Singapore Democratic Party Chief Dr Chee Soon Juan had was to have cross-examined PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew in court today for assessment of damages, according to the Lees, for "the gravest defamation that has ever been considered in a Singapore court". Mr Singh, the lawyer acting for the Lees, called Dr Chee a scaredy-general while MM Lee called him a political juvenile and near-psychopath.

This is possible because Dr Chee was reportedly not able to conduct a proper cross-examination in court and declaring the entire process and being hideous. In addition, he added that "(the Lees) have chopped off their legs, lopped off their arms, and they expect them to continue with the assessment of damages?". Other questions that were posed by Dr Chee was deemed as irrelevant by the judge.

The hearing continues at 2.30pm today, with each side having an hour-and-a-half each to make its closing statement.

THE open-court hearing into assessment of damages in what lawyers for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew called the ‘gravest defamation that has ever been considered in a Singapore court’ finally began yesterday afternoon.

However, even though PM Lee arrived at Court 4B at 2.30pm all ready to take the stand, it was not till 3.20pm that his cross-examination by the defendants began.

As in closed-door hearings two weeks ago and last week, there continued to be delays, distractions and disruptions aplenty.

The defendants – the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), represented by lawyer M. Ravi, its chief Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin who represented themselves – made more last-minute applications, including for an adjournment of the entire hearing by a few months.

In the morning, lawyers for the Lees, led by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh of Drew and Napier, and the defendants argued before Justice Belinda Ang behind closed doors over striking out of the affidavits of the Chee siblings and their witness, former solicitor-general Francis Seow, which Mr Singh argued were irrelevant and scandalous.

Justice Ang, who began hearing this issue last Thursday and Friday, agreed to Mr Singh’s application yesterday morning.

Her decision prompted the Chees to seek an adjournment of the damages hearing to give them time to prepare.

But Justice Ang did not allow further delays, and ordered that the damages hearing start at 2.30pm.

The Chees can still appeal at a later date, and if they succeed, there will be a retrial.

Still, the hearing did not start on time as the Chee siblings were late by 15 minutes.

Instead of beginning his cross-examination of PM Lee when he arrived, Dr Chee stood to ‘address the Court’.

Declaring the ‘entire process quite hideous’, he alleged that his case had been crippled from the start. ‘You have chopped off our legs, lopped off our arms, and you expect us to continue with the assessment of damages?’

Mr Singh countered that Dr Chee was simply afraid to cross-examine the Lees.

Pointing to PM Lee, Mr Singh added: ‘He sees my client in court, he has panicked. The scaredy-general, sorry, the secretary-general, of the SDP, should stand up and be counted. He has on his website been saying he wants to cross-examine Mr Lee.’

Later in the afternoon, more interruptions followed with Mr Ravi and Ms Chee also weighing in to apply for adjournments. They failed.

When PM Lee finally took the stand, he was cross-examined by Mr Ravi, followed by Dr Chee who did not complete his questioning yesterday.

And while the cross-examination was civil, Mr Singh queried how relevant several lines of questioning were to the assessment of damages, for example: ‘Does your family control Singapore?’ and ‘Do you hate Dr Chee?’

When Mr Ravi asked if PM Lee was aware that the Chees were already bankrupt and thus the Lees could have nothing to gain from the defamation suit, he replied:

‘This case is not about money. It is about establishing truth and putting a stop to poisonous lies.’

The hearing continues today, with Dr Chee resuming his cross-examination of PM Lee.

MM Lee, who was in court from 4.05pm yesterday, is expected to take the stand as well.

sueann@sph.com.sg

And in today’s papers, MM Lee called the SDP Chief a political juvenile and near-psychopath:

MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew called Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan a ‘near-psychopath’ and a ‘political juvenile’, while Dr Chee accused MM Lee of curbing his political life and curtailing their face-off in court.

Potshots and political speeches filled Day 2 of the open court hearing to assess the damages that the SDP, its chief and his sister Chee Siok Chin have to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee, following a defamation judgment in 2006.

Under cross-examination by SDP’s lawyer M. Ravi, MM Lee declared of Dr Chee: ‘He’s a liar, a cheat, and altogether an unscrupulous man. I could also add that I’ve had several of my own doctors who are familiar with such conduct… tell me that he is near-psychopath.’

The SDP leader, he added later when cross-examined by Dr Chee himself, should take a leaf from veteran opposition politician J. B. Jeyaretnam’s book. He recently set up the Reform Party.

The latter had discharged himself from bankruptcy so that he can contest future elections, while Dr Chee had ‘neutered’ himself politically by remaining a bankrupt.

‘You may believe that being bankrupt does not mean anything, but then, you are a political juvenile,’ he charged.

Dr Chee’s conduct had destroyed the SDP, he said.

‘The SDP was doing very well under Mr Chiam See Tong, and at one time captured three seats (in Parliament), and it became the de facto leader.

‘You came in, and destroyed the SDP. As a result, the Workers’ Party has become the de facto leader.’

Dr Chee, said Mr Lee, ought to emulate opposition MPs such as Mr Chiam and Mr Low Thia Khiang who had managed to get elected without defaming anyone.

‘They have won successive elections, but you have lost successively, because we have proved to the people that you are not to be believed,’ said Mr Lee.

MM Lee took the stand at 12.50pm, after PM Lee, who stepped down from the witness box at 12.15pm.

Where Monday’s hearing had been fraught with delays and disruptions, yesterday’s proceeded with speed and efficiency – even to the extent of skipping lunch.

This was because Justice Belinda Ang granted a request from Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, lawyer for the Lees, to impose a guillotine time of two hours for the questioning of MM Lee.

After the cross-examination of PM Lee on Monday, said Mr Singh, it became obvious that the Chees simply wanted to ‘insult’, ‘annoy’ and ‘scandalise’, and to turn the hearing into ‘political theatre’, rather than to make a substantive case.

Both sides spent 50 minutes arguing the guillotine issue.

‘You’ve already chopped off our arms, legs, what do you want next, our heads?’ said Ms Chee, in a direct reference to the guillotine.

Still, when Dr Chee resumed his cross-examination of PM Lee yesterday, his first 20 or so questions did not get a reply as they were ruled irrelevant by the judge.

Nearing lunch time, Mr Singh asked for the hearing to continue over the lunch hour, but with a 10-minute break, so that MM Lee could attend to ‘important matters’ later in the afternoon.

Ms Chee objected, arguing that she needed to eat so that she could take medication, while Mr Ravi quipped: ‘My stomach has not been given notice.’

Ms Chee brought food into the courtroom later but did not eat it.

The cross-examination of MM Lee lasted till 3.15pm, after which he and PM Lee left the court.

The hearing continues at 2.30pm today, with each side having an hour-and-a-half each to make its closing statement.

sueann@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 27th May 2008



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