MHA claimed that the NGO withdrew its renewal application on 21 September which resulted in the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision to strike out the case.
It is also “disingenuous” and “misleading” for LFL to claim that its legal action had basis solely on the premise that the Kuala Lumpur High Court had given permission to the NGO to refile its originating summons.
The civil suit, said the Ministry, was neither even “served on Mr Shanmugam, nor had it been considered on its merits”.
MHA also rebutted LFL’s claim that the Ministry had “dishonestly” failed to mention that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had “refused to accept service” of court papers on Mr Shanmugam.
Citing the lack of proper procedures being followed in the process, the Ministry said that LFL’s solicitors had in January asked if Mr Shanmugam had legal representation in Malaysia to accept service of the court papers on his behalf.
MHA said, however, that Singapore’s AGC replied on 13 February to inform LFL’s solicitors that no one has been or is authorised in Malaysia to accept service of process on behalf of the minister or the Singapore Government.
The correct process would have been for LFL to obtain leave from the Malaysian High Court to serve its court papers on the minister in Singapore, which it did not follow, said MHA.
“LFL’s flip-flopping on the matter demonstrates its cavalier attitude towards these proceedings,” MHA said.
MHA also rejected LFL’s claim that the Singapore government has been attempting to “bury” the truth about the alleged “brutal execution methods” used in Changi Prison.
“If LFL had any evidence of such unlawful methods, they would have produced it by now, instead of repeatedly claiming that they are unable to do so unless granted immunity by the Singapore Government,” said the Ministry.
The onus to prove whether such allegations are true, MHA posited, is on LFL.
“If LFL is indeed privy to ‘the real truth’ about allegedly unlawful execution methods in Changi Prison, it is incumbent upon them to disclose it. Until such time, and on account of LFL’s persistent failure or refusal to substantiate its spurious claims, its claims remain baseless,” said the Ministry.
Background of the case
In January this year, LFL filed a motion in the Kuala Lumpur High Court against Mr Shanmugam after it received a correction direction issued by the POFMA Office upon the Home Affairs Minister’s instruction.
The civil suit, filed on 24 January, sought a declaration from the Kuala Lumpur High Court stating that the Singapore Home Affairs Minister cannot take action against LFL in Malaysia under POFMA.
The POFMA correction direction was issued to LFL under the instruction of Mr Shanmugam on 22 January for the group’s allegations on the “brutal” judicial execution methods employed in Changi Prison.
MHA also issued correction directions against media outlets such as TOC and Yahoo! News Singapore and to journalist Kirsten Han for publishing and sharing articles and/or Facebook posts containing “falsehoods” about the said allegations made by LFL.
LFL advisor N Surendran told reporters at the lobby of the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex on 24 January that the POFMA correction direction “is an attempt to reach out their tentacles and impose their own oppressive fake news act on Malaysians issuing statements in Malaysia”.
“The reason we’ve brought this suit is that — for us — this is an attempt by Singapore to encroach upon, to stifle, or to crack down on freedom of speech in our country,” he said.
The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said that its minister had directed the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to block LFL’s website in Singapore.
In its statement, MCI said the access blocking orders will make sure that the falsehoods on LFL’s website cannot be communicated in Singapore without the facts placed beside them.
It went on to note that the orders will only be withdrawn if the organisation complies with the correction direction.
“It seems to me, unfortunately, the Singapore government is more interested in silencing us and keeping the lid on the truth about the method of execution in Changi Prison, rather than getting the truth of what is happening and take action,” said Mr Surendran.
Timeline of events