Court debate startles staid Singapore

Top British lawyer leads searing attack on PM as libel case ends

The Prime Minister of Singapore and a veteran opposition figure are awaiting a court verdict in a defamation case after four days of - for Singapore - startlingly frank public debate between the British lawyers representing the two parties.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong was accused by George Carman QC of "exaggerating" to the court for the purposes of "putting a shine" on his slander case against Joshua Jeyaratnam, the country's 71-year-old Workers' Party leader.

Mr Jeyaratnam faces financial ruin and the effective end of his long political career if the court decides to award heavy financial damages to Mr Goh over remarks made during last December's election campaign.

Mr Goh has contested and won multi-million pound defamation cases against numerous political opponents and newspapers. The prime minister says Mr Jeyaratnam lobbed a political "Molotov cocktail" at his leadership by announcing at an election rally the fact that another opposition figure, Tang Liang Hong, had filed police reports against the ruling party. The reports were later made public on the orders of Mr Goh, who said he had nothing to hide.

"The original defamation, on the eve of polling day, to an audience hostile to the plaintiff, was calculated to whip up emotions and feeling against him and cause the maximum political damage and personal hurt," Mr Goh's British lawyer, Tom Shields, told a packed High Court in his summation.

In a searing attack on the prime minister's motives in bringing the matter to court, Mr Carman, one of Britain's top lawyers, poured scorn on the politician's claim for damages, arguing that the statement to which the prime minister objected was not only true - a fact that in Britain or the United States would in most cases be the ultimate defence - but did the standing of the Singaporean government "no harm whatsoever".

"This case in justice, fairness and in reason should be dismissed in law," Mr Carman urged the judge overseeing the case, concluding that the prime minister's testimony had been "a piece of cheap melodrama" in reaction to "the normal cut and thrust of democratic politics".

He accused the prime minister of attempting to silence his critics through the courts.

Mr Carman contended that Mr Goh and his predecessor Lee Kuan Yew shot themselves in the foot by releasing the contents of the reports over which they were now seeking legal damages."The real loss has been self-inflicted," Mr Carman said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones