Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Very, Very Bad Idea

When I read that NMP Siew Kum Hong was going sue people who post some “defamatory” statements about him on the net, I can’t help but think that this was a very, very bad idea by him. The statements in question was regarding Mr. Siew Kum Hong being a “mole” for the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and him being a foreign agent as he had received donations from foreigners.

Mr. Siew Kum Hong's problems started when he got himself a front-row seat in the AWARE saga and offered legal advice to the Old Guard of AWARE. I had posted on this blog last week on how a backlash is brewing against the Old Guard of AWARE and those who helped them. The fact that Mr. Siew Kum Hong is now going to sue people who post some “defamatory” statements about him on the net is a situation rich in irony.

When the AWARE saga first started, supporters of the Old Guard and gay supporters used the net to drum up support for their side and demonized the New Guard. The New Guard were accursed of religious fundamentalism and even the police were called in as threats were made against members of the New Guard. I read on that Mr. Siew Kum Hong has a blog himself and I checked it out. On several posts, he clearly made known where he stands on the AWARE saga and what he thinks of the New Guard. Now the shoe is on the other foot and Mr. Siew is trying to sue?

I don’t think the irony of the situation is not lost on anyone and that’s why I think Mr. Siew should not sue. He risks being seen as a hypocrite who can dish out criticism but can’t take it when criticism is directed at himself.

For a NMP and social critic, that’s a very, very bad idea.


Anonymous said...

I think it is a good idea NMP Siew went to the Police.

Recalling the marxist conspiracy issue - Francis Seow was also accused of being in the pocket of foreign agents, went to ISD and finally left Singapore.

I hope NMP Siew speak out clearly on this issue, as I hate to see him locked up due to unforgiving rumours....

Ghost said...

Well...I will just say that I think there are some huge differences between the situations of Francis Seow and Siew Kum Hong

Anonymous said...

I think there is a difference here that the writer may not have taken into account.

Accusations that NMP Siew receive funding from foreign parties and is a mole of a political party imply that NMP Siew has broken the law.

It is different from NMP Siew's views of the New Exco in the Aware case. Attacking the credibility of a person and accusing a person of breaking the law are two very different things.

The accusations on NMP Siew are even more serious if you take it in the context of the ISA in Singapore. Under the ISA, a person can be detained without trial if he is suspected of being an enemy to the state. In NMP Siew's case, receiving funding from a foreign political body can be enough justification for him to be detained under ISA should the authorities choose to do so. This was similar to Francis Seow's case - he was accused of receiving funds from agents of the US government.

Similarly, the accusation that he, being an NMP, is a mole for a political party can also potentially be a serious criminal offence.

Thus, NMP Siew had no choice but to lodge a police report on the basis that these accusations are not true.

While we are all for freedom of speech and all that, the freedom cannot be limitless. When it puts a person's own freedom in jeopardy, a line needs to be drawn.

Ghost said...

I'm sorry about I have to disagree with you on this. The way you said it, it seems that the PAP was going to pick up Siew Kum Hong base on the accusation from the net. There was never any incident that even hint that this was going to happen.
If Mr. Siew Kum Hong is going to use the 'threat' of the ISA as the basis of his police report, then Singapore should close its broders to all foreign politicans and NGO because everyone who had spoken to these foreign people are under 'threat' from ISA.
It's a totally stupid arguement to use.

family man said...

Ghost you are correct.

PAP should have just picked him up quietly in the middle of the night and be rid of an irritant. That would make a lot of people happy :) Then the accusers would have been right to bring this rumour up in the net.

Guess it did not work this time. Siew moved too quickly to preempt this move.

Anonymous said...

Ghost: I think you are confusing speaking with foreign politicians and receiving funds from foreign politicians. It is the second act that is an offence under the Penal Code in Singapore, particularly so because NMP Siew is defined as a Public Servant in the Code (source: - See Chapter IX).

People have been detained in Singapore under the ISA on the pretext of accusations that are a lot less than in NMP Siew's case (the Marxist Conspiracy is an excellent case in point). But the point here is not to debate the likelihood of whether NMP Siew could have been detained or not.

The point I'm trying to make is that as a Public Servant, NMP Siew is under a lot more scrutiny than non-Public Servants in the eyes of the law. He is under a stricter set of laws compared to people involved in the Aware saga. As a consequence, he will need to defend his credibility especially given the context of the situation, namely: a) the severity and malicious nature of the accusations; b) his attempt in getting re-nominated; b) the wide powers of the ISA and examples of how they have used in the past.

Ghost said...

If Mr. Siew Kum Hong is going to use the 'threat' of the ISA as the reason for his police report, then why shouldn't we ask how likely was he going to be detained?

Anonymous said...

Because it is a matter of opinion. To neutral observers like us, there may appear to be no chance at all. But we may not have clarity over the full picture.

To him, he obviously did feel that this was serious enough to lodge a police report.

It comes down to the argument of how blue the sky is...

Ghost said...

If you want to argue how blue the sky is, fine but in the end the sky is still blue. How is that the same as whether the PAP will use the ISA to pick up Mr. Siew Kum Hong? That’s a Yes or No answer. That’s not arguing how blue the sky is; it’s arguing whether the sky is blue or red in color.

Jimmy Mun said...

I have to say Siew Kum Hong scored an own goal on this. If he didnt publicise it, how would anybody know about his contacts with Swedish politicians?

In fact, it seems like somebody close to him is leaking information, just as emails sent to COOS was leaked. Karma bites like a bitch.

We all knew TT Durai flew first class, but still successfully sued someone who merely stated the facts. So no matter what happens with the police investigation,

I have to lament for SDP though. Mere suggestion of association is sufficient grounds for libel.

I remember the Singapore government sent someone to tail Francis Seow shopping in New York and published the photos of him healthy and well.

As a defence against the ISA, like the Chinese says, there are no 300 taels of silver, buried right here. ISD is not going to swayed by a silly police report.

It all goes to show that Siew Kum Hong is not so different from the PAP, ever willing to use the state machinery to censor dissent.

Ghost said...

Sad but true. With this one report, Siew Kum Hong standing as a critic went down like a stone