Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let defamation suits be a thing of the past: SDP

By Jeanette Tan | SingaporeScene
Yahoo News

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Monday called on the People's Action Party (PAP) leadership to allow the Singapore blogosphere to function as it has in the past, before a recent round of warnings of defamation suits were issued to a blog and a sociopolitical website here.

In a statement it released on Monday, it called the steps taken against blogger Alex Au and TR Emeritus (TRE) "another blow to freedom of speech" in Singapore.

Taking the SDP itself as an example, party chief Chee Soon Juan pointed out that it had never taken legal action against attacks and criticism from the ruling party and its supporters, which he described to be "unreasonable, (and) often defamatory".

"We choose, instead, to publish our own website and put forward reasoned arguments to counter such views," wrote Chee.

He also said that sound leadership should come from "inspiring and persuading the people, not suing and silencing them".

"We need to respect their views no matter how much we consider them to be wrong. Shutting them up through lawsuits and controlling the media may be the expedient thing to do but it harms the larger, and longer-term, good of society," he added.

(So what would be a reasoned argument to counter a rumour that Shanmugam is having an affair with Foo Mee Har?)

He then called on the PAP leadership to "exercise quality leadership and leave the blogosphere and, in particular, the TRE to function the way it has in the past".

"In this age of the Internet, let Singapore's political leaders not continue with legal action. Let defamation suits, or threats of defamation suits, be a thing of the past. Let us have confidence that our people can argue and disagree," he said.

(So the proposal is simply, someone says you are a pedophile, and your response is, "I disagree! Let's move on!"

There is a difference between criticising the HDB's housing policy, the use of market subsidy rather than cost subsidy, and the income cut-off, and spreading a rumour that LHL practices nepotism, or that the Minister of Law is engaged in an illicit affair, or that the PAP is corrupt. That the opposition has to resort to such personal attacks have left the PAP with no recourse except to take legal action against the defamation. But a criticism of policy as Chiam See Tong had done previously, yes, needs to be responded with facts figures and reasoned argument, and the PAP had done so. And Chiam was not convinced and surely many people were also not convinced, but either enough were convinced to vote PAP, or not enough considered it a deal breaker to vote out PAP. In other words, they disagreed and move on.

Criticisms will be met with reasoned arguments. Defamation will be met with lawsuit. If the psychologist does not understand the difference between a valid criticism and defamation, he should get a lawyer to explain the difference to him. And remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse, and the best defence against a defamation suit is to prove that what you said is indeed true.)

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