Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lee Kuan Yew has tarnished my reputation : ex-ISD director

Yoong Siew Wah, a former director of the Internal Security Department in the 1970s, has claimed on his blog Singapore Recalcitrant that his reputation has been tarnished by an inaccuracy in the book Men In White.

I reproduce Yoong's full post here. And is proceeded by an email reply from Francis Seow which I received in my mailbox at 3.32am Oct 11.


An Unconscionable Injustice

Occasionally, there can happen to an unsuspecting person an underbelly attack on his reputation from not entirely unexpected quarter.

Quite frankly, I am baffled by the motive of the ebullient authors of the overhyped political book "Men in White" in giving me unflattering mention in it. Whilst it is purported to give an objective history of the PAP struggle I wonder what have I got to do with the intra-party struggle. Anyway, in page 441 of the book the ambitious authors made the following unverified disparaging statement about me under the sub heading "Another Foreign Hand" : "But in 1971, after a police raid on his (Francis Seow's) woman friend's apartment, he used his influence and friendship with the then director of the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau, Yoong Siew Wah, to have the four officers who had conducted the raid sacked. The attorney-general Tan Boon Teik intervened to reinstate the four officers. Seow was allowed to resign rather than have his actions investigated because of his track record in the Legal Service. Yoong was also asked to quit."

On 28-9-09 I wrote to the Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Press Holdings drawing his attention to this disparaging statement about me and requesting that a correction be made in his newspaper. I explained that the CPIB was duty-bound to investigate all formal complaints. Mr. Francis Seow made a formal complaint and CPIB carried out investigations of the four detectives. The investigation papers were sent to the Deputy Commissioner of Police who made the decision to dismiss the detectives. There was a prima facie case against the detectives. There was no question that I was asked to quit. I was appointed Director of Internal Security Department following my CPIB stint.

My letter was passed to Mr. Richard Lim, one of the three authors of the book. Mr. Lim replied on 1 October that the material for the disparaging statement was taken from a speech made by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Select Committee Hearing of the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill which was published in the Straits Times on 10 October 1986 of which a copy was attached.

It did not come as a surprise to me as the then PM Lee Kuan Yew was like a god to some people and the accuracy of his denigration of a person's reputation was invariably taken at its face value. That he made the disparaging statement about me in the heat of the moment without regard to its accuracy in his heated exchange with a cool-headed eloquent Francis Seow at the Select Committee Hearing could not be ruled out. He is not unknown to have behaved erratically with venom in his speech when highly agitated. He was obviously so infuriated by Mr. Francis Seow's biting taunts that it escaped his normally lucid mind that I was not boarded out but appointed Director ISD after my CPIB stint. It was subsequently pointed out to him but humility is not his forte and he has not been known as one to apologise for his mistakes. Mr. Richard Lim, one of the authors, has assured me that he would add a line after the sentence that I was also asked to quit to indicate that I was actually appointed Director ISD after my CPIB stint in his next and future editions of the book in order to be fair to me.

It was reported that the then attorney-general Mr. Tan Boon Teik intervened to have the four detectives reinstated. Very gallant of him. He must have read the CPIB file on the investigations and could not have missed that the dismissal of the four detectives was made by the Deputy Commissioner of Police. How the then PM Lee Kuan Yew was given the impression that I had the four detectives unlawfully dismissed is something I would like to get to the bottom of.

Mr. Francis Seow was the solicitor-general at the time when I was director CPIB. He had overall supervision of CPIB investigation files sent to his department for final direction. That I should have had a cordial relation with Mr. Francis Seow was natural in human relationship development. For the then PM Lee Kuan Yew or for that matter the attorney-general Mr. Tan Booin Teik to give a sinister connotation to such a relationship seemed to raise doubt as to the soundness of the detractors' mind. Why should the affinity between Mr. Francis Seow and me be seen as something unwholesome?

The most decent thing for the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to do now is to undo the harm he has caused me and to restore my reputation. But will he?

http://singaporerecalcitrant.blogspot.com/

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Email from Francis Seow (received Oct 11, 2009)

Yoong,

Thank you for the email. It sets out the facts fairly and accurately. One thing you seemed to have overlooked -- and that is, after the CPIB investigations, I believe the four police officers were the subject of disciplinary proceedings whose recommendations were made to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, who then took the disciplinary action(s) alleged.

If my memory serves me right, J.B. Jeyaretnam represented those police officers in the proceedings. And he later made representations to TBT, who used the opportunity to even out old scores. I, however, stray ....

Keep me informed if there are further developments.

Best.

Francis Seow.

P.S. What is Willie doing these days?

-------------------------------

Further readings:

Interview with Yoong Siew Wah by Temasek Review
here and here.

3 comments:

Martyn See said...

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1011624/1/.html

October 17, 2009 12:40 AM

Former ISD chief requests a correction in "Men In White" book
By Neo Chai Chin, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : Former Internal Security Department (ISD) chief Yoong Siew Wah has requested a correction with regards to an "unflattering mention" of him in the book "Men In White", which chronicles the untold stories of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

The book's publisher, the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has agreed to the request.

The fourth edition of the book, due out later this month, will omit a sentence stating that Yoong was asked to quit as director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in 1971, because of his supposed hand in the sacking of four officers who had conducted a raid on the home of a woman friend of Mr Francis Seow.

Seow was then Singapore's solicitor-general and is now a political dissident living in the United States.

A paragraph on page 441 of the book's current edition reads: "But in 1971, after a police raid on his (Mr Seow's) woman friend's apartment, he used his influence and friendship with the then-director of the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau, Yoong Siew Wah, to have the four officers who had conducted the raid sacked. The attorney-general Tan Boon Teik intervened to reinstate the four officers. Seow was allowed to resign rather than have his actions investigated because of his track record in the Legal Service. Yoong was also asked to quit."

Yoong had wrote in his blog that he was "baffled" by the description.

Richard Lim, one of Men In White's authors, said the final sentence in the paragraph would be removed.

He said: "The mistake stemmed from a Straits Times report on Oct 10, 1986, but we have verified that (Mr Yoong) was not asked to quit."

"We make corrections, if any, to each new printing. This is standard practice in book publishing," he added.

The book - authored by SPH journalists Sonny Yap, Richard Lim and Leong Weng Kam - was launched last month, and tells the ruling party's history over the last 50 years through stalwarts, activists and adversaries.

After his CPIB appointment, Yoong went on to become director of the ISD that same year - a post he kept until 1974.

Now 82, Yoong had been alerted to the paragraph in "Men In White" by a former ISD subordinate. - CNA /ls

Martyn See said...

Letter by Yoong published by the Straits Times in their forum page on October 16, 2009 Friday.

http://www.straitstimes.com/ST%2BForum/Story/STIStory_442800.html

Men In White: Ex-CPIB head baffled by account

THE book, Men in White, is supposed to be an objective history of the struggle within the People's Action Party, but I found it baffling to be given quite a prominent mention in it. What have I got to do with the political struggle described in Men In White?

I cannot understand why it could not have been done with due care to a person's reputation. On page 441, (which describes why lawyer Francis Seow was asked to resign as Solicitor-General in 1971), it says: 'But in 1971, after a Police raid on his woman friend's apartment, he used his influence and friendship with the then Director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, Yoong Siew Wah, to have four officers who had conducted the raid sacked. The Attorney General Tan Boon Teik intervened to reinstate the four officers. Seow was allowed to resign rather than have his actions investigated because of his track record in the legal service. Yoong was also asked to quit.'

If the authors had checked with me, I would have told them that the CPIB was duty-bound to investigate any formal complaint made by any complainant. In Mr Seow's case, he made a formal complaint and CPIB carried out investigations of the four detectives concerned. The investigation papers were sent to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, who made the decision to dismiss the detectives. There was never any question that I was asked to quit. You may care to check with the Internal Security Department (ISD) that I was appointed its director after my CPIB stint.

Do you think that a little note of correction in your newspaper is in order to preserve my reputation?

Yoong Siew Wah

EDITOR'S NOTE: The authors thank Mr Yoong for the feedback. What they wrote in the book was based on newspaper reports in 1986, which said that he had been boarded out as a result of the incident with Mr Seow. They apologise for not getting back to Mr Yoong to verify the reports and will do a correction in the next reprint of the book.

Martyn See said...

This is an email I received from former long-term political detainee Dr Poh Soo Kai.

"It is all very baffling. Gets curiouser and curiouser. Questions senior reporters did not answer include: on what grounds did F. Seow complain about the four police officers ? What was the report by the police department investigation committee? Was this the ground for the sacking of the four officers? What grounds were given for their subsequent reinstatement? Mr. Yoong was made ISD director as a result of schuffling of
very seior ISD officers following the Black Operation. The Black Operation admittedly is part of the PAP's history. Could the senior reporters throw some light on Mr. Yoong's appointment ?"