Monday, February 20, 2012

PM Lee's Lawsuit Threat is a Serious Strategic Mistake

Following in the footsteps of Minister for Law K Shanmugam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's lawyers have served a letter to TR Emeritus over a commentary the latter published which, amongst other things, "alleged that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong secured or was instrumental in securing the appointment of his wife, Mdm Ho Ching, as the chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited for nepotistic motives". TRE has been threatened with legal proceedings and damages and costs will be pursued if TRE does not delete the article and publish an apology.

This is an unfortunate turn of events in Singapore's political history and political media. It is a politically regressive move by the PAP ministers which undoes the efforts of the PAP to "shape a more inclusive society." For the following reasons, these lawsuit threats must be regarded as serious strategic errors by the PAP.
  • Such lawyers' letters only serve to perpetuate the image of PAP ministers as intimidating figures who are intolerant of dissent and criticism, whether such an image is warranted or not. Few people are going to bother about the true substance of the allegations, but many people are going to bother about the threat of lawsuits.
  • Such lawyers' letters only serve to regressively link the PAP with iron-hand authoritarianism of the past that is widely associated with MM Lee Kuan Yew (who will soon become a historical figure), rather than trying to progressively move the image of the PAP forward as an inclusive, tolerant party. This only plays into the hands of the opposition who are more than happy to play the role of the voice of the people, rather than the iron fist of power.
  • Such lawyers' letters only serve to draw far more attention to the allegations than there originally was in the first place. Perhaps only a few thousand people read the original article on TR Emeritus, but now that the lawsuit threat has been splashed on national headline news, everybody knows about it!
  • Such lawyers' letters make PM Lee and K Shanmugam come across as insecure individuals who need to hide behind the threat of legal action, rather than confident people with nothing to hide. A truly secure person would not feel bothered about unfounded allegations and only needs to state the truth and move on.
  • Such lawyers' letters only serve to push critics further underground and deeper behind the veil of anonymity. Richard Wan must be seriously regretting his decision to come out into public, now that he has been served with a lawsuit threat mere days after his public appearance. Other bloggers and writers will take serious note of this incident and be reminded to stay out of public view. Meanwhile, the allegations will still continue to swirl around the internet because the anonymous posters are not going to go away.
  • Above all, unlike the Economist, Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, many of the bloggers and posters are ordinary Singaporeans, some of whom are struggling to make ends meet, and all of whom have the final say where it counts — the polling booth. Such lawsuit threats only serve to further alienate the population of PAP detractors, and perhaps even push neutral parties into the opposition camp!
On all counts, the PAP's decision to serve these lawsuit threats must be counted as serious strategic errors which only serve to damage the image of the ministers and the party as a whole. The unsavoury tactics that the PAP uses to deal with online allegations will only serve to weaken its support base amongst politically-aware citizens and push them further into the hands of the opposition.

PM Lee needs to think seriously about this if he wants to win the hearts of the people. If not, his party will pay dearly when 2016 GE comes around.

Today (Feb 20, 2012) "PM Lee's lawyers take Temasek Review Emeritus editor to task"


Anonymous said...

I was shocked too!! He seems to forget that he is the servant to the people, not the master. So all that he said about being humble, be more opened society suddenly tossed out of the window? I have to believe Catherine Lim saying PAP has difficulty reinventing itself, it can't be more true now.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprise because PAP has High IQ (Debatable!) but extremely LOW EQ (Beyond Reasonable Doubt!).

Anonymous said...

To the may also add one more...PAPies have little real or any actual true wisdom...

Paper certified leeders only.

Sad for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Hello K,

I understand why you have chosen to write such an essay. I understand completely K. You believe that the PAP is out to fix wayang party aka Temasek review aka TR emeritus aka god knows what else. You consider this an effrontery to the entire blogging community. You feel that this doesnt portend well for bloggers in general.

Look again K.

But one caveat is necessary here if you are to stand any chance of beaconing out the murk - things are not what they appear to be - K, we do not live in a world where things can be taken a face value any longer - appearances can often be misleading.

Perhaps you should find out more about Wayang Party? I am not asking you to invade the privacy of another. All I am saying is Singapore is a very small village pretending to be a big city - everyone knows everyone - so maybe you should ask around, how many times has Wayang Party changed hands? Who is really the new management of this new variant of Wayang Party that takes the form of TR emeritus. And while you're doing that maybe you should even spend a bit of time finding out more about Richard Wan. Find out who are his regular customers in his IT business. Find out if possible who makes up his inner and outer circle of friends.

After you have done all these things K. You will realize things are really so very complicated.

As I said, what we see here is the PM going after Wayang Party - but why K? What do they really want to accomplish by doing all these things? Surely, you don't believe these people just decided to wake up one morning and sue Wayang Party? Come come K. Are you telling me they didn't realize the penalties and trade off's (if any) as you, yourself pointed out? After all for so many years K, the government has done nothing against bloggers, so why the sudden change of heart? So what is this all supposed to mean K?

Once you understand these things K. You will realize that this is just not a case of one man suing another to clear the name of his wife. It is a different thing K. A different type of war. Very different K.

Do you remember what I told you once about the duck my friend cooked for us during dinner?

"It looks like duck, even smells like duck but it taste exactly like chicken. So tell me is it a chicken or a duck? Or maybe it is neither of these things?"

We live in interesting times my friend.

Darkness 2012

Anonymous said...

So, D why all this insinuation and intimation without the juicy details that you seem to know?

Being sued for defamation, very much on your mind?

Gintai_昇泰 said...

I like your last point. Yes many bloggers are ordinary Sporeans struggling to make ends meet. They will decide who to vote in 2016!

Anonymous said...

Does it matter how many hands Wayang Party has changed? (The fact remains that Richard Wan is a Singapore Citizen and Voter, just like you and me, and he is being threatened by the Super-Power in our Country, none other than the PM himself.)

Does it even matter what kind of war this is? (Total War or Limited War, or whatever. This, to my perception, is old habits die hard, is it not?)

Does it matter whether this is interesting time or not? (Any time is an interesting time, depending on how one likes to look at it.)

Anonymous said...

More ordinary Singaporeans are seeing these threats of defamation suits as tactics of bullies. They can remember that even a crook like Durai was successful in getting damages in our law courts for defamation.


alovera said...

I don't know what does democratic,freedom of speech mean?I think it is better to gossip in a kopi- tiam.this month (feb.2012)I have seen 3law suits.may be another one is coming.I believe there's some,smoke without fire.I will remember Feb. Is also a suing month.also to the pass,present,future.'don't pot calling the kettle black'just like my late ma says the turtle laughing at the torties have no tail.if the people is so threaten,than better keep quite and wait till 2016.after all many of us are not so educated,we only want a little of our voice to heard and not just let us have some freedom of speech,then we will be very grateful.