Saturday, May 31, 2008

Transcript excerpts of Lees vs Chees

The following excerpts of court transcripts were first posted on SDP's website here and here. I was in the public gallery when the exchange took place so I can testify that they are true. I am posting them here again for sake of posterity.

If you don't know the background of this case, read this, this, this and this. Meanwhile, another member of the public gallery that day, Gopalan Nair - a former dissident who has since taken up US citizenship - has issued a challenge to PM Lee Hsien Loong and MM Lee Kuan Yew to sue him for libel. Read his account of the trial here.


Chee (to Lee Hsien Loong): Would you refer to pg 192 of your AEIC, para 3 and read it to us.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong starts reading. Just before he gets to the words he uttered about fixing the opposition and buying over his supporters, Mr Davinder Singh stands up.

Singh: Objection, Your Honour.

Judge: I’ll read it.

Chee: Mr Lee, you read it.

Judge: Dr Chee please tell us the relevance.

Chee: This paragraph will show it's true of him -

Judge Move on, the question is disallowed.

Chee: He has used words like "fix" and "buy votes". He's here to tell me that his reputation is based on so much. I’m here to demolish it, when he buys votes -

Judge: Disallowed.

Chee: Let it be recorded then. Mr Lee, come out and don’t hide behind your counsel. You have every opportunity to answer the questions. You allow your counsel to cover -

Singh: Objection, Your Honour.

Judge: Court has taken note of Dr Chee’s conduct.

Chee: Mr Lee, please refer to pg 39 of your AEIC sub-heading "lack of transparency." Do you agree with the last line and last paragraph that the GIC operates in secrecy?

Singh: Objection. Dr Chee is seeking to reopen the issue. This article relates to the offending words. The meaning has been taken to be false. The question of liability is done.

Chee: Turn then to pg 75 of your AEIC, bottom of the page. Is the Government transparent? Do you agree with this statement?

Singh: I object.

Judge: Irrelevent.

Chee: Do you believe the funds belongs to the people?

Singh: Irrelevent.

Chee: Same line and reason, that he is the Prime Minister and takes pride in the integrity -

Singh: The question is on the matter of Assesment of Damages -

Judge: Move on, Dr Chee.

Chee: You are the Deputy or the Vice Chairman of the GIC?

Singh: Irrelevant.

Chee: I want to establish that he says his reputation is sterling -

Singh: My client didn’t say that.

Judge: Yes.

Chee: How and where you have invested the GIC funds?

Judge: Move on.

Chee: Were you aware of the scandal at NKF -

Singh: Relevancy? NKF is a matter of liability.

Judge: Dr Chee, irrelevant.

Chee: Then you agree that T T Durai's salary was excessive?

Singh: Objection.

Judge: Sustained.

Chee: Do you agree the salary -

Singh: Your Honour, my client was not aware of the NKF scandal -

Judge: Irrelevant.

Chee: If T T Durai had a summary judgement -

Singh: Objection.

Judge: Sustained.

Chee: Do you agree that the openness of the Government -

Singh: Objection.

Judge: Sustained.

Chee: I disagree as the witness was a Prime Minister during the period and argued in Parliament -

Singh: Maybe the Health Ministry was misled and my client did not know. The Government did proceed to investigate the matter.

Chee: The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health made comments and continued leading the people to donate to the NKF. You were the Prime Minister -

Singh: Objection.

Chee: Did you know the warning signals -

Singh: Objection.

Chee: These were raised in Parliament and whether he was sleeping like some of his colleagues -

Singh: That is not necessary and insulting -

Judge: Dr Chee, move on.

Singh: I want to remind Dr Chee of the injunction against repeating -

Chee: Do you agree if the salary is too much?

Judge: Disallowed.

Chee: Do you think that your Ministers spend too much -

Judge: Disallowed.

Chee: I put to you that the PAP is bent on greed and power.

Singh Objection.

Judge: Sustained.

Chee Refer to pg 9 of your AEIC. Is the information on the cost of labour of building HDB flats available?

Singh: Objection.

Judge Sustained.

Chee: Is information on the cost of material of building HDB flats available?

Singh: Objection.

Judge Sustained.

Chee: Do you agree that the HDB is operating in secrecy?

Singh: Objection.

Judge Sustained.




PART lll





Monday, May 19, 2008

Video : One Nation Under Lee

Go to to watch or download all available formats of the video.

Directed by Seelan Palay under Honest Productions.


Singapore to Dissident Leader: Shut Up

The senior Lee, now the “minister mentor,” who served as Singaporean prime minister from 1969 to 1990, once won extra damages from a Singaporean judge for what the judge considered too rigorous a cross-examination by a defense lawyer.

As an example of how prickly the 84-year-old Lee and his government can be, last Saturday, officials from the Media Development Authority, which regulates the media and censors films for public broadcast, descended on a room in the Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel where about 70 opposition figures were holding a fundraising event and private screening of a 45-minute film of titled “One Nation Under Lee,” which is critical of the former premier’s rise to power and subsequent crackdown on his opponents. The officials seized the DVD.

Read full article here.

Libel case shows Singapore's limits

Another opposition party would then disappear from the scene, joining a long list of previous challengers to Lee's dominance of Singapore politics since he became its prime minister in 1959.

The list is handily presented in a new 45-minute documentary video by activist Seelan Pillay, One Nation Under Lee, which can be viewed on a number of websites and blogs, including one called Singabloodypore.

A private screening at the Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel in Singapore last Saturday was interrupted by three officials from the Media Development Authority, who seized the DVD and equipment, after warning that under the Films Act it was an offence "to have in your possession or to exhibit or distribute any film without a valid certificate".

Full article here.


Singapore authorities confiscate film on Minister Mentor at private screening

22 May 2008
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Bangkok

Singapore authorities attempted to stop a private screening of a critical film on Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on 17 May 2008, alleging that the screening violated the Films Act, according to news reports.

Section 21(1)(b) of the Films Act forbids the screening of a film that has not been vetted by the censors, punishing violators with a maximum fine of S$40,000 (approx. US$29,428), or jail term of up to six months, or both.

Three officers from the Media Development Authority (MDA), claiming they were acting on a "tip-off", went to the hotel where the film, "One nation under Lee", was being premiered and requested for the disc, alleging that it has not been vetted by the censors.

The night before the screening, the Board of Film Censors had warned the organisers of the offence they would be committing under the law if they had not submitted the film for approval.

The 45-minute film is produced and directed by artist/activist Seelan Palay. It documents former premier Lee's rise to power through a host of restrictive measures on civil liberties, criticises the economic and political governance of the ruling party and pays tribute to the efforts of activists and citizens who persist in claiming and exercising their democratic rights. The film is available online here.

The MDA officers claimed that the action was a matter of compliance and not an objection to the content of the film. Yet, when organiser Chee Siok Chin, a leading member of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, argued that the broad terms of the law would also subject such censorship to every wedding dinner that showed videos of the happy couple, one of the officials said, "This is not the same as a wedding dinner", clearly showing otherwise.

The MDA officials later brought in plainclothes officers in an attempt to hold the organisers for obstruction of justice. They left, however, when Chee agreed to hand over the film as the screening had fortunately ended by then.

However, the officials returned moments later for the projector, they were faced with a spirited refusal by the organisers and the 70-strong audience, who insisted they had no right to the equipment. A recording of what transpired is available here.

The authorities are reportedly investigating the screening.

The Singapore government has long maintained a tight rein on free expression in the country, allegedly in the interest of maintaining public order and social harmony in the tiny city-state of 4.6 million people. The local media are controlled through ownership, while foreign media and the opposition leaders are given a beating in the courts through successful civil defamation suits, sending a chilling message to the citizens. Even so, pockets of civil society continue to find creative ways of claiming their right to expression, from holding demonstrations of one to four (the law imposes a permit for gatherings of five or more, which is often refused to the opposition) and expressing themselves through the arts.

Singapore probes political film on Lee Kuan Yew

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's media regulator is investigating the screening of a political film that an opposition party said critically examines the city-state's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

The film, "One Nation Under Lee", was made by a group of political activists and looks at the rise of Lee and his relationship with the media, Chee Siok Chin, a senior member of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), told Reuters.

It was screened to an audience of about 70 at an opposition party fundraising event last week, before Singapore's media regulator interrupted the showing and took the film, said Chee, the event organiser.

"After investigation, the Board of Film Censors (BFC) proceeded to serve a notice to the appropriate person that it would be an offence to screen a film that has not been submitted to the BFC for classification and that is not approved for exhibition," Tan Chiu Kee of the BFC said in a statement late on Tuesday, adding that a copy had been handed to officials.

Singapore, which has been ruled by the People's Action Party (PAP) for over 40 years, bans the production and screening of all political films, imposing a maximum fine of S$100,000 ($73,260) or a jail term of two years on those caught.

Lee Kuan Yew, 84, is credited with policies that have been critical to making Singapore one of the region's most prosperous countries, but has been criticised by human rights groups for his use of lawsuits against political opponents and the media.

Film seized by censors after organisers went ahead with screening despite being warned

The Straits Times, Singapore
by Sue-Ann Chia

A 45-MINUTE film portraying Singapore as lacking in press and political freedoms is under investigation by the Board of Film Censors (BFC).

Titled One Nation Under Lee, the film was being screened to an audience of about 70 at the Peninsula Excelsior Hotel last Saturday when officials from the BFC turned up to seize the film.

Organisers of the screening, led by Ms Chee Siok Chin of the Singapore Democratic Party, argued it was a private event, but BFC officials said they had been tipped off that the film had not been passed by the censors and they had the right to investigate.

The police were called in when negotiations hit a stalemate.

Ms Chee eventually let BFC officials into the room and handed over the film.

The altercation was filmed and put online on video-sharing site YouTube.

Guests paid $20 each to attend the screening-cum-lunch, said Mr Martyn See, a film-maker who was in the audience.

Produced by 23-year-old political activist Seelan Palay, the film depicts a Singapore tightly controlled by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and includes a call for civil disobedience.

It also includes interviews with former political detainee Said Zahari and opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam.

Ms Chee told The Straits Times: 'It seems bizarre that the authorities would come to this private event. At a wedding, they don't expect people to send in their videos being screened for classification. What's the difference here?'

Section 21(1)(b) of the Films Act makes it an offence to exhibit a film that has not been approved for exhibition. The penalty is a fine of up to $40,000, or jail of up to six months, or both.

BFC assistant licensing officer Tan Chiu Kee said yesterday it was alerted last Thursday to the forthcoming screening of One Nation Under Lee.

As no film of that title had been submitted for classification, and the BFC had not issued any certificate for a film with that title, it launched an investigation, and later issued a warning to the 'appropriate person'.

Ms Chee confirmed that a BFC official told her of the offence at 9pm last Friday.

Still, the screening proceeded the next day. So BFC officials went to the event to investigate, said Mr Tan.

'The persons connected with the event had chosen to disregard the BFC's notices...that it would be an offence to screen a film that has not been submitted to the BFC for classification and that is not approved for exhibition,' said Mr Tan, adding that investigations are continuing.

Videos : Censors and police disrupt private screening

Part l

Part ll

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Censors and police seize video at private screening

Complete videos of the seized film and the seizing have been uploaded. Go to main page.

Censorship enforcement in Singapore sank to a new low today as officers from the Board of Film Censors (a department of the MDA) turned up at Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel's Tulip Room to demand that organisers of a film screening hand over the video for classification.

The invitation for the screening of "One Nation Under Lee" had been circulated via email with the explicit note that it was to be a private function. Still, the BFC delivered a letter to the Singapore Democratic Party's office last night, warning the organisers that Section 14 of Films Act requires all films (and the Act do mean ALL videos, including those stored on your mobile phone) to be submitted to the Board for classification.

Undeterred, the organisers pressed on with the screening today. Just before it began at 2pm, officers from the Board of Film Censors showed up at the door to serve the reminder. Still, the 45 minute video was screened in its entirety, interrupted periodically by raised voices outside the hall. Apparently, plainclothes police officers were called in to seize the video as the organisers had refused to budge.

Just as the screening ended, BFC officers were ushered into the hall, given microphones and were told to explain to the audience, numbering about 80, about their intentions. They didn't use the PA system, but were heard uttering something about wanting to seize the video, which were eventually given to them. Minutes later, another government officer came in, muttering about wanting to see the projector. After being repeatedly told that he could not, he left in a puff.

The film itself was surprisingly slick and compelling but the off-screen drama was the highlight for me. Life imiatates art, and vice versa. All in all, a pretty entertaining afternoon.

I'm sure there'll be photos, videos and more reports coming up soon about today's drama. Check back for link updates.


Film on Lee Kuan Yew seized by MDA

Government officials disrupt private screening of film on LKY

Pictures here

The gatecrashers


This is Singapore

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Filmmaker submits six videos featuring political protests

Six videos documenting a recent spate of public protests in Singapore were submitted to the Board of Film Censors yesterday. Filmmaker Ho Choon Hiong, who shot and edited the videos, said in a email that he hopes that the authorities will grant him the license to screen his videos so that an "outreach" program can be organised to create a "meaningful discussion about peaceful assemblies in Singapore."

Prior to submission, the six videos have already been uploaded on youtube.

Youtube link here
Related article : Myanmar nationals protest constitution in Singapore

2. Burmese staged peaceful demonstration in Singapore
Youtube link here.
Related article : Activists Defy Protest Ban At ASEAN Summit In Singapore

3. NUS international students Vigil Walk
Youtube link here
Related article : Protest Singapore Style; 3 Marchers, 19 Media, 1000 Police

4. Human rights torch relay by Falungong in Singapore
Youtube link here
Related article : Singapore Welcomes the Global Human Rights Torch Relay

5. Singaporean started 5 days fasting against ISA on Hindraf 5
Youtube link here
Related article : Palay ends hunger strike for Hindraf five

6. Morning May day Montage
Youtube link here
Related article : Report on SDP's Walking for Workers