- Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, Sept 21, 1955
If you believe in democracy, you must believe in it unconditionally. If you believe that men should be free, then, they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then, no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought.
- Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, April 27, 1955
"Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love-it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they're conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict."
- Lee Kuan Yew as an opposition PAP member speaking to David Marshall, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Debates, 4 October, 1956
The final instalment of the courtroom clash between Lee Kuan Yew and Chee Soon Juan. Transcript courtesy of yours truly. Continues from Part lV.
CSJ : You had mentioned, Mr Lee, that there were two ways of gaining political power. You had said something about being not a bankrupt so that you can stand for elections and then the other method you said was through constitutional means, through -
LKY : Through unconstitutional means.
CSJ : The other way? No, I think you meant through constitutional means.
Singh : If Dr Chee would stop talking and start listening, he would have heard that what the witness said was either do it be constitutional means, i.e through parliament by not being a bankrupt or violently, illegally.
CSJ : Thank you. I appreciate your assistance on this matter. I agree. I completely agree with you, Mr Lee -
LKY : May I -
CSJ : That constitutional means is the way to go -
Singh : No, no, no -
CSJ : But the funny thing, your honour -
Singh : What is the question? It's not whether it's a funny thing or not. The only thing funny with (inaudible) are the speeches coming out -
CSJ : Mr Lee, Mr Lee -
Singh : Your honour, can I ask for a ruling that Dr Chee (inaudible) the questions because in the last -
CSJ : The constitution allows us freedom of speech, assembly and association -
Judge : Dr Chee!
CSJ : And you have completely butchered all that!
Judge : Dr Chee, the last question, if that can be a question, is completely irrelevant as far as this court is concerned. I've already said those sort of questions are not for this courtroom. He's here to assess to the damages.
CSJ : Point taken, your honour. And this is what I'm trying to derive at -
Judge : Now 2.40. I've given you the indulgence. I don't know if Miss Chee wishes to ask questions. I assume you are eating into her time.
CSJ : All that I'm saying right now is, your honour, Mr Lee has made this point that to gain political power there are certain rules and those rules are set in the constitution. And I'm saying that I agree with it. Those rules were not written by me. Those rules were written by the British, and which Mr Lee agreed to. Now in one of those rules there, it says citizens of Singapore are guaranteed the freedom of speech, association and assembly -
Singh : What is the question?
CSJ : Right now, why is Mr Lee changing those rules? Because when I begin to exercise these freedoms of speech and assembly -
Singh : If that's the question, the witness will answer the question.
CSJ : We get arrested. Tell us right now, are you up for a free and fair fight during elections?
LKY : I do not know -
CSJ : In a constitutional manner.
LKY : There is nothing to hinder an opposition party in Singapore from -
CSJ : I beg your pardon. There's everything that will hinder an opposition party.
LKY : The SDP was doing very well under Chiam See Tong and at one time captured three seats and it became the de-facto leader. You came in and destroy the SDP -
CSJ : Don't change subject, Mr Lee. Don't change the subject.
LKY : As a result, because you had destroyed the standing of the SDP, the Workers' Party has become the de-facto leader of the opposition. That's an open con-(inaudible). The Workers' Party has won the elections, Mr Chiam in his personal capacity has continually and repeatedly won the elections without defaming anybody.
CSJ : You see, Mr Lee, when I talk about -
LKY : Low Thia Kiang has not defame anybody, not defame the government, neither has Chiam See Tong and they have won successive by-elections but you have lost successively because we have disproved to the people that you are not to be believed.
CSJ : You see, Mr Lee, when I ask you about freedoms of speech, assembly-
LKY : That is the whole purpose of this exchange in this court -
CSJ : When I ask you about the freedoms of speech, assembly and association -
LKY : We have heard all that -
CSJ : I don't just mean political parties. I mean citizens of Singapore. Even a citizen of this country who is not a member of a political party has the right to freedom of speech, association and assembly -
Singh : And the question is, your honour?
CSJ : Would you allow these people their rights or are you going to sit there and continue to curtail their rights? Simple answer, Mr Lee, you know -
Judge : Irrelevant. Disallowed. This is not the court to answer.
CSJ : You are intelligent. You know what freedom of speech is. You know what freedom of assembly is.
Judge : Dr Chee, I've already ruled. Please continue with the next question.
CSJ : Yes, will you allow more than five people to assemble in an public area?
LKY : These -
Judge : Irrelevant.
LKY : Your honour, these rules were in existence before the PAP took office. They have remained on our statute book, or rather in regulations under the statutes.
CSJ : And you are saying that these rules before the PAP. Which was the government before the PAP? The British, I assume.
LKY : No, before the -
CSJ : Mr Lee, let me ask you. Was the British a colonial government?
Judge : Mr Lee, it is not for you to answer that question.
CSJ : He's made that point and I'm just clarifying that point. Your honour, you see, Mr Lee -
Judge : I've already ruled.
CSJ : Your honour, hear me out. Mr Lee makes his point that his party, his government, did not come up with these rules. I say fine. Who came up with these rules then? The British came up with these rules. The point that I want to establish is the British was an undemocratic government. Mr Lee is making my point right now that by continuing these undemocratic rules, Singapore has been governed in a very undemocratic way. And when you govern Singapore in an undemocratic way, you try to tell this court here that my reputation is A-One, you have a problem.
LKY : I -
CSJ : But if Mr George Bush or Mr Gordon Brown or any leader in the democratic world stands up and says, "if I can garner 80% of the votes", yes, that would be something. But not in a society where you controlled the press, and I remember, Mr Lee, whether you do or not I don't know, but when you said about the -
Singh : Your honour, how long do we have to listen to this because Dr Chee is not prepared to listen -
CSJ : The media, the press, being controlled to the point where they begin to be sycophants -
Judge : I've taken (inaudible) of Mr Chee's conduct which I will deal with on Wednesday.
Singh : Thank you, your honour.
CSJ : Mr Lee, would you then respond?
Judge : The witness is not required to answer. Question is totally irrelevant to the assessment of damages. I have repeated myself many times.
CSJ : Mr Lee -
Judge : It's 2.45.
CSJ : I'm sorry?
Judge : It's 2.45 now.
CSJ : Mr Lee, let's continue on because this is a very important national matter.
Judge : Not for this court, Dr Chee.
CSJ : Your honour -
Judge : (inaudible) Take it outside this courtroom. My ruling -
CSJ : But, no. Hold on. Wait, wait. Your honour, Mr Lee is saying that his reputation is very important because it is national matter and in that context I'm trying to deal with. If he didn't say that his reputation is of national priority, then there is no issue. But right now, Mr Lee has made that point and Mr Lee has continued to want to defend, then let me then question him as well. (Pause) Mr Lee, you had some point said that the PAP, I take it a lot of times it is you, that said that "we have engineered elections that would make Singaporeans stupid to want to vote us out." What do you mean by that, Mr Lee?
LKY : We have given Singaporeans something that we've never had before. Singapore society which is now well-educated, 20% of them in tertiary institutions, 40% of them in polytechnics, another 20% in ITE, everybody owns a home, everybody has got proper medical care and everybody is catered for and looked after. If they were not catered for and looked after, they wouldn't have voted for this government to be re-elected. It's as simple as that. The final test is not what Mr Chee says or what I say but the reality on the ground. Have we created Singapore better than 1959? When the Prime Minister goes for elections in a few years time, whether he wins or loses depends on whether the people believe they're worse off or better off. It's as simple as that. This is the acid test.
CSJ : Sure, sure, but unfortunately Mr Lee, it is not as simple as that because if you're saying that the acid test is whether people feel they benefited from your system, then why is it, Mr Lee, that even you and the current Senior Minister continue to lament that Singaporeans are leaving Singapore in droves. Let me cite you a statistic that I didn't do the study - it was your press that did it - cited that 50% of young Singaporeans didn't feel that they were patriotic to this country. Can you explain when you say to Singaporeans that you've done so well, provided so much for them, and yet - now you have 50 years, no interruptions, there was never any change in governments in between, so you had an uninterrupted period of rule in Singapore, yet at the end of the road, you come to a situation where your young cannot wait to want to get out when they have a chance and tell you "we don't feel patriotic at all to this country." Have you failed, Mr Lee?
LKY : I am not aware of this particular survey, how wide it is, and I'm not particularly moved one way or the other. The final test is - are they leaving permanently? Because that's what they can do. We have educated them to a point where those in the top 20% with tertiary qualifications can go to any English-speaking country and find a job. That is the acid test and that goes on all the time.
CSJ : Mr Lee, I am trying to tell that your worry is that they are leaving permanently, they are not coming back, they are even willing to break their bonds because they don't want to continue living in a society which you have created. They don't want to live in this society which they don't feel a sense of belonging. They don't want to live in a society where they have no say, that come elections, everything is railroaded, and they don't have a way that they can pick their leaders.
LKY : Therefore, I advise you to find some way, get your NGO supporters, to discharge you from your bankruptcy, then you would be able to campaign against us.
CSJ : Mr Lee, how do I campaign against you when at every turn of the way, you put a stop to it? One way that I can campaign is through the media. You control it. One way that I can campaign is to get down to the street and talk to voters. You arrest me. One way that I can campaign is through my party's newspaper. You sue us. Tell me, apart from using this word "campaign" in the most frivolous, the most egregious of manner, how do we campaign when you, sitting in the Istana, makes sure opposition parties can never, never compete on an equal footing?
LKY : In no country is it the duty of the government to build the opposition. And the fact that opposition leaders can get elected, re-elected and re-elected, despite very riogorous campaigning against them by leaders of the PAP, proves that they know when they decide that they want this man, they will vote for him.
CSJ : I'm not asking you to build up the opposition -
LKY : I am suggesting to Dr Chee that if he follows the constitutional route, with his eloquence, if he can establish credibility with his eloquence, he has a better chance than Mr Low Thia Kiang or Mr Chiam See Tong. But if he has got no credibility, and the proceedings in the last two days would not have been unnoticed, the press is here, public is here. You have come and try to degrade the proceedings, you have come to make an abuse of the processes of this court. The judge is in charge. The judge knows you can appeal against her judgements. The judge can given you all the opportunities to tie yourself up. That is my reading of what is going on in this court.
CSJ : You see, Mr Lee, the opposition has never made the case that you as the ruling party -
Judge : Mr Chee.
CSJ : He has made a point, your honour, and I like to respond. And that is that - you see, your honour.
Singh : (inaudible) it fails on all grounds of cross-examination, on irrelevance that really, we've past I think a long time ago, I think just as the cross-examination started, your honour.
CSJ : Would you agree - I move on to my next question, your honour.
Singh : He's got an answer now and so he cannot challenge that answer.
CSJ : Would you agree, Mr Lee - are you saying, you telling the courts right now that the government has not hampered the opposition in any way?
Judge : Mr Chee, I do not wish to hear that line of questioning any more -
CSJ : Your honour, I'm just trying to make this point -
Judge : It is totally irrelevant. What I have to decide on -
CSJ : Yes, your honour. Let me make this point. Mr Lee has brought up -
Judge : One minute more.
CSJ : The point that I am asking -
Judge : You have one minute to ask the last question.
CSJ : The government should make it easy for the opposition and my point is no. All we asking for the government to come to a set of rules -
Judge : Not relevant. I've already said, Dr Chee. If you wish this line of questioning, do it outside my courtroom!
CSJ : Yes, your honour, what I'm trying to tell you is that it goes to his reputation. It's what I'm here for. (inaudible)
Judge : It's completely irrelevant. I have ruled on this. Dr Chee, if you persist -
CSJ : If you believe that if the public was to have a free say in the running of this country -
Singh : Your honour, same objection. You honour has already ruled earlier on the same point. The question is being repeated again and again.
CSJ : No, your honour. It's something - again as I said makes a lot of difference whether Mr Lee - when he says that his reputation is of a certain standard, that he must, he must then have the courage to be able to face reality and not hide behind, take refuge, in a system that has been designed to ensure that the reputation remains up there, regardless of reality.
Singh : That was in the affidavit which was struck out, your honour.
CSJ : Yes, I think Mr Lee has made an attempt to answer. Mr Lee?
LKY : I do not want to waste more of the time of the court that's not relevant to this case but may I add that my reputation has been established over a period of 50 years, 49 years in government, and 4 and a half years as the leader of the opposition.
CSJ : All good?
LKY : It is not for me to say it is all good or bad.
CSJ : Would you agree that it's a mixture of good and bad?
Judge : Dr Chee -
LKY : Will you allow me to - you've asked me for an answer and I am giving it to you but if its not to your liking, I'm sorry, but you will have to hear me out. At the end of the day, my job is done. I've passed power on and I'm just Minister Mentor. I'm a data-bank. I have no purpose then to see that the system which I've set in place continues to the benefit of Singapore, and part of the proceedings, the painful process is to go through this exercise when you have no questions and you're running away from it. Because at the end of the day, it's not just as you pointed out and Mr Ravi as the SDP counsel submitted, it is the wider public. I'm conscious of that. I think sometimes, you are not.
CSJ : If you are talking about the wider public, Mr Lee, then you must also realise that -
Judge : No more questions.
CSJ : The wider public wants you to leave the political stage. Would you agree?
Judge : He's not required to answer.
This marks the end of the of Chee Soon Juan's cross-examination of Lee Kuan Yew. The next next defendent, Chee Siok Chin, was only given 10 minutes to query Lee.
Next in Part Vl, the full transcript of Chee Siok Chin's earlier cross-examination of Lee Hsien Loong. That's a real classic. Do check back.