Aspire towards Lee Kuan Yew’s total dedication to S’pore: Heng Swee Keat
Ignore the title, Tommy Koh appears to be the only Singaporean with a pair of testicles today. CNA:
Monday’s event, organized by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, also coincided with the 9th anniversary of the school.
The conference was attended by some 600 thought leaders who included former politicians, academics and diplomats.
The views exchanged were candid and frank, perhaps testament to Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s personality.
He has attracted his fair share of critics, and forum participants didn’t shy away from hard questions.
For example, Ambassordor-At-Large Tommy Koh asked: “When he was Prime Minister, he had a practice of launching defamation suits against opposition leaders after each general election…was this practice by Mr Lee to sue opposition leaders for defamation a wise thing to do?
“When you look at other advanced democracies, I know of no other country in the world where after a general election, the victor will sue the opponent for defamation.
“In an advanced democracy, when an election is over, the vanquished will have the grace to congratulate the victor and the victor will have the magnanimity to forgive his opponent for all the unkind things the opponent has said.
“My question…is not that Mr Lee was not within the law, in suing opponents for defamation, he bankrupted some of them, but was it a wise thing for him to do?”
Singapore’s former Cabinet minister, Professor S Jayakumar, said: “There were defamation suits against politicians but it would be wrong to think he sued only politicians and it’s wrong to think he sued politicians after every general election to drive home a point that he (the opposition politician) should have not stood for the elections…
“Whether it was an opposition politician, whether it was the Far Eastern Economic Review or even a publication, say in Malaysia – he issued a defamation action against The Star publication and was prepared to have it tested in the courts in Kuala Lumpur.
“What is the point he wanted to make? He is prepared for a robust criticism of his policies. He can be criticised for foolishness, maybe even for incompetence, for arrogance, but his red line was – not on reputation and integrity.
“So, whether it’s opposition politician or any other source, if you allege his integrity, say, corruption, for example, he would want to demonstrate that that is a red line, you justify it. He’s prepared to justify his record.
“I know in other jurisdictions, in the cut and thrust of politics, all sorts of accusations are hurled but the threshold is different. But he wanted to establish a threshold here that you have people of integrity, including himself, in government, in Cabinet and they are prepared to defend the integrity.”
There were other so-called myths about Mr Lee that were rebutted by the speakers, among them, that the former prime minister always insisted on getting his way in Cabinet.
Professor Jayakumar, who served in the Cabinet for 27 years, said Mr Lee can be persistent, if not stubborn but he was always “intellectually honest”.
“If you can come up with a contrary view and argue your case, he will listen and prepare to change,” said Professor Jayakumar.
He cited the institution of the Elected Presidency and said that the final shape of that reflected the views of Cabinet ministers. …
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Tags: defamation, heng swee keat, lee kuan yew, tommy koh