Power and the press : LETTERS

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From Mr Derek Davies Sir: Singapore's envoys who write rebuttals of any articles in the least critical of their leaders (Letters, 26 January) should get their facts right.

In my piece ("How Confucius reads the Trib", 18 January) I made no "dogmatic assertions" that Western democracy will triumph over "Asian values". I did remark that where East Asian dictators have lost their grip on power, the emergence of opposition parties and freer presses is very reminiscent of what emerged in the West as democracy developed. I also made the point that, before Lee Kuan Yew launched his campaign against the foreign press, he first brutally squashed Singapore's own (Asian) newspapers, just as he oppressed any indigenous opposition.

When Lee sued the Far Eastern Economic Review for libel, I did not, as editor at the time, give evidence because we had, in our opinion, shown clearly that every fact in the piece was absolutely accurate.

The Review was nevertheless adjudged to have defamed Lee and paid damages and costs. Our original strategy had been to appeal to the Privy Council, but Lee moved the goal posts, enacting legislation requiring that in civil cases both the defendant and the plaintiff should agree to such a move. He, of course, would not agree.

Yours sincerely, Derek Davies London, SW5

27 January

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