More transcript of the cross-examination of Lee Kuan Yew by Chee Soon Juan. The transcript is courtesy of yours truly and is based on the digital recodings obtained from the High Court.
CSJ : Mr Lee, turn with me to your AEIC. Did you or did you not say that "CSJ harbours a deep-seated hatred for me?"
LKY : Yes, I saw that affidavit.
CSJ : Good. That's right, okay.
LKY : And you are manifesting it in court today.
CSJ : On the contrary, Mr Lee, I don't hate you. Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I don't hate you. I feel sorry for you. I think you cut a pitiable figure but I don't hate you. You see, I think you derive a lot of pleasure from what you do but I don't think that you find any joy in life.
Singh : What's the question? Can I ask the witness, can I ask Dr Chee to frame his question?
CSJ : For me, your honour -
Singh : Dr Chee should get on with the questions, if he has any. If not he should honourably say "no further questions", your honour.
CSJ : The whole entire matter rests because you want to turn this fight into one of a personal duel. I'm not interested. What I'm interested in is justice, the rule of law, because ultimately it is not about you, Mr Lee. It is not about me. It's about the people of Singapore, it is about this country and everything we stand for. You and I will pass on but I can tell you, the practice of the rule of law, the entire concept of justice, democracy - that is going to last for all eternity.
LKY : Your honour, the International Bar Association decided to honour Singapore and hold its annual conference in this city and you were given an opportunity to present your case, with your complaint that Singapore lack the rule of law. There were some 3000 lawyers there. I think they left Singapore with a very different impression from what you have projected because we have a letter from the President of the International Bar Association to the organisers, namely the Law Society of Singapore, how successful the meeting was and how impressed they were by the standards they found to obtain in the judiciary -
CSJ : Standards of the MRT or standards of the rule of law?
LKY : Standards of the rule of law and the judges, the meritocracy which is practised throughout the judiciary.
CSJ : What about the International Commission of Jurists? Do you have any comment on them?
LKY : There are Western organisations who believe you should only progress and become prosperous by being democratic in their particular way, their prescription -
CSJ : Is the International Bar Association an Asian organisation?
LKY : It is an international organisation.
CSJ : Thank you. So you have international organisation and international organisation. You pick one and you don't pick the other.
LKY : No, we pick those who will make Singapore strong and prosperous. We do not follow -
CSJ : No, you pick those which will make you look good.
LKY : No, on the contrary, if those - the attributes that we go for, meritocracy, integrity, the education of the people, the quality of life of the people, facilities that we give them to advance - if those were missing, then all the indicators will soon turn downhill. One reason why we had allowed this altercation to go on is because we are leaning over backwards to allow you enough rope to tie yourself up, and you have successfully done that.
CSJ : You see, Mr Lee -
LKY : You have a guillotine. You know you have the time of two hours and you are wasting it, frittering it because you have nothing of substance to confront me with.
CSJ : You see, I had dinner with the Executive Director of the International Bar Association and I have correspondence with them as well. At the end of the Rule of Law Symposium which you were referring to, many of the participants came away very unhappy that the International Bar Association had held its meeting here. And I want to remind you that it continues to be a problem and I believe that the International Bar Association is watching this event very closely.
LKY : I'm sure they are and if you were present at my address to the International Bar Association.
CSJ : No, I was not present because you know why?
LKY : You will know that there was an approbation, and not a disapprobation. I don't have to quote private dinner conversations. That was a public event with 3000 international lawyers there.
CSJ : Then also tell me -
LKY : May I also add that several of them, including Third World countries have come up and asked to see me, including the Governor of Lagos, to ask me if I could go there and address their International Bar Association.
CSJ : Yes, and Mr Lee, were those the same participants that attended the Rule of Law symposium and when I stood up to speak, when Mr Jayakumar was present, and the Chair wanted to cut me off and when I turned to the audience, and we said about 3000 or so, and I asked them, "Do you want to hear the rest of the story of the other Singapore?", there was loud and susutained applause to the extent that Mr Frank Kneed (check spelling), the Chairman, had no choice but to allow me to continue. Will you then take it that this same group of lawyers had wanted to hear how the law in Singapore has been misused, has been abused, that frankly, there is no rule of law in Singapore.
LKY : That's contrary to all the assessments and if you look at the publication, I can't remember the title that the Supreme Court puts out, there's a whole series of assessment made by seven or eight international rating agencies about Singapore. Also may I add the World Bank has recommended and in fact brought many delegations from many countries to study how the judiciary and the judicial system has progressed in Singapore and is now cited as a model.
CSJ : Is this the same World Bank that came and said that Singapore had brought this upon itself when it tried to restrict accredited NGO activists, accredited with the World Bank, coming into Singapore and conducting its activities. Is this the same World Bank that you are talking about?
LKY : We do not comply with every request being made because there are certain things which we believe we know better.
CSJ : Mr Lee, but your government has given the World Bank the green light -
LKY : No, just a moment, let me finish. You have asked me this question. Let me finish. If the World Bank did not hold Singapore's judicial system in high esteem, it would not have come out with that report nor would they have brought delegations to come and study us.
CSJ : That is not my question, Mr Lee.
LKY : And there are endless delegations which have come to study our system -
CSJ : That was not my question, Mr Lee. You brought up the World Bank. I'm asking you, that World Bank that came and said that Singapore should have let in these accredited NGOs because, listen very carefully, because the Singapore Government had an agreement with World Bank to let them in and it was upon the very last minute that someone in your cabinet made that decision to say no.
LKY : I do not attend to these matters anymore. I'm only the Minister Mentor. I'm not in charge but I do know that we act in accordance with what we think is the best practice for Singapore and when we disagree with a particular prescription of how we should behave, or how we should conduct Singapore, we have to decide whether that is applicable.
CSJ : I understand.
LKY : And I know that there many liberal NGOs who are extremely uncomfortable that a system in Singapore which does not comply with their prescriptions is still up and standing and thriving.
CSJ : Yes, Mr Lee, these NGOs were accredited with the World Bank -
Judge : Dr Chee, I'm going to stop this line of cross-examination. It doesn't get us anywhere on the assessment of damages.
CSJ : Okay, alright, let me move on, you honour. You have a situation where you are again claiming that your integrity is of the highest order, would you agree with that, Mr Lee?
LKY : That is the position that I have taken the day I took office in June 1959. I spent more than 50 years of, I would say 49 years of my life, being involved in the strengthening of the system and the institutions that would sustain itself even if there were flaws in the human beings that run the system. That is the reason why we are still what we are.
CSJ : I am impressed. Now -
LKY : Now, if you are impressed, Mr Chee, you would not have made these allegations.
CSJ : Mr Lee, is this the same integrity that you are talking about where now, declassified documents from London, that you have -
Judge : Irrelevant. Mr Lee is not required to answer.
CSJ : He's talking about integrity and I would like - Your honour, he has brought up integrity and I just want to be able to pursue that line just a little bit more. Is this the same integrity -
Singh : Your honour, are you objecting to the line of questioning?
CSJ : That you are referring to, Mr Lee, where now we begin to know, and as a young man I didn't -
Judhe : Question is disallowed.
CSJ : As a young man I believed you. But now I'm reading declassified documents from London saying that somehow, Mr Lim Chin Siong was in his
Singh : Your honour, (inaudible) stop
Judge : Dr Chee.
CSJ : Political situation -
Judge : Question disallowed.
CSJ : And that somehow, you had - I beg your pardon, your honour.
Judge : Question is disallowed.
CSJ : You haven't even heard my question yet. I'll make my question and then you can disallow it, your honour.
Singh : The question is irrelevant on the little that we already know about it relates to specific instances which absolutely -
CSJ : That when you went to London -
Singh : Your honour, I would ask Dr Chee to show some respect to this court.
CSJ : You had allowed what you called "subversive (inaudible)
Judge : The question is disallowed.
CSJ : To come in play (inaudible) Mr Lim would have been disqualified.
Judge : Dr Chee!
CSJ : Your honour, I'm just trying to get at this fact that Mr Lee uses the word integrity and I want to show the courts right now that Mr Lee came into power because of certain things -
Judge : Not relevant to the assessment of damages.
CSJ : That his government did which deprived his political opponents -
Judge : Move on, please!
CSJ : Of challenging him. Will you answer that, Mr Lee?
Judge : The witness is not required to answer.
CSJ : You don't want to answer that, Mr Lee?
Judge : He's not required to answer.
CSJ : That settles the point, doesn't it? Mr Lee, let me come to -
Judge : You're -
CSJ : I have some more questions, your honour. Mr Lee, will you say categorically, right now, that you will allow a full and fair investigations into all your Internal Security Act detentions over the years?
Singh : Objection, your honour.
Judge : Sustained.
CSJ : Mr Lee, it goes to your integrity. This is what I'm saying. That you say your government has lasted for all these years - you cited 1959 and you brought it up until now - and I'm trying to make the case that no, it was not just popular support. If it was that, grant you, your reputation is of the highest order. What I'm trying to make the case right now is that you had all this power at your disposal, you abused it, used that to lock away all your political opponents -
Singh : Objection, your honour.
CSJ : Used that to crush independent and free media. You used that to make elections almost uncontestable for us and then you stand before the courts and tell the court that my reputation is sterling and I'm saying, Mr Lee, have some humility, have some sense of shame, that you are able to put this into context about everything that you've done in your life and then come clean and tell us the truth right now, that you did all these things.
Judge : Irrelevant, move on.
CSJ : No response, Mr Lee?
Judge : Witness is not required to answer.
CSJ : I thought so. Now Mr Lee, you had your Press Secretary issued a statement, I think it was last Friday -
Singh : Your honour has already ruled on this point in the cros-examination of Mr Lee Hsien Loong -
CSJ : Did you or did you not allow your press secretary to make this statement because if you did, then we have a problem here, because Madam Yeong, Madam Yong I beg your pardon, is a civil servant. You are suing me, the party and Miss Chee Siok Chin in your private capacity, and if you are doing it in your private capacity, but then you've gotten a civil servant to issue press statements such as this on your behalf using taxpayers' money, on State time, then I think there is a big problem here.
LKY : There is no problem at all. I have already stated that technically in accordance to the law I have to sue in my personal capacity with the Prime Minister. But in fact, you are attacking the whole government to become one in which the public will not believe in. What is at stake is whether what you said about the government being run like the NKF is true or not true. And I have a press secretary and she is my press secretary, I said go ahead.
CSJ : Yes, that's exactly -
LKY : And I am entitled to do that. Look, I'm not here to quibble about the technicalities. The technicalities are yes, I'm here in my personal capacity, but the reality is we were advised by our lawyers that we are the two who most represent the government, and that's why we are here.
CSJ : I understand that -
LKY : And we are defending the government, not just defending ourselves.
CSJ : I can see that point.
LKY : If Dr Chee sees that point, why pursue it further?
CSJ : My question to you is that if you had sued me in your personal capacity - let's not come with the 'ands', 'ifs' or 'buts' because you sign this affidavit as Mr Lee Kuan Yew NRIC number 0000003E, then why is it that you've gotten a civil servant who is paid by the taxpayers to do your private work for you?
LKY : Your honour, when the President of the United States of the Prime Minister of Great Britain travels around the country, either his daughter's marriage or whatever it is that's got to be announced, that's his personal matter but he uses his press secretary to put out the news. If that is an abuse of the government, it makes this government less of an upright government, that's for Dr Chee to make the point to the public at the next elections. Let me point out to Dr Chee, we are thinking people and we always consider the consequences of what we do. You asked yesterday whether we are out to make you further bankrupt? So what is the purpose? Let me give you the explanation. You may believe that being a bankrupt does not mean anything but then you're a political juvenile. Mr JB Jeyaretnam knows there two ways in which you can overturn the government. One, constitutionally. The other, illegally and violently. If you want to have any influence, you must get into parliament. You have disqualified yourself, you cannot participate in any elections. As long as you stay in that sterile state, muted yourself politically in the constitutional way and by every further action, the damages go up on you, the longer the number of years you will be disqualified. And Mr Jeyaretnam knew that and he found the resources to pay up and settle his bankruptcy so that he can come back because he knows unless he's qualified, he's not within the constitutional process. Unfortunately, Dr Chee, you have not seen the point.
CSJ : Mr Lee, may I ask you right now. Whilst you said that I think it's prefectly alright to be a bankrupt. I'm telling you, right now, you don't know what it means to be a bankrupt. I have three young children to take care of. I'm not complaining to you. I will take care of my own affairs. But for you to tell me right now that I should then work to pay off these debts that I owe you, it's disingenuous to say the least because that's what you want me to do. You will sue me over and over and over again and continue to make me work to make the money so that I cannot concentrate doing the political work - I haven't finished - to do the political work, to be able overcome this system which you have put in place, a system that is undemocratic, a system that abuses the rule of law, a system to ensure that you and your party perpetuate its hold on political power. I refused to play this game because that is a game that we cannot win. The only way that we can win is when there is a democratic system, when there is a rule of law and when both parties, ruling and opposition, have equal opportunity to reach out to voters and tell them what is best for Singapore and let the voters decide. Everytime I walk into the public and I decide to communicate with them, to sell my newsapaper, to talk to them, you jail me. You tell me where is the sense in all this? I will take whatever you dish out, Mr Lee, because at the end of the day, I know I have right on my side and as long as justice is with me, there is nothing that you can do to me that will make me back off.
LKY : That is his credo, your honour. We believe he has got to play by the rules -
CSJ : Rules which you have set up. Rules which you keep changing.
LKY : Bankrupts being disqualified is a rule that applies in the United Kingdom, it applies in all the countries that have derived their systems from the British so it was a rule which was in place, not one we created. If you're a bankrupt in England, you cannot participate in elections. Therefore, do not become a bankrupt.
CSJ : In other words, what you're saying, therefore do not criticise you -
LKY : No -
CSJ : That's the difference because do you see Mr Gordon Brown, or Tony Blair, or Mr George Bush suing their political opponents? Whatever is said, your honour, remains in the political realm and at the end of the day, they allow the public to make the decision. That is the difference, Mr Lee. But in the case of Singapore, you continue to ground your opponents in the most undemocratic of ways. If you could, you would have jailed them. You would have jailed them and you would not have allowed them habeas corpus, you would not allow them to come to court -
Singh : What is the question? What is the question, your honour? Really, we are tired of these political speeches which are empty -
CSJ : Yes, then I suggest you stop asking the Minister Mentor to continue making these speeches. I'll be happy to comply.
Singh : Dr Chee should get a sense of proportion, should understand that this is about question and answer and not about silly speeches which are impressing nobody, your honour. So if Dr Chee wants to ask a qusetion, please do. He'll get the answer.
CSJ : Yes, I will, your honour.
Continues in Part V