Sunday, July 09, 2006

AFP : Supporters of suspended Singaporean blogger hold silent protest

Sunday July 9, 5:56 PM

Supporters of suspended Singaporean blogger hold silent protest


Supporters of a Singaporean blogger have gathered at a busy subway station for a silent protest at the suspension of his weekly newspaper column after the government criticised his latest satirical piece about high living costs.

At least 30 supporters turned up at City Hall station at 2:00 pm dressed in brown attire in support of the blogger, who goes by the moniker Mr Brown.

"I think most of us feel that it is very important to have an independent voice in the print media," said a 25-year-old man who declined to be named.

He said he was told of the planned protest via a SMS text message on Saturday evening, like many of the others.

"For them to suspend the column is ridiculous," said a 19-year-old Canadian student who only wants to be known as Bronwyn. She was at the subway station with her sister and mother to take part in the silent protest.

The 36-year-old blogger, whose real name is Lee Kin Mun, is aware of the 30-minute silent protest but friends say he is not the organiser.

"We are aware of it but we did not organise it. We are touched by the gesture and we hope that nobody gets into trouble because of us," the blogger's friend Edmund Tan told AFP.

In Singapore any public protest of at least five people without a police permit is illegal. A few policemen patrolled the subway station but no arrests were made.

The Today newspaper's publisher MediaCorp confirmed Thursday it has suspended Mr Brown's weekly column from July 7 but gave no reason.

His latest satirical piece entitled "S'poreans are fed, up with progress!" drew a strong rebuttal from the government who said the writer was distorting the truth.

Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF or Reporters Without Borders) has described the government's condemnation of Mr Brown's column as "disturbing" in light of its already strict curbs on the media.

In April RSF condemned Singapore's restrictions on political discussions in blogs and websites ahead of general elections in May.

Last year the group ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its annual press freedom index.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Reuters: Singapore paper axes column after government parody

Friday July 7, 6:07 PM Reuters

Singapore paper axes column after government parody

SINGAPORE, July 7 (Reuters) - A Singaporean state-owned newspaper has suspended the column of one of the city-state's most popular bloggers just a week after he satirised post-election price hikes for taxi fares and electricity.

A spokesman for Today told Reuters on Friday the paper had suspended the column of Lee Kin Mun, better known under his online moniker "mr brown". He refused to elaborate.

In a June 30 column, Lee poked fun at a string of price rises announced after the May 6 poll, saying: "It would have been to taxing on the brain if those price increases were announced during the election period, thereby affecting our ability to choose wisely."

The government said last month that it would raise utility prices by 3.2 percent. Taxi companies, which are state-linked, said last week that they would double surcharges for peak hours to help cope with higher diesel prices.

Lee's comments drew a rebuttal from the government, which said that if a columnist exploited his access to the media to "undermine the government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics."

"It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the government," the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts wrote in a reply published on July 3.

Lee could not be reached for comment.

"This incident confirms in every way the fears we have about the government stranglehold on the media," Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

Singapore is ranked 140th out of 167 countries on Reporters Without Borders' press freedom index -- after Russia and Yemen and by far the lowest ranked for any developed nation.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

AFP : Singaporean blogger suspended after gov't criticism

Thursday July 6, 6:32 PM

Singaporean blogger suspended after gov't criticism


A Singaporean newspaper has suspended an Internet blogger's column after the government criticised his latest satirical piece about high living costs.

"The editors of Today have suspended the Mr Brown column with effect from Friday, 7th July, 2006," said a statement from MediaCorp, the newspaper's publisher on Thursday. No reason was given.

The latest blog from Mr Brown, whose real name is unknown, was entitled "S'preans are fed, up with progress!" and heaped sarcasm on hikes in transport and electricity costs among other issues.

The Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) issued a strongly worded rebuttal, accusing Mr Brown of distorting the truth.

"His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency, which can only make things worse, not better, for those he professes to sympathise with," K. Bhavani, press secretary to Information Minister Lee Boon Yang, wrote.

"It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the government," Bhavani stressed.

"If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics."

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) described the Singapore government's condemnation of Mr Brown's column as "disturbing" in light of the city-state's already strict curbs on the media.

"This reaction from a Singaporean official is disturbing," the international press freedom group said in a statement.

"It reads like a warning to all journalists and bloggers in a country in which the media are already strictly controlled. The media have a right to criticise the government's actions and express political views."

In April, RSF condemned Singapore's restrictions on political discussions in blogs and websites ahead of general elections held in May.

Last year the group ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its annual press freedom index, alongside the likes of Egypt and Syria.

Today: Distorting the truth, mr brown?

Distorting the truth, mr brown?

When a columnist becomes a 'partisan player' in politics

Monday • July 3, 2006

Letter from K BHAVANI
Press Secretary to the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts

Your mr brown column, "S'poreans are fed, up with progress!" (June 30) poured sarcasm on many issues, including the recent General Household Survey, price increases in electricity tariffs and taxi fares, our IT plans, the Progress Package and means testing for special school fees.

The results of the General Household Survey were only available after the General Election. But similar data from the Household Expenditure Survey had been published last year before the election.

There was no reason to suppress the information. It confirmed what we had told Singaporeans all along, that globalisation would stretch out incomes.

mr brown must also know that price increases in electricity tariffs and taxi fares are the inevitable result of higher oil prices.

These were precisely the reasons for the Progress Package — to help lower income Singaporeans cope with higher costs of living.

Our IT plans are critical to Singapore's competitive position and will improve the job chances of individual Singaporeans. It is wrong of mr brown to make light of them.

As for means testing for special school fees, we understand mr brown's disappointment as the father of an autistic child. However, with means testing, we can devote more resources to families who need more help.

mr brown's views on all these issues distort the truth. They are polemics dressed up as analysis, blaming the Government for all that he is unhappy with. He offers no alternatives or solutions. His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency, which can only make things worse, not better, for those he professes to sympathise with.

mr brown is entitled to his views. But opinions which are widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards. Instead of a diatribe mr brown should offer constructive criticism and alternatives. And he should come out from behind his pseudonym to defend his views openly.

It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the Government's standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics.

TODAY: S'poreans are fed, up with progress!

TODAYonline


S'poreans are fed, up with progress!

Moving ahead is great but it would be even greater to be able to make ends meet

Friday • June 30, 2006

THINGS are certainly looking up for Singapore again. Up, up, and away.

Household incomes are up, I read. Sure, the bottom third of our country is actually seeing their incomes (or as one newspaper called it, "wages") shrink, but the rest of us purportedly are making more money.

Okay, if you say so.

As sure as Superman Returns, our cost of living is also on the up. Except we are not able to leap over high costs in a single bound.

Cost of watching World Cup is up. Price of electricity is up. Comfort's taxi fares are going up. Oh, sorry, it was called "being revised". Even the prata man at my coffeeshop just raised the price of his prata by 10 cents. He was also revising his prata prices.

So Singaporeans need to try to "up" their incomes, I am sure, in the light of our rising costs. Have you upped yours?

We are very thankful for the timing of all this good news, of course. Just after the elections, for instance. By that I mean that getting the important event out of the way means we can now concentrate on trying to pay our bills.

It would have been too taxing on the brain if those price increases were announced during the election period, thereby affecting our ability to choose wisely.

The other reason I am glad with the timing of the cost of living increases and wages going down, is that we can now deploy our Progress Package to pay for some of these bills.

Wait, what? You spent it all on that fancy pair of shoes on the day you saw your money in your account? Too bad for you then.

As I break into my Progress Package reserves to see if it is enough to pay the bills, I feel an overwhelming sense of progress. I feel like I am really staying together with my fellow Singaporeans and moving forward.

There is even talk of future roads like underground expressways being outsourced to private sector companies to build, so that they, in turn, levy a toll on those of us who use these roads.

I understand the cost of building these roads is high, and the Government is relooking the financing of these big road projects.

Silly me, I thought my road tax and COE was enough to pay for public roads.

Maybe we can start financing all kinds of expensive projects this way in future. We could build upgraded lifts for older HDB blocks, and charge tolls on a per use basis.

You walk into your new lift on the first floor, and the scanner reads the contactless cashcard chip embedded in your forehead. This chip would be part of the recently-announced Intelligent Nation 2015 plan, you know, that initiative to make us a smart nation?

So you, the smart contactless-cashcard-chip-enhanced Singaporean would go into your lift, and when you get off at your floor, the lift would deduct the toll from your chip, and you would hear a beep.

The higher you live, the more expensive the lift toll.

Now you know why I started climbing stairs for exercise, as I mentioned in my last column. I plan to prepare for that day when I have to pay to use my lift. God help you if some kid presses all the lift buttons in the lift, as kids are wont to do. You will be beeping all the way to your flat.

The same chip could be used to pay for supermarket items. You just carry your bags of rice and groceries past the cashierless cashier counter, and the total will be deducted from your contactless cashcard automatically.

You will not even know you just got poorer. And if your contactless cashcard runs out of funds (making it a contactless CASHLESS cashcard), you just cannot use paid services.

The door of the lift won't close, the bus won't stop for you, taxis will automatically display "On Call" when their chip scanners detect you're broke.

Sure, paying bills that only seem to go up is painful, but by Jove, we are going to make sure it is at least convenient.

No more opening your wallet and fiddling with dirty notes and coins. Just stand there and hear your income beeped away. No fuss, no muss! I cannot wait to be a Smart e-Singaporean.

I also found out recently that my first-born daughter's special school fees were going up. This is because of this thing called "Means Testing", where they test your means, then if you are not poor enough, you lose some or all of the subsidy you've been getting for your special child's therapy.

I think I am looking at about a $100 increase, which is a more than a 100 per cent increase, but who's counting, right? We can afford it, but we do know many families who cannot, even those that are making more money than we are, on paper.

But don't worry. Most of you don't have this problem. Your normal kids can go to regular school for very low fees, and I am sure they will not introduce means testing for your cases.

We need your gifted and talented kids to help our country do well economically, so that our kids with special needs can get a little more therapy to help them to walk and talk. And hey, maybe if the country does really well, the special-needs kids will get a little more subsidy.

Like I said, progress.

High-definition televisions, a high-speed broadband wireless network, underground expressways, and contactless cashcard system — all our signs of progress.

I am happy for progress, of course but I would be just as happy to make ends meet and to see my autistic first-born grow up able to talk and fend for herself in this society when I am gone.

That is something my wife and I will pay all we can pay to see in our lifetimes.

mr brown is the accidental author of a

popular website that has been documenting the dysfunctional side of Singapore life since 1997. He enjoys having yet another cashcard, in addition to his un-contactless one and the ez-link one to add to his wallet.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ST: Gomez case shows justice is very much alive?

The letter below is written by someone whose powers of analysis are somewhat lacking.

Gomez case shows justice is very much alive


May 16, 2006
The Straits Times

I REFER to the article, 'Gomez let off with a stern warning' (ST, May 13).

When news broke that Mr James Gomez had been hauled up by the police as he was checking in at Changi Airport to fly back to Sweden on May 7, coffee-shop gossip was abuzz with wild rumours that the People's Action Party (PAP) was once again using scare tactics against the opposition.

Fuelled by rumour-mongering, the saga soon became a game of chance. People betted heavily that Mr Gomez would eventually be charged in court and slapped with a hefty term of imprisonment. This, the gamblers believed, was because the judiciary was under the control of the executive.

So, when it was reported that he was let off with a stern warning, many punters were left poorer by a couple of hundred dollars. However, the losses incurred by punters are not relevant to the saga.

What is relevant and significant is this: it is crystal clear that, in Singapore, the executive has no clout in influencing the judiciary (Attorney-General's Chambers) to 'dance to its tune' and prosecute its opponents.

It appears to be the notion of the man in the street that justice is blind to anyone who is deemed to be an adversary of the PAP.

I trust that the knuckle-rapping meted out to Mr Gomez will change the mindsets of those who believe the PAP is authoritarian and it must always be its 'way or the highway'.

The laws of Singapore dictate that the public prosecutor is vested with absolute discretion in recommending the course of action to be taken in criminal cases.

In the Gomez case, he was certainly not absolved of any wrongdoing. The learned public prosecutor, after reviewing the evidence in the case and taking into consideration the mitigating factors, recommended to the police that a stern warning be administered to Mr Gomez.

It is therefore pertinent for local rumour-mongers, as well as foreign adversaries of Singapore, to take note that justice in Singapore is very much alive, and that Singapore's judiciary is definitely independent of the executive.

Majulah Singapura!

Lionel De Souza

TODAY: voting must be seen to be secret

voting must be seen to be secret

Review current voting practices to ensure that the objective of a secret vote is always achieved

Tuesday • May 16, 2006

Siew Kum Hong

YOUR polling card states which voting lane you must use. The serial number of the ballot slip issued to you is recorded against your name. "They" can trace you, and "they" will blacklist or even "get" you, if you vote for the Opposition.

This is the urban legend that never dies, is raised and dismissed every election. It surfaced before and during the recent campaign, and continues to be talked about even days after Polling Day. It has a longevity surpassing the campaign and the issues raised.

Yes, credit must be given where it is due. I have voted twice, and voting was a breeze on both occasions: Fast, simple and efficient, a bit of an anti-climax even. That is no mean feat, and the Elections Department deserves fulsome praise for it.

But people do fear that voting is not secret, and it is not limited to the uneducated, the paranoid or virgin voters.

On Polling Day, a civil servant in her mid-30s told me how proud she was of herself, and how adult she felt — because she had finally overcame her fears and voted according to her conscience, something she had not been able to do in past elections.

It is worrisome when even professionals and repeat voters are afraid. It would be a mistake to simply dismiss these fears as being irrational and unjustified, without taking concrete steps to address them.

The main grouses surround the serialised ballot slips, the recording of serial numbers, and the allocated voting lanes.

The Elections Department has stated that the reasons are to deter ballot stuffing, prevent voter impersonation, and make voting smoother ("Why your vote is secret", May 10). But have they accomplished those objectives?

The serialisation of ballot slips neither prevents nor deters ballot stuffing. It only makes obvious any attempt to do so.

But even without this, any discrepancy between the number of voters and ballots would still be obvious — given how strictly the identities of voters are tracked. In any case, the only way to prevent ballot stuffing is to ensure the presence and vigilance of election officers and candidates' agents at all points of the process — which is already done.

The recording of serial numbers is to prevent impersonation. But a voter must produce both his identity card (IC) and polling card before voting. This is known as the two-factor authentication, whereby there are two criteria to be fulfilled before a person's identity is authenticated. It is more secure than the single-factor authentication used for online governmental transactions (SingPass) and Internet banking (password).

If a person loses or misplaces his IC, the polling card would have been sent to his address and would not have been lost. If a person changes his address, whoever received the polling card would not have the IC. Only persons close to someone would have access to both his IC and polling card — a situation that is hardly conducive to electoral fraud.

And if a person's identity is impersonated, then the problem lies in a failure by the voting officer to match the photograph in the IC with the person presenting it. The recording of serial numbers does not prevent this risk at all.

Furthermore, what happens if someone does allege that a third party had impersonated him to cast a vote? Will the Elections Department search through every ballot to identify the ballot corresponding to the complainant? But what would this achieve? And without CCTV footage of every single vote cast, how would the authorities ascertain that the complainant had not, in fact, cast the vote which is now being challenged?

Finally, I am not convinced that allocation of voting lanes is necessary for smooth voting. Why can't allocation of voting lanes be done on the spot? After all, that is how Changi Airport manages its taxi queues, and it does a wonderful job of channelling masses of people to different stations.

Just as justice must be done and seen to be done, voting must be secret and seen to be secret. The reality is that some voters are unconvinced that their votes are secret. Therefore, the onus is on the authorities to review the practices in question and determine whether they are needed and whether they actually achieve their stated objectives.

Otherwise, say what we will about the integrity of the electoral process and the need to defend it, some people will always view the process as flawed and suspect, and that is not an ideal situation to have in an otherwise efficient system.

The writer is a lawyer commenting in his personal capacity.

Monday, May 15, 2006

FT: Police warning for Singapore politician

Police warning for Singapore politician
By John Burton in Singapore
Published: May 15 2006 03:00 | Last updated: May 15 2006 03:00

A Singapore opposition politician whose activities became the focus of the city state's recent election campaign has been let off with a warning after being questioned by police.

James Gomez was criticised by the long-ruling People's Action party in the run-up to the May 6 polls for allegedly trying to discredit the government after he wrongly claimed that election officials had mislaid one of his registration forms, which could have disqualified him as a candidate.

The incident threatened to undermine the Workers' party, the strongest opposition group, with party leaders also called in for questioning last week.

Mr Gomez apologised after security cameras showed he had failed to submit the disputed form. But the episode dominated election reporting in the state-guided media in what critics said was an attempt to portray the opposition in an unflattering light.

Post-election analysis by the local media concluded that the government's focus on Mr Gomez as an election issue contributed to a backlash against the PAP, whose voter support fell to 67 per cent from 75 per cent in the previous 2001 election. The PAP won 82 of the 84 parliamentary seats under the country's first-past-the-post system.

The Workers' party kept its single parliamentary seat and also picked up a special non-voting seat under election rules that award it to the best-performing opposition party.

Singapore police said they had decided to give Mr Gomez a warning for using "threatening words towards a public servant" instead of formally charging him, which carried penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of S$5,000 (US$3,200, €2,475, £1,692).

The complaint against Mr Gomez, who had been barred from leaving the country, was filed by Singapore's election department, which comes under the prime minister's office.

Lee Kuan Yew, independent Singapore's first leader and father of the current prime minister, suggested that the case could have led to other Workers' party officials being implicated, including Low Thia Khiang, the party's sole MP, and Sylvia Lim, the party chairman who will take up the special non-voting seat. Mr Lee repeated allegations he made during the campaign that Mr Gomez was a "liar" and dared him to file a defamation suit.

Workers' party officials said they would ignore comments by Mr Lee, who has previously filed defamation suits against other opposition leaders.

CNA: Mr James Gomez says he does not plan to sue Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Singapore News »
Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 13 May 2006 2220 hrs

James Gomez says he does not intend to sue Minister Mentor




Mr James Gomez says he does not plan to sue Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

He said this when contacted for his response to Minister Mentor Lee's statement on Friday.

He added that he plans to celebrate Mother's Day with his family on Sunday before returning to Sweden for work early next week.

Mr Gomez, Second Assistant Secretary-General, Workers' Party, said: "I've also been brought up with values where my parents told me to be gracious and kind and that's the way I am. And as far as the party is concerned, we're not the suing type. So I don't think l have anything more to add. I have moved on." - CNA/ch

TNP: Release is sweet relief in time for Mother's Day

ELECTRIC NEWS

Release is sweet relief in time for Mother's Day
I feared for my mum

By Clarence Chang
May 14, 2006

AFTER the long hours of police interviews, after the dark clouds of possible police charges, there was only one person Mr James Gomez wanted to speak to.

He called his mum as soon as police told him he was free.

'She was very happy and relieved,' Mr James Gomez, 41, told The New Paper, just hours after he was let off with a 'stern warning' following a week-long police investigation into the now infamous Gomezgate saga. (See report on facing page.)

'Her first reaction was she's going to cook more food for me!'

His mother, Madam Mary Cecily, is a 66-year-old housewife and a widow. Her husband, former unionist Thomas Vincent Gomez, died in 2000.

Mr James Gomez also has a younger brother, 37, who works for Neptune Orient Lines.

STOPPED FROM LEAVING

The Workers' Party second assistant secretary-general was stopped from leaving Singapore by police last Sunday following a complaint by the Elections Department the day before.
Click to see larger image
--Kua Chee Siong

The police then began their probe into offences of criminal intimidation, giving false information and using threatening words and behaviour.

After three rounds of police interviews - each lasting between three and eight hours - his passport was yesterday returned to him, and the matter, as he put it, is 'closed'.

He could have been fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to a year if he had been prosecuted and found guilty.

With Mother's Day tomorrow, it was a perfectly timed 'gift' for the family, he said.

'From an emotional point of view, the person affected most (by the investigation) was my mum. So I essentially spent as much time as I could with her, having lunch with her and so on.

'She's a little elderly, so she gets nervous about these things,' said Mr Gomez.

That's why one of the first things he did after leaving the police station was to go home, hug her and have a 'nice meal' with her.

'With Mother's Day on Sunday, she couldn't be happier. We'll have a family lunch and our usual dinner, with my brother as well... Basically like all Christian and Catholic families, we're very close.

'That's also one of the reasons why I won't be going back to Sweden just yet.'

Mr Gomez, a founding member of civil society group the Think Centre, started work as a political analyst at Stockholm-based pro-democracy think-tank International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) just six weeks ago.

He said after he told his bosses about the police's all-clear, their message was: Go enjoy your weekend in Singapore first, then fly back to work early next week.

He declined to let us interview Madam Cecily and was reluctant to say anything about his wife, Ms Kinohasaka Kiyono, when we asked if she was here with him in Singapore or in Sweden.

Throughout the election campaign Mr Gomez was spotted with only his party colleagues.

'I don't want to bring my partner into the equation. I've not commented about her, so I want to keep it that way,' he explained matter-of-factly.

What he did say coolly and calmly was, on a personal level, his so-called ordeal the past fortnight hadn't made him any worse for wear.

Despite being under such heavy public and media scrutiny, he stressed: 'I was still focused on party matters, dealing with post-electoral administration, meeting helpers and supporters.

'I was even able to sign up a new member who might be a likely candidate.'

He said he was grateful for all the e-mail wishes and messages of support he'd received from both Singaporeans and foreigners in blogs, chatlines and forums.

'I'm touched by their support and generosity. It was overwhelming, certainly a morale booster for me. But otherwise, in keeping with my personal character, I was calm and focused and took things one day at a time.'

While he looks forward to Mother's Day tomorrow, he said he would spend today doing his usual 'political work'.

Clearly, as an outspoken government critic once labelled by Newsweek magazine as one of Asia's top 10 'rebels and mavericks', Mr Gomez is careful to show that he hasn't lost his drive.

Will he pop up again in GE 2011?

Will controversy keep tailing him wherever he goes?

One thing for sure is that the man himself - both the political and personal side of him - is always full of surprises.

Including one for mum tomorrow: 'At some point when the weather's much warmer in Sweden, I'd like to have her over for a couple of weeks. She's never been to Sweden, and I've just got this job. So everything is new.'

How Gomezgate unfolded

HE became the unintended face of GE 2006, after he drew fire for his behaviour towards an Elections Department official just 24 hours before Nomination Day.

At one stage, he was even called a 'liar' by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, as PAP leaders challenged him to come clean over a minority candidate application form which he claimed he had submitted but which a security video later proved he hadn't.

Just one day after Polling Day, he was prevented from leaving Changi Airport. His was passport impounded and he was taken in for questioning.

'THREATENING WORDS'

After nearly a week of investigations, the police said they found Mr James Gomez, who ran and lost as part of the Workers' Party's Aljunied GRC team, had used 'threatening words' against a public servant.

Following a complaint from the Elections Department, the police also questioned him for alleged criminal intimidation and providing false information.

Party colleagues Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim were also interviewed along with PAP MP-elect Inderjit Singh.

Yesterday, the authorities wrapped up the case with a 'stern warning'.

'Having considered all the circumstance of the case, Mr Gomez's willingness to cooperate with the police and the absence of any previous criminal record, the public prosecutor has decided that a stern warning be administered,' a police statement said.

Mr Gomez had earlier claimed that he was 'distracted' when he misplaced the election form in his bag.

He apologised publicly, with watery eyes, at a WP rally but never fully explained what happened.

CNA: James Gomez is still liar, dishonest despite stern warning: MM Lee

Saturday May 13, 10:17 PM

James Gomez is still liar, dishonest despite stern warning: MM Lee


CHINA : Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew says the attorney-general's decision not to prosecute Workers' Party member James Gomez does not make him less of a liar or less dishonest.

In a statement released from China, where he is currently on a visit, Mr Lee reiterated what he had called Mr Gomez earlier.

The Minister Mentor had said that Mr Gomez was a liar and dishonest and that Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim and the party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang did not act honourably by shielding him.

Mr Lee added that if Mr Gomez claims he is not a liar nor dishonest, he can go to court to clear his name.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Gomez had been let off with a stern warning for threatening an Elections Department officer, ending a three week long saga.

Investigations by police started after a complaint by the Elections Department against Mr Gomez on May 6.

Police said that after reviewing the evidence, the Public Prosecutor was satisfied that Mr Gomez had used threatening words towards a public servant.

He could have been fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to one year.

But police decided it would let Mr Gomez go with a warning instead, as he had been cooperative and had not committed any previous criminal offences.

The saga revolved around Mr Gomez's claim that he had applied for a minority candidate certificate at the Elections Department before the May 6 General Election.

Security camera footage from the Elections Department later showed that he did not submit the application form but instead put it into his bag.

Mr Gomez subsequently admitted he did not hand in the form and apologised, saying he was distracted.

But People's Action Party leaders found his apology inadequate and accused him of lying and trying to discredit the Elections Department.

"It is in the AG's authority to exercise his discretion, but his decision not to prosecute does not, in any way, make James Gomez less of a liar or less dishonest. I reiterate what I have called him, a liar and dishonest, and that Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang did not act honourably by shielding him. If Gomez claims he is not a liar nor dishonest, he can go to court to clear his name," said Mr Lee in his statement.

- CNA /ls

Saturday, May 13, 2006

TheNation : Show Of Spirit In Singapore

Show Of Spirit In Singapore
Updated:2006-05-12 15:24:05 MYT

Full credit to the opposition and voters for resisting the People's Action Party's (PAP) wiles in last weekend's general election.

It is hellishly difficult to be a lover of democracy in Singapore. When independent-thinking Singaporeans speak their minds, they must be ready to face dire consequences, as the government under the PAP will bring out its full arsenal of repressive measures to try to beat them into submission.

So when Chiam See Tong, chairman of Democratic Alliance and Low Thia Khiang of the Worker's Party got elected and denied the PAP its expected clean sweep last week, it was a big boost--even though temporary--for democracy lovers on the island.

Chiam, Khiang and their colleagues are rare brave souls. The fact that they retained their seats despite all kinds of state propaganda against them should be put down as some kind of record. It is not an overstatement to say that they are the most resilient opposition among all countries that call themselves a democracy.

Residents of Potong Pasir and Hougang and, of course, Aljunied and other areas are equally brave because they single-mindedly declined PAP's huge aid package worth millions of dollars, which was theirs to have if they elected the PAP's candidates.

The ruling party promised voters in Potong Pasir that if its candidate Sitoh Yih Pin got elected they would get an upgrade programme worth SGD80m for the estate. By the same token, an SGD100m upgrade plan was on offer if PAP candidate Eric Low was elected in Hougang.

But alas, the PAP underestimated the democratic spirit of Potong Pasir and Hougang. Money cannot buy everything in Singapore, at least not in these two constituencies.

It is amazing the way the Singapore government has gone after opposition parties and politicians who dared to challenge its supremacy. For instance, Dr Chee Song Chuan was declared bankrupt before the election. The vocal Chuan has been targeted by the government for years. He has faced all kinds of intimidation and abuse.

Now another young man has come along to stand up to the government, James Gomez. Gomez is a young politician who was to stand on the Worker's Party ticket but was disqualified last week. Unfortunately for him, Gomez forgot to file a minority candidate certificate, which he claimed he had. He apologised, but has been detained by the police.

Like other opposition leaders, who are not elected but have stood up to speak their minds, Gomez appears to be targeted for destruction over time.

There is no place for such idealists in Singapore because they question the PAP's leadership. Gomez was prevented from travelling to Sweden on grounds that he was still under criminal investigation. Chuan was likewise prevented from leaving the country because he was declared bankrupt.

Of course, the PAP and its mouthpieces would laugh at the political scenarios in the other ASEAN states for their supposed mediocrity and non-professionalism. Public protests in the Philippines and Thailand were treated condescendingly, not as expressions of the aspirations of the masses but as a political nuisance.

The question to ask of Singapore is, why can't people have their say? Why do they have to be controlled or punished every time they speak out? The question is, if the PAP is so good and perfect, why can't the government allow the public or the media to express dissenting views. After all, even though the last election yielded only two parliamentary seats for non-PAP parties, one-third of voters voted for the opposition.

Singapore will not suddenly collapse if it opens up more. With their highly educated views and their "win-win" pragmatism, Singaporeans would strengthen the island's democracy through public participation. There is nothing to fear.

It is now common knowledge in the rest of the world that Singaporeans cannot speak their minds, unless they are the chosen ones or members of the PAP. Indeed, the island's politics is only reserved for PAP cadres and those whose views conveniently match the party's line or, more specifically, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's thinking.

It is interesting to note that our discredited prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, is an avid student of Lee's political thoughts and methods. Thaksin has said on several occasions that he wanted to turn Thailand into several Singapores.

We must not allow that to happen.


The Nation/ANN

Economist: Singapore's election

Singapore's election
Ten in a row for the men in white

May 11th 2006 | SINGAPORE
From The Economist print edition
The People's Action Party shows that it remains one of the world's most successful political machines
EPA

IT WAS a thrilling election, by Singaporean standards. For the first time since 1988 opposition parties managed to put up candidates for over half the 84 constituency seats. So in theory the ever-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) ran the risk of losing power, especially if its fears of a rebellion among well-educated young voters came to pass.

Of course, no one expected it to do anything but win handsomely. And within hours of the close of polling on May 6th, it was clear that the party had kept its unbroken record. The “men in white”—the colour of the PAP's campaign uniforms, signifying integrity—have won all ten elections since Singapore's independence from Britain (via a brief, unhappy marriage to Malaysia) in the 1960s. The party, led for decades by Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, and now by his son, Lee Hsien Loong, raised the city-state to first-world income levels. In each election it has convinced Singaporeans it would be foolish to risk this prosperity by voting it out.

The opposition won just two seats, as in 2001, though under the rules it will again get a third, “non-constituency” seat. By agreeing not to stand against each other, the three opposition parties reduced the PAP's share of the vote in contested seats, from 75% last time to 67%. The Workers' Party came within sight of victory in Aljunied, a big “group” constituency (in which voters select a party slate of five or six candidates), gaining 44%. This was despite a row involving one of its candidates, James Gomez. Security cameras showed he had failed to hand in one of his registration papers, despite claiming to have done so. The PAP said it was a stunt to discredit the Elections Department. Since election day, Mr Gomez has been interviewed by police.

The younger Mr Lee, prime minister since 2004, was seeking his first mandate, and the PAP hoped to deliver him a clean sweep. His immediate predecessor, Goh Chok Tong, was dispatched to win over the two opposition constituencies with the PAP's customary mixture of carrots (lashings of money to improve their housing if they voted the right way) and sticks (last place in the queue for state grants if not). But neither this nor the PAP's harping on about Mr Gomez's antics worked.

Critics of Singapore's government point to its tight restrictions on political protest and its repeated use of defamation suits against the opposition and journalists. In the run-up to the election the PAP sued the tiny Singapore Democratic Party, arguing that one of its campaign leaflets had impugned the ruling party's honesty—the one thing that is guaranteed to inflame its ire. The party's leader, Chee Soon Juan, has already been bankrupted by a PAP lawsuit. Several of his colleagues, named in the new lawsuit, quickly apologised and agreed to pay damages.

Although those who challenge the PAP can expect a tough time, Singapore is by no means the hardest country for an opposition candidate to win votes in. Opposition parties were allowed to hold big campaign rallies and they got a moderate amount of coverage in the government-friendly local media. Desmond Lim, a defeated candidate of the Singapore Democratic Alliance, concedes that the fragmented opposition would do better if it united. Mr Lee senior, still in the cabinet as “minister mentor”, aged 82, is harsher, saying recently that Singapore needed “a world-class opposition, not this riffraff”. What is clear is that the PAP does not just win by squashing its opponents. Its tenth successive victory shows that it remains a most formidable political machine.

The reasons for the PAP's success are manifold, but the main one, as it never fails to remind voters, is that it has always kept its promise of efficient and clean government. Singapore's economy continues to grow at tigerish rates—9% in the year to March. Though Singaporeans grumble about the rising cost of living, their incomes and the public services they enjoy compare favourably with those anywhere else in South-East Asia.

But how has the PAP maintained its form, when dominant parties elsewhere have become flabby and corrupt for want of a strong opposition to keep them nimble? In part this is because of its obsession with seeking new talent, and its ruthlessness in turfing out established figures to keep its line-up of ministers and MPs fresh. Over a quarter of its candidates are new this time around; a similar proportion were new at the previous election, in 2001.

Sinapan Samydorai of the Think Centre, a group promoting political openness, says the PAP is also expert in co-opting any bright spark who might otherwise become a critic. For example, he says, Raymond Lim, now a cabinet minister, once belonged to the Roundtable, an extinct political club that briefly looked like a nucleus of opposition. The PAP puts results above ideology, which makes this easier.

Chiam See Tong of the Democratic Alliance, one of the two re-elected opposition MPs, has argued that Singapore must increasingly compete in a knowledge-based world economy and will need a “climate of freedom”. As he put it, “One does not expect slaves to be creative.” In the long term, he is likely to be right. But so far, the PAP's Brave New World, in which a pampered and politics-shy public is led by strict but benevolent leaders, seems to make Singaporeans pretty happy.

IHT: Singapore beyond Lee

Singapore beyond Lee
Philip Bowring

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2006
HONG KONG Every regime has its day, so the result of Saturday's election in Singapore provided a glimpse of what its politics may look like when Lee Kuan Yew, founder and mentor of the People's Action Party (PAP) and scourge of all opponents, is no longer around. At 82, he played an active role in this campaign.

For sure, his son, Lee Hsien Loong, fighting his first election as prime minister, was able to claim that winning the same number of seats as in the previous election - 82 out of 84 - was "a clear vote of confidence" in his administration.

However, the more relevant statistic was that the PAP's share of the vote fell by 8.7 percentage points to 66.6 percent compared with the 2001 election, when Goh Chok Tong was prime minister. In Lee Hsien Loong's constituency, uncontested in 2001, the PAP polled marginally less than its average.

Given a strong economy, the opposition's lack of significant media access and the huge organizational and legal obstacles placed in its way by a PAP leadership, with open disregard for the benefits of liberal democracy with a strong opposition and the possibility of a change of government, the result could be seen as the biggest setback for the PAP since 1981.

That was the year when the PAP lost a by-election to an opposition lawyer, J.B. Jeyaretnam. With it went a monopoly in Parliament the PAP had enjoyed since 1968.

Jeyaretnam later lost an action brought by the government and in 1986 was made bankrupt and disbarred from Parliament and legal practice. The judicial committee of the Privy Council, to which appeal on the issue of disbarment was then available, found that he suffered "a grievous injustice." He was ultimately reinstated as a lawyer. In 2001, Jeyaretnam was bankrupted again following his failure to pay damages in libel actions brought by ministers.

Since 1981 the electoral system has also been changed so that most members of Parliament are now elected from five- or six-member constituencies where the PAP's organizational strength and connections to the government machinery overwhelm the much- harassed opposition candidates.

Districts that have elected opposition members have previously been threatened with official neglect. The opposition won two of the nine single- member constituencies, but none of the group ones. But in one where a well-known young liberal activist, James Gomez, was a candidate up against Foreign Minister George Yeo, it got 44 percent.

The PAP leadership continues to make great play of its success in government, as though it were entirely responsible for the economic rise of Singapore over the past 40 years. It accuses those who query current policies of being ungrateful for the past achievements of the leaders.

But what an increasing number of people appear to recognize is that other economies in East Asia have done at least as well over that period - Hong Kong under an undemocratic but liberal colonial-style bureaucracy, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand under both democratic and authoritarian regimes.

Indeed, Singapore stands out in East Asia not for exceptional economic success but for the immobility of politics still dominated by the presence of Lee Kuan Yew, in power since 1959. Its system would come in for more scrutiny internationally if it were not so useful to U.S. strategic interests and foreign multinationals or so successful in subduing the foreign media with carrots and sticks.

The Singapore leadership likes to scorn the "instability" of Asian liberal democracies such as Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan. But at some point it will likely have to address demands for greater openness and for power-sharing with middle and lower income groups, which have benefited from economic growth but feel excluded from power.

The PAP is a small, tight-knit party. The leadership controls the government bureaucracy and the state- owned enterprises, which play a large part in an economy that is dominated by multinationals and state enterprises.

The PAP has such a grip on the levers of power that it could be a long time before any opposition can pretend to be an alternative government. Opposition leaders like Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan, who threaten to gain popular momentum, have been successfully sued and financially ruined. There is also the unspoken fear of Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, and the importance of Chinese identity, to keep the majority in line.

But none of this can cover up the fact that the PAP has been losing popularity. There are those who will always follow Lee Kuan Yew but have less respect for the second generation headed by the elder son, Hsien Loong, and the daughter-in-law, Ho Ching, who runs Temasek, the giant state holding company.

Low income groups note high and rising income gaps (which would be even bigger if the army of very low paid foreign workers is included). Small businessmen resent the dominance of foreign investors and huge state enterprises. A younger generation is anxious for the greater social and political freedoms now enjoyed in much of the rest of Asia.

And an aging population that has generally been supportive of the government now finds that decades of forced savings have had such low returns that a comfortable retirement is not in sight. But it could be another decade before Singaporeans decide that enough is enough, and have their own velvet revolution.


HONG KONG Every regime has its day, so the result of Saturday's election in Singapore provided a glimpse of what its politics may look like when Lee Kuan Yew, founder and mentor of the People's Action Party (PAP) and scourge of all opponents, is no longer around. At 82, he played an active role in this campaign.

For sure, his son, Lee Hsien Loong, fighting his first election as prime minister, was able to claim that winning the same number of seats as in the previous election - 82 out of 84 - was "a clear vote of confidence" in his administration.

However, the more relevant statistic was that the PAP's share of the vote fell by 8.7 percentage points to 66.6 percent compared with the 2001 election, when Goh Chok Tong was prime minister. In Lee Hsien Loong's constituency, uncontested in 2001, the PAP polled marginally less than its average.

Given a strong economy, the opposition's lack of significant media access and the huge organizational and legal obstacles placed in its way by a PAP leadership, with open disregard for the benefits of liberal democracy with a strong opposition and the possibility of a change of government, the result could be seen as the biggest setback for the PAP since 1981.

That was the year when the PAP lost a by-election to an opposition lawyer, J.B. Jeyaretnam. With it went a monopoly in Parliament the PAP had enjoyed since 1968.

Jeyaretnam later lost an action brought by the government and in 1986 was made bankrupt and disbarred from Parliament and legal practice. The judicial committee of the Privy Council, to which appeal on the issue of disbarment was then available, found that he suffered "a grievous injustice." He was ultimately reinstated as a lawyer. In 2001, Jeyaretnam was bankrupted again following his failure to pay damages in libel actions brought by ministers.

Since 1981 the electoral system has also been changed so that most members of Parliament are now elected from five- or six-member constituencies where the PAP's organizational strength and connections to the government machinery overwhelm the much- harassed opposition candidates.

Districts that have elected opposition members have previously been threatened with official neglect. The opposition won two of the nine single- member constituencies, but none of the group ones. But in one where a well-known young liberal activist, James Gomez, was a candidate up against Foreign Minister George Yeo, it got 44 percent.

The PAP leadership continues to make great play of its success in government, as though it were entirely responsible for the economic rise of Singapore over the past 40 years. It accuses those who query current policies of being ungrateful for the past achievements of the leaders.

But what an increasing number of people appear to recognize is that other economies in East Asia have done at least as well over that period - Hong Kong under an undemocratic but liberal colonial-style bureaucracy, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand under both democratic and authoritarian regimes.

Indeed, Singapore stands out in East Asia not for exceptional economic success but for the immobility of politics still dominated by the presence of Lee Kuan Yew, in power since 1959. Its system would come in for more scrutiny internationally if it were not so useful to U.S. strategic interests and foreign multinationals or so successful in subduing the foreign media with carrots and sticks.

The Singapore leadership likes to scorn the "instability" of Asian liberal democracies such as Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan. But at some point it will likely have to address demands for greater openness and for power-sharing with middle and lower income groups, which have benefited from economic growth but feel excluded from power.

The PAP is a small, tight-knit party. The leadership controls the government bureaucracy and the state- owned enterprises, which play a large part in an economy that is dominated by multinationals and state enterprises.

The PAP has such a grip on the levers of power that it could be a long time before any opposition can pretend to be an alternative government. Opposition leaders like Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan, who threaten to gain popular momentum, have been successfully sued and financially ruined. There is also the unspoken fear of Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, and the importance of Chinese identity, to keep the majority in line.

But none of this can cover up the fact that the PAP has been losing popularity. There are those who will always follow Lee Kuan Yew but have less respect for the second generation headed by the elder son, Hsien Loong, and the daughter-in-law, Ho Ching, who runs Temasek, the giant state holding company.

Low income groups note high and rising income gaps (which would be even bigger if the army of very low paid foreign workers is included). Small businessmen resent the dominance of foreign investors and huge state enterprises. A younger generation is anxious for the greater social and political freedoms now enjoyed in much of the rest of Asia.

And an aging population that has generally been supportive of the government now finds that decades of forced savings have had such low returns that a comfortable retirement is not in sight. But it could be another decade before Singaporeans decide that enough is enough, and have their own velvet revolution.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

ST: Why 'people's hero' lost the hearts of 33% of voters

Why 'people's hero' lost the hearts of 33% of voters


May 10, 2006
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE'S history of nation-building is nothing short of spectacular. The PAP should be the people's hero, yet it lost the hearts of 33 per cent of voters, even in the Prime Minister's own GRC. Why?

The PM inadvertently revealed the dark side of the PAP when he said his focus would be to 'fix' the opposition and figure out how to 'buy' his support if the opposition won 10 or more seats, though he did subsequently say that his choice of the word 'fix' might have been too strong, and offered his apology if it had offended anyone.

However, it affirmed for many their uneasiness over the political tactics of the PAP over the years:

# The morphing of the original GRCs from three MPs intended to guarantee minority representation to super-GRCs of up to six MPs (perceived as creating a barrier to entry for the opposition with their cartographical contortions and as a means of bringing in new, untested PAP candidates under the air cover of ministerial heavyweights).

# The lawsuit (intended to safeguard the integrity of debate) seemed to have become extended into an ever-ready weapon of political dare-and-do. The PAP-Workers' Party dare-you-to exchange was especially grating to voters hungry for higher political discourse.

# The conversion of HDB upgrading (one of our secrets for social stability) into the spectacle of which PAP MP can offer more money to their voters ($80 million here, $300 million there but to the almost-total exclusion of the candidate's own positions on national issues).

It is not that the voters take the good work of the PAP for granted. Travel the world and you will know how much the PAP has done and is still doing for Singapore. The PAP deserves better. But only if it tears itself away from its dark electoral insecurities and rises to its historical role of nation-building.

The PAP, as a political party, is not obliged to hand over its seats to the opposition. However, the PAP, as the Government, is a steward of our political process and it owes itself and Singapore, as the founding party and only governing party, to shepherd the political development to greater and more open political participation and not to political atrophy.

Some suggestions for the PAP Government:

# Eliminate super-GRCs and return to the original three-MP GRCs, not all of which need to be minority-represented if the 'minimal quota' is already reached. Smaller GRCs reduce the charge that GRCs are a means of letting in 'backdoor' MPs.

# Maintain greater stability in electoral boundaries. While population shifts may necessitate changes, the PAP should stop the practice of moving wards around as jigsaw pieces to reconfigure weak GRCs/ SMCs and carve out new SMCs. With greater electoral stability, the opposition has a better chance to nurture their chosen constituencies with their more limited resources.

# Stop focusing on individual-constituency HDB upgrading as the primary election platform of MPs. Today it seems we conduct town-council elections and get a national parliament as a by-product.

It is the national policies of the PAP that have raised resource-scarce Singapore to First World standards. Let them be the PAP electoral showcase instead.

# Lawsuits should be served when slander or libel is committed. They should not be part of the political lexicon of campaigning thrust-and-parry.

The PAP has done so much for Singapore. It should be more confident of itself that it will continue to win the support of voters on its track record even when it loosens its grip on the political process. Indeed it will be more heartily supported.

Jacob Tan Teck Lee

Reuters: Singapore opposition leader retains key seat

May 6, 2006 — By Fayen Wong

Singapore opposition leader retains key seat
Reuters

SINGAPORE - Singapore opposition leader Low Thia Khiang, secretary general of the Workers' Party, kept his hotly contested seat in parliament, one of two opposition seats in the 84-seat parliament, according to preliminary results released on state television on Saturday.

Singapore's tiny opposition has mounted its biggest challenge to the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) in 18 years by fielding candidates for more than half the 84 seats in parliament.

Singaporeans voted on Saturday in a general election in which anything less than a resounding victory for the PAP would be regarded as a failure for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The poll is the first real popularity test for Lee, 54, since he was appointed in August 2004 without an election in a planned leadership transition.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. (1200 GMT) and final results were expected around midnight (1600 GMT).

Voting is compulsory in Singapore, but only about 1.2 million people out of 2.2 million on the electoral register had a chance to vote due to walkovers in 37 of the 84 seats. Many were voting for the first time.

"This is my first time voting and I voted for the opposition as I felt that they were going to try to do more for the needy. I wanted to give them a chance," said Jacinta Huang, a 24-year-old social worker.

Lee, the eldest son of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, needs to get at least 61 percent of the votes and lose no more than four seats, analysts said. That was the result his predecessor, Goh Chok Tong, got in the PAP's worst electoral outcome in 1991.

Anything less than that would be a "major psychological blow," said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB-GK Research.

Singapore bans election surveys and exit polls, making it difficult to gauge opinion.

OPPOSITION RALLIES

But opposition rallies have drawn big crowds -- including the prime minister's own teenage son.

Lee told reporters on Friday night he had asked his son why he had not attended a PAP rally and his son had replied: "So boring and logical."

Lee added: "So I think it's okay. Many more (are) like that, want to hear but when it comes to the moment to vote and decide, I think they know what's in their interest."

The prime minister and his father -- who ruled for 31 consecutive years including the periods before, during and after Singapore's union with Malaya and who is now the "Minister Mentor" -- filed defamation suits against the leaders of the Singapore Democratic Party at the start of campaigning.

It's a timeworn PAP tactic that has bankrupted some opposition leaders, thus disqualifying them for parliament.

Some voters seemed to be turned off by Singapore's hardball politics.

"I believed in the PAP before, but I think the party no longer represents me or the way I see things," said W.M. Ng, a 36-year-old advertising executive. "They tell you what to do, and you do it. They don't listen. I don't agree with their heavy-handed style of government."

Aware of the need to woo young voters, the PAP is fielding 24 new candidates, what it calls its "fourth generation" of leaders.

But the bedrock of PAP support has always been older voters, who lived through Singapore's rocky post-independence years and witnessed its transformation into an economic powerhouse.

"What concerns me most is peace and safety," said taxi-driver Lee Kwok Seng, 44. "The government has given me safety and I don't want crime in Singapore."

When Lee Hsien Loong became prime minister, he promised more political openness, but there has been scant evidence of that.

The government strictly enforces limits on public speaking and demonstrations and last month said it would require political parties and individuals to register if they wish to post political content on Web sites.

IHT: Courts in Singapore come under scrutiny

Courts in Singapore come under scrutiny
By Donald Greenlees International Herald Tribune

TUESDAY, MAY 9, 2006

From the manicured tropical gardens to the litter-free streets and glistening shopping malls, there appears to be something fundamentally clean and decent about Singapore. And if the island republic's physical appearance is burnished to a high shine, so is its reputation as a place to do business.

It regularly comes near the top of international surveys as an efficient and corruption-free place to invest. Hence, many multinational companies choose Singapore as a sanitary refuge to establish headquarters operations amid the pollution and administrative chaos of many of its Asian neighbors.

One of the cornerstones of Singapore's appeal to multinational investors has been the soundness of its justice system, at least in commercial cases.

But that reputation for reliability in arbitrating commercial disputes is under increasing scrutiny. It is an issue that analysts say could have far-reaching implications for all foreign investors who have sought out Singapore as a haven and for the important role the city-state has played as a reliable legal jurisdiction in Asia.

A court of appeal in Canada is being asked for the first time to determine whether legal decisions made in Singapore are sufficiently fair and impartial to meet the standards of justice of other developed countries.

In documents tendered to the appeals court in the province of Ontario, Singapore's judicial reputation has been subject to scathing attack. Lawyers have alleged in court documents that the Singapore legal system is an "utterly politicized component of executive rule" in which there is no guarantee of fairness even in commercial cases. The Singaporean Ministry of Law rejects these claims.

The case, now before the Ontario Court of Appeal, has also become a forum for some critics of Singapore's political and justice system and served to resurrect grievances about old legal cases brought against opponents of the People's Action Party, which has been in power since 1959.

"Whichever way this case goes, it is, and it is going to continue to be, quite damaging for Singapore because it's highlighted a lot of apparent or perceived problems with the Singapore judiciary," said Michael Backman, a consultant based in London and author of several books on doing business in Asia.

The case centers on a dispute between EnerNorth Industries, an Ontario-based oil and natural gas company, and a Singaporean company, Oakwell Engineering. In 1997, the two companies entered a joint venture to build and operate two barge-mounted electricity generating plants in India.

When the project ran into trouble a year later, EnerNorth bought out Oakwell's stake in the venture in a deal that included promises to pay $2.79 million and royalties once financing was obtained and the project was operational. A settlement agreement provided for any further disputes to be settled in the Singapore courts. EnerNorth, based in Toronto, subsequently failed to raise the financing for the project and, in 2000, sold out to an Indian company. In 2002, Oakwell sued EnerNorth in Singapore for failure to pay the $2.79 million and royalties. The Singaporean High Court, and later the Singaporean Court of Appeal, which is the final appellate court in Singapore, awarded Oakwell the disputed amounts, full costs and interest amounting to about $5.4 million.

As EnerNorth had no assets in Singapore, Oakwell applied to the Ontario Superior Court to have the award enforced in Canada. Last Aug. 2, the superior court ruled in Oakwell's favor.

But EnerNorth's lawyers have appealed. At the heart of their case is a fierce attack on the integrity of the Singapore justice system. In a submission to the appeals court, David Wingfield, EnerNorth's lawyer, argued that foreign legal systems had to meet Canadian constitutional standards for their rulings to be upheld in Canada.

"What EnerNorth is faced with, however, is having its assets seized under Canadian law to pay a judgment that was granted by a corrupt legal system before biased judges in a jurisdiction that operates outside the rule of law," he said in a submission to the court. He added: "The uncontradicted evidence in this case, from leading international experts, reveals that Singapore is ruled by a small oligarchy who control all facets of the Singapore state, including the judiciary, which is utterly politicized."

In large part, Wingfield based his allegations on the record of prosecutions of political critics of the People's Action Party, including Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, a lawyer of Sri Lankan descent, who for a time was Singapore's sole opposition member of Parliament. Jeyaretnam was convicted of fraud in a series of trials in Singapore in the 1980s in connection with donations made to his Workers' Party. He later managed to appeal to the judicial committee of the Privy Council in London over a decision to have him struck off the Singapore Law Society's rolls. The Privy Council, which was then the final court of appeal for such professional disciplinary actions, decided to review the initial conviction against Jeyaretnam. In a celebrated judgment in October 1988, it expressed "deep disquiet that by a series of misjudgments," Jeyaretnam and a co-defendant had suffered "a grievous injustice."

Wingfield in his submission to the court in Ontario also cited the opinion of the International Commission of Jurists on a more recent case involving Jeyaretnam that "the High Court of Singapore has done little to overcome the Singapore courts' reputation as improperly compliant to the interests of the country's ruling People's Action Party."

The conduct of legal actions against political figures in Singapore has long been the subject of controversy, but the country's courts have had a strong reputation for fair and impartial conduct in commercial proceedings.

When Gerald Day, the Ontario Superior Court judge, agreed last year to uphold the award made in Singapore against EnerNorth, he wrote, "Historically, there is no evidence of bias or unfairness by the Singapore court in private commercial proceedings." He also found that there was no evidence of bias "in this specific case" and "no reason to doubt the impartiality of the judges who heard the case in Singapore."

Pointing to Day's statements, the Singaporean Ministry of Law said the Ontario Superior Court had "refused to lend any credence to EnerNorth's spurious allegation of a biased Singapore judiciary." In a written response, it said EnerNorth had been represented in Singapore by lawyers of its choice and had not alleged that the Singapore courts or any of its judges were biased against it at the time of the initial court hearings.

The ministry also said the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, which is based in Hong Kong, had "consistently rated the Singapore judicial system as one of the best in the region, and emphasized that Singapore has one of the most fair and transparent legal systems in the world." The ministry added, "Singapore prides itself on having an independent and impartial judiciary."

Still, EnerNorth's lawyers produced a number of affidavits from its own experts, including Francis Seow, a former Singapore solicitor general and judge turned prominent critic of the government; and Ross Worthington, a professor of governance and World Bank consultant. Both asserted that the People's Action Party, or PAP, and the executive controlled all aspects of public life, including the judiciary.

Wingfield, the EnerNorth lawyer, also quoted a report in court from the New York City Bar Association that warned American companies to be wary of agreeing to let commercial disputes be settled in Singapore courts as EnerNorth did. The bar association said the Singapore government "had been willing to decimate the rule of law for the benefit of political interests." But it also warned U.S. companies that in doing business in Singapore, they were "likely to encounter a wide variety of enterprises in which the government has an economic interest."

"The same forces which have led that judiciary to be sensitive to the PAP government's political interests would lead it to take account of its economic interests," the report said.

The basis of EnerNorth's appeal is that Day, the superior court judge, required EnerNorth lawyers to prove specific bias against the company by the Singaporean courts, which the judge found they had failed to do. Wingfield argued that it was simply sufficient to establish that Singapore's legal system did not meet Canadian standards.

The Ontario Appeals Court finished hearing the case in April and under an informal six-month rule is likely to announce its decision by the end of the summer, according to lawyers. But both sides have indicated that they will seek to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court, meaning that the case could drag on and could become a test of recognition of foreign legal jurisdictions.

Lawyers for Oakwell Engineering maintain in their submissions to the courts in Canada that the issue has already been resolved under Canadian law and should not be reopened. They said EnerNorth had chosen to attack the quality of justice only because it had lost the case in Singapore - a jurisdiction it had freely chosen for settlement of any disputes with Oakwell. They said the company had not raised objections during the trial in Singapore and had failed to prove or even establish a "reasonable apprehension" of bias against it.

In its case before the Ontario Court of Appeal, Oakwell's lawyers said EnerNorth had in fact been represented by a lawyer who witnesses said had strong links to the People's Action Party, while Oakwell had been represented by Philip Jeyaretnam, the son of the opposition figure.

They said the case had been "heard before the courts of a country built on foreign investment, with an impeccable reputation for fairness to foreign businesses like EnerNorth."

But Backman, the consultant and author, said the risk for Singapore, regardless of the verdict in Canada, was that foreign companies might become increasingly wary about business transactions in the city-state. If EnerNorth wins, he said by telephone, courts in other countries might also come under pressure not to enforce Singapore legal judgments. "This will only impact on the desire of investors to invest and remain in Singapore," he said.


From the manicured tropical gardens to the litter-free streets and glistening shopping malls, there appears to be something fundamentally clean and decent about Singapore. And if the island republic's physical appearance is burnished to a high shine, so is its reputation as a place to do business.

It regularly comes near the top of international surveys as an efficient and corruption-free place to invest. Hence, many multinational companies choose Singapore as a sanitary refuge to establish headquarters operations amid the pollution and administrative chaos of many of its Asian neighbors.

One of the cornerstones of Singapore's appeal to multinational investors has been the soundness of its justice system, at least in commercial cases.

But that reputation for reliability in arbitrating commercial disputes is under increasing scrutiny. It is an issue that analysts say could have far-reaching implications for all foreign investors who have sought out Singapore as a haven and for the important role the city-state has played as a reliable legal jurisdiction in Asia.

A court of appeal in Canada is being asked for the first time to determine whether legal decisions made in Singapore are sufficiently fair and impartial to meet the standards of justice of other developed countries.

In documents tendered to the appeals court in the province of Ontario, Singapore's judicial reputation has been subject to scathing attack. Lawyers have alleged in court documents that the Singapore legal system is an "utterly politicized component of executive rule" in which there is no guarantee of fairness even in commercial cases. The Singaporean Ministry of Law rejects these claims.

The case, now before the Ontario Court of Appeal, has also become a forum for some critics of Singapore's political and justice system and served to resurrect grievances about old legal cases brought against opponents of the People's Action Party, which has been in power since 1959.

"Whichever way this case goes, it is, and it is going to continue to be, quite damaging for Singapore because it's highlighted a lot of apparent or perceived problems with the Singapore judiciary," said Michael Backman, a consultant based in London and author of several books on doing business in Asia.

The case centers on a dispute between EnerNorth Industries, an Ontario-based oil and natural gas company, and a Singaporean company, Oakwell Engineering. In 1997, the two companies entered a joint venture to build and operate two barge-mounted electricity generating plants in India.

When the project ran into trouble a year later, EnerNorth bought out Oakwell's stake in the venture in a deal that included promises to pay $2.79 million and royalties once financing was obtained and the project was operational. A settlement agreement provided for any further disputes to be settled in the Singapore courts. EnerNorth, based in Toronto, subsequently failed to raise the financing for the project and, in 2000, sold out to an Indian company. In 2002, Oakwell sued EnerNorth in Singapore for failure to pay the $2.79 million and royalties. The Singaporean High Court, and later the Singaporean Court of Appeal, which is the final appellate court in Singapore, awarded Oakwell the disputed amounts, full costs and interest amounting to about $5.4 million.

As EnerNorth had no assets in Singapore, Oakwell applied to the Ontario Superior Court to have the award enforced in Canada. Last Aug. 2, the superior court ruled in Oakwell's favor.

But EnerNorth's lawyers have appealed. At the heart of their case is a fierce attack on the integrity of the Singapore justice system. In a submission to the appeals court, David Wingfield, EnerNorth's lawyer, argued that foreign legal systems had to meet Canadian constitutional standards for their rulings to be upheld in Canada.

"What EnerNorth is faced with, however, is having its assets seized under Canadian law to pay a judgment that was granted by a corrupt legal system before biased judges in a jurisdiction that operates outside the rule of law," he said in a submission to the court. He added: "The uncontradicted evidence in this case, from leading international experts, reveals that Singapore is ruled by a small oligarchy who control all facets of the Singapore state, including the judiciary, which is utterly politicized."

In large part, Wingfield based his allegations on the record of prosecutions of political critics of the People's Action Party, including Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, a lawyer of Sri Lankan descent, who for a time was Singapore's sole opposition member of Parliament. Jeyaretnam was convicted of fraud in a series of trials in Singapore in the 1980s in connection with donations made to his Workers' Party. He later managed to appeal to the judicial committee of the Privy Council in London over a decision to have him struck off the Singapore Law Society's rolls. The Privy Council, which was then the final court of appeal for such professional disciplinary actions, decided to review the initial conviction against Jeyaretnam. In a celebrated judgment in October 1988, it expressed "deep disquiet that by a series of misjudgments," Jeyaretnam and a co-defendant had suffered "a grievous injustice."

Wingfield in his submission to the court in Ontario also cited the opinion of the International Commission of Jurists on a more recent case involving Jeyaretnam that "the High Court of Singapore has done little to overcome the Singapore courts' reputation as improperly compliant to the interests of the country's ruling People's Action Party."

The conduct of legal actions against political figures in Singapore has long been the subject of controversy, but the country's courts have had a strong reputation for fair and impartial conduct in commercial proceedings.

When Gerald Day, the Ontario Superior Court judge, agreed last year to uphold the award made in Singapore against EnerNorth, he wrote, "Historically, there is no evidence of bias or unfairness by the Singapore court in private commercial proceedings." He also found that there was no evidence of bias "in this specific case" and "no reason to doubt the impartiality of the judges who heard the case in Singapore."

Pointing to Day's statements, the Singaporean Ministry of Law said the Ontario Superior Court had "refused to lend any credence to EnerNorth's spurious allegation of a biased Singapore judiciary." In a written response, it said EnerNorth had been represented in Singapore by lawyers of its choice and had not alleged that the Singapore courts or any of its judges were biased against it at the time of the initial court hearings.

The ministry also said the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, which is based in Hong Kong, had "consistently rated the Singapore judicial system as one of the best in the region, and emphasized that Singapore has one of the most fair and transparent legal systems in the world." The ministry added, "Singapore prides itself on having an independent and impartial judiciary."

Still, EnerNorth's lawyers produced a number of affidavits from its own experts, including Francis Seow, a former Singapore solicitor general and judge turned prominent critic of the government; and Ross Worthington, a professor of governance and World Bank consultant. Both asserted that the People's Action Party, or PAP, and the executive controlled all aspects of public life, including the judiciary.

Wingfield, the EnerNorth lawyer, also quoted a report in court from the New York City Bar Association that warned American companies to be wary of agreeing to let commercial disputes be settled in Singapore courts as EnerNorth did. The bar association said the Singapore government "had been willing to decimate the rule of law for the benefit of political interests." But it also warned U.S. companies that in doing business in Singapore, they were "likely to encounter a wide variety of enterprises in which the government has an economic interest."

"The same forces which have led that judiciary to be sensitive to the PAP government's political interests would lead it to take account of its economic interests," the report said.

The basis of EnerNorth's appeal is that Day, the superior court judge, required EnerNorth lawyers to prove specific bias against the company by the Singaporean courts, which the judge found they had failed to do. Wingfield argued that it was simply sufficient to establish that Singapore's legal system did not meet Canadian standards.

The Ontario Appeals Court finished hearing the case in April and under an informal six-month rule is likely to announce its decision by the end of the summer, according to lawyers. But both sides have indicated that they will seek to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court, meaning that the case could drag on and could become a test of recognition of foreign legal jurisdictions.

Lawyers for Oakwell Engineering maintain in their submissions to the courts in Canada that the issue has already been resolved under Canadian law and should not be reopened. They said EnerNorth had chosen to attack the quality of justice only because it had lost the case in Singapore - a jurisdiction it had freely chosen for settlement of any disputes with Oakwell. They said the company had not raised objections during the trial in Singapore and had failed to prove or even establish a "reasonable apprehension" of bias against it.

In its case before the Ontario Court of Appeal, Oakwell's lawyers said EnerNorth had in fact been represented by a lawyer who witnesses said had strong links to the People's Action Party, while Oakwell had been represented by Philip Jeyaretnam, the son of the opposition figure.

They said the case had been "heard before the courts of a country built on foreign investment, with an impeccable reputation for fairness to foreign businesses like EnerNorth."

But Backman, the consultant and author, said the risk for Singapore, regardless of the verdict in Canada, was that foreign companies might become increasingly wary about business transactions in the city-state. If EnerNorth wins, he said by telephone, courts in other countries might also come under pressure not to enforce Singapore legal judgments. "This will only impact on the desire of investors to invest and remain in Singapore," he said.


From the manicured tropical gardens to the litter-free streets and glistening shopping malls, there appears to be something fundamentally clean and decent about Singapore. And if the island republic's physical appearance is burnished to a high shine, so is its reputation as a place to do business.

It regularly comes near the top of international surveys as an efficient and corruption-free place to invest. Hence, many multinational companies choose Singapore as a sanitary refuge to establish headquarters operations amid the pollution and administrative chaos of many of its Asian neighbors.

One of the cornerstones of Singapore's appeal to multinational investors has been the soundness of its justice system, at least in commercial cases.

But that reputation for reliability in arbitrating commercial disputes is under increasing scrutiny. It is an issue that analysts say could have far-reaching implications for all foreign investors who have sought out Singapore as a haven and for the important role the city-state has played as a reliable legal jurisdiction in Asia.

A court of appeal in Canada is being asked for the first time to determine whether legal decisions made in Singapore are sufficiently fair and impartial to meet the standards of justice of other developed countries.

In documents tendered to the appeals court in the province of Ontario, Singapore's judicial reputation has been subject to scathing attack. Lawyers have alleged in court documents that the Singapore legal system is an "utterly politicized component of executive rule" in which there is no guarantee of fairness even in commercial cases. The Singaporean Ministry of Law rejects these claims.

The case, now before the Ontario Court of Appeal, has also become a forum for some critics of Singapore's political and justice system and served to resurrect grievances about old legal cases brought against opponents of the People's Action Party, which has been in power since 1959.

"Whichever way this case goes, it is, and it is going to continue to be, quite damaging for Singapore because it's highlighted a lot of apparent or perceived problems with the Singapore judiciary," said Michael Backman, a consultant based in London and author of several books on doing business in Asia.

The case centers on a dispute between EnerNorth Industries, an Ontario-based oil and natural gas company, and a Singaporean company, Oakwell Engineering. In 1997, the two companies entered a joint venture to build and operate two barge-mounted electricity generating plants in India.

When the project ran into trouble a year later, EnerNorth bought out Oakwell's stake in the venture in a deal that included promises to pay $2.79 million and royalties once financing was obtained and the project was operational. A settlement agreement provided for any further disputes to be settled in the Singapore courts. EnerNorth, based in Toronto, subsequently failed to raise the financing for the project and, in 2000, sold out to an Indian company. In 2002, Oakwell sued EnerNorth in Singapore for failure to pay the $2.79 million and royalties. The Singaporean High Court, and later the Singaporean Court of Appeal, which is the final appellate court in Singapore, awarded Oakwell the disputed amounts, full costs and interest amounting to about $5.4 million.

As EnerNorth had no assets in Singapore, Oakwell applied to the Ontario Superior Court to have the award enforced in Canada. Last Aug. 2, the superior court ruled in Oakwell's favor.

But EnerNorth's lawyers have appealed. At the heart of their case is a fierce attack on the integrity of the Singapore justice system. In a submission to the appeals court, David Wingfield, EnerNorth's lawyer, argued that foreign legal systems had to meet Canadian constitutional standards for their rulings to be upheld in Canada.

"What EnerNorth is faced with, however, is having its assets seized under Canadian law to pay a judgment that was granted by a corrupt legal system before biased judges in a jurisdiction that operates outside the rule of law," he said in a submission to the court. He added: "The uncontradicted evidence in this case, from leading international experts, reveals that Singapore is ruled by a small oligarchy who control all facets of the Singapore state, including the judiciary, which is utterly politicized."

In large part, Wingfield based his allegations on the record of prosecutions of political critics of the People's Action Party, including Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, a lawyer of Sri Lankan descent, who for a time was Singapore's sole opposition member of Parliament. Jeyaretnam was convicted of fraud in a series of trials in Singapore in the 1980s in connection with donations made to his Workers' Party. He later managed to appeal to the judicial committee of the Privy Council in London over a decision to have him struck off the Singapore Law Society's rolls. The Privy Council, which was then the final court of appeal for such professional disciplinary actions, decided to review the initial conviction against Jeyaretnam. In a celebrated judgment in October 1988, it expressed "deep disquiet that by a series of misjudgments," Jeyaretnam and a co-defendant had suffered "a grievous injustice."

Wingfield in his submission to the court in Ontario also cited the opinion of the International Commission of Jurists on a more recent case involving Jeyaretnam that "the High Court of Singapore has done little to overcome the Singapore courts' reputation as improperly compliant to the interests of the country's ruling People's Action Party."

The conduct of legal actions against political figures in Singapore has long been the subject of controversy, but the country's courts have had a strong reputation for fair and impartial conduct in commercial proceedings.

When Gerald Day, the Ontario Superior Court judge, agreed last year to uphold the award made in Singapore against EnerNorth, he wrote, "Historically, there is no evidence of bias or unfairness by the Singapore court in private commercial proceedings." He also found that there was no evidence of bias "in this specific case" and "no reason to doubt the impartiality of the judges who heard the case in Singapore."

Pointing to Day's statements, the Singaporean Ministry of Law said the Ontario Superior Court had "refused to lend any credence to EnerNorth's spurious allegation of a biased Singapore judiciary." In a written response, it said EnerNorth had been represented in Singapore by lawyers of its choice and had not alleged that the Singapore courts or any of its judges were biased against it at the time of the initial court hearings.

The ministry also said the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, which is based in Hong Kong, had "consistently rated the Singapore judicial system as one of the best in the region, and emphasized that Singapore has one of the most fair and transparent legal systems in the world." The ministry added, "Singapore prides itself on having an independent and impartial judiciary."

Still, EnerNorth's lawyers produced a number of affidavits from its own experts, including Francis Seow, a former Singapore solicitor general and judge turned prominent critic of the government; and Ross Worthington, a professor of governance and World Bank consultant. Both asserted that the People's Action Party, or PAP, and the executive controlled all aspects of public life, including the judiciary.

Wingfield, the EnerNorth lawyer, also quoted a report in court from the New York City Bar Association that warned American companies to be wary of agreeing to let commercial disputes be settled in Singapore courts as EnerNorth did. The bar association said the Singapore government "had been willing to decimate the rule of law for the benefit of political interests." But it also warned U.S. companies that in doing business in Singapore, they were "likely to encounter a wide variety of enterprises in which the government has an economic interest."

"The same forces which have led that judiciary to be sensitive to the PAP government's political interests would lead it to take account of its economic interests," the report said.

The basis of EnerNorth's appeal is that Day, the superior court judge, required EnerNorth lawyers to prove specific bias against the company by the Singaporean courts, which the judge found they had failed to do. Wingfield argued that it was simply sufficient to establish that Singapore's legal system did not meet Canadian standards.

The Ontario Appeals Court finished hearing the case in April and under an informal six-month rule is likely to announce its decision by the end of the summer, according to lawyers. But both sides have indicated that they will seek to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court, meaning that the case could drag on and could become a test of recognition of foreign legal jurisdictions.

Lawyers for Oakwell Engineering maintain in their submissions to the courts in Canada that the issue has already been resolved under Canadian law and should not be reopened. They said EnerNorth had chosen to attack the quality of justice only because it had lost the case in Singapore - a jurisdiction it had freely chosen for settlement of any disputes with Oakwell. They said the company had not raised objections during the trial in Singapore and had failed to prove or even establish a "reasonable apprehension" of bias against it.

In its case before the Ontario Court of Appeal, Oakwell's lawyers said EnerNorth had in fact been represented by a lawyer who witnesses said had strong links to the People's Action Party, while Oakwell had been represented by Philip Jeyaretnam, the son of the opposition figure.

They said the case had been "heard before the courts of a country built on foreign investment, with an impeccable reputation for fairness to foreign businesses like EnerNorth."

But Backman, the consultant and author, said the risk for Singapore, regardless of the verdict in Canada, was that foreign companies might become increasingly wary about business transactions in the city-state. If EnerNorth wins, he said by telephone, courts in other countries might also come under pressure not to enforce Singapore legal judgments. "This will only impact on the desire of investors to invest and remain in Singapore," he said.


From the manicured tropical gardens to the litter-free streets and glistening shopping malls, there appears to be something fundamentally clean and decent about Singapore. And if the island republic's physical appearance is burnished to a high shine, so is its reputation as a place to do business.

It regularly comes near the top of international surveys as an efficient and corruption-free place to invest. Hence, many multinational companies choose Singapore as a sanitary refuge to establish headquarters operations amid the pollution and administrative chaos of many of its Asian neighbors.

One of the cornerstones of Singapore's appeal to multinational investors has been the soundness of its justice system, at least in commercial cases.

But that reputation for reliability in arbitrating commercial disputes is under increasing scrutiny. It is an issue that analysts say could have far-reaching implications for all foreign investors who have sought out Singapore as a haven and for the important role the city-state has played as a reliable legal jurisdiction in Asia.

A court of appeal in Canada is being asked for the first time to determine whether legal decisions made in Singapore are sufficiently fair and impartial to meet the standards of justice of other developed countries.

In documents tendered to the appeals court in the province of Ontario, Singapore's judicial reputation has been subject to scathing attack. Lawyers have alleged in court documents that the Singapore legal system is an "utterly politicized component of executive rule" in which there is no guarantee of fairness even in commercial cases. The Singaporean Ministry of Law rejects these claims.

The case, now before the Ontario Court of Appeal, has also become a forum for some critics of Singapore's political and justice system and served to resurrect grievances about old legal cases brought against opponents of the People's Action Party, which has been in power since 1959.

"Whichever way this case goes, it is, and it is going to continue to be, quite damaging for Singapore because it's highlighted a lot of apparent or perceived problems with the Singapore judiciary," said Michael Backman, a consultant based in London and author of several books on doing business in Asia.

The case centers on a dispute between EnerNorth Industries, an Ontario-based oil and natural gas company, and a Singaporean company, Oakwell Engineering. In 1997, the two companies entered a joint venture to build and operate two barge-mounted electricity generating plants in India.

When the project ran into trouble a year later, EnerNorth bought out Oakwell's stake in the venture in a deal that included promises to pay $2.79 million and royalties once financing was obtained and the project was operational. A settlement agreement provided for any further disputes to be settled in the Singapore courts. EnerNorth, based in Toronto, subsequently failed to raise the financing for the project and, in 2000, sold out to an Indian company. In 2002, Oakwell sued EnerNorth in Singapore for failure to pay the $2.79 million and royalties. The Singaporean High Court, and later the Singaporean Court of Appeal, which is the final appellate court in Singapore, awarded Oakwell the disputed amounts, full costs and interest amounting to about $5.4 million.

As EnerNorth had no assets in Singapore, Oakwell applied to the Ontario Superior Court to have the award enforced in Canada. Last Aug. 2, the superior court ruled in Oakwell's favor.

But EnerNorth's lawyers have appealed. At the heart of their case is a fierce attack on the integrity of the Singapore justice system. In a submission to the appeals court, David Wingfield, EnerNorth's lawyer, argued that foreign legal systems had to meet Canadian constitutional standards for their rulings to be upheld in Canada.

"What EnerNorth is faced with, however, is having its assets seized under Canadian law to pay a judgment that was granted by a corrupt legal system before biased judges in a jurisdiction that operates outside the rule of law," he said in a submission to the court. He added: "The uncontradicted evidence in this case, from leading international experts, reveals that Singapore is ruled by a small oligarchy who control all facets of the Singapore state, including the judiciary, which is utterly politicized."

In large part, Wingfield based his allegations on the record of prosecutions of political critics of the People's Action Party, including Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, a lawyer of Sri Lankan descent, who for a time was Singapore's sole opposition member of Parliament. Jeyaretnam was convicted of fraud in a series of trials in Singapore in the 1980s in connection with donations made to his Workers' Party. He later managed to appeal to the judicial committee of the Privy Council in London over a decision to have him struck off the Singapore Law Society's rolls. The Privy Council, which was then the final court of appeal for such professional disciplinary actions, decided to review the initial conviction against Jeyaretnam. In a celebrated judgment in October 1988, it expressed "deep disquiet that by a series of misjudgments," Jeyaretnam and a co-defendant had suffered "a grievous injustice."

Wingfield in his submission to the court in Ontario also cited the opinion of the International Commission of Jurists on a more recent case involving Jeyaretnam that "the High Court of Singapore has done little to overcome the Singapore courts' reputation as improperly compliant to the interests of the country's ruling People's Action Party."

The conduct of legal actions against political figures in Singapore has long been the subject of controversy, but the country's courts have had a strong reputation for fair and impartial conduct in commercial proceedings.

When Gerald Day, the Ontario Superior Court judge, agreed last year to uphold the award made in Singapore against EnerNorth, he wrote, "Historically, there is no evidence of bias or unfairness by the Singapore court in private commercial proceedings." He also found that there was no evidence of bias "in this specific case" and "no reason to doubt the impartiality of the judges who heard the case in Singapore."

Pointing to Day's statements, the Singaporean Ministry of Law said the Ontario Superior Court had "refused to lend any credence to EnerNorth's spurious allegation of a biased Singapore judiciary." In a written response, it said EnerNorth had been represented in Singapore by lawyers of its choice and had not alleged that the Singapore courts or any of its judges were biased against it at the time of the initial court hearings.

The ministry also said the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, which is based in Hong Kong, had "consistently rated the Singapore judicial system as one of the best in the region, and emphasized that Singapore has one of the most fair and transparent legal systems in the world." The ministry added, "Singapore prides itself on having an independent and impartial judiciary."

Still, EnerNorth's lawyers produced a number of affidavits from its own experts, including Francis Seow, a former Singapore solicitor general and judge turned prominent critic of the government; and Ross Worthington, a professor of governance and World Bank consultant. Both asserted that the People's Action Party, or PAP, and the executive controlled all aspects of public life, including the judiciary.

Wingfield, the EnerNorth lawyer, also quoted a report in court from the New York City Bar Association that warned American companies to be wary of agreeing to let commercial disputes be settled in Singapore courts as EnerNorth did. The bar association said the Singapore government "had been willing to decimate the rule of law for the benefit of political interests." But it also warned U.S. companies that in doing business in Singapore, they were "likely to encounter a wide variety of enterprises in which the government has an economic interest."

"The same forces which have led that judiciary to be sensitive to the PAP government's political interests would lead it to take account of its economic interests," the report said.

The basis of EnerNorth's appeal is that Day, the superior court judge, required EnerNorth lawyers to prove specific bias against the company by the Singaporean courts, which the judge found they had failed to do. Wingfield argued that it was simply sufficient to establish that Singapore's legal system did not meet Canadian standards.

The Ontario Appeals Court finished hearing the case in April and under an informal six-month rule is likely to announce its decision by the end of the summer, according to lawyers. But both sides have indicated that they will seek to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court, meaning that the case could drag on and could become a test of recognition of foreign legal jurisdictions.

Lawyers for Oakwell Engineering maintain in their submissions to the courts in Canada that the issue has already been resolved under Canadian law and should not be reopened. They said EnerNorth had chosen to attack the quality of justice only because it had lost the case in Singapore - a jurisdiction it had freely chosen for settlement of any disputes with Oakwell. They said the company had not raised objections during the trial in Singapore and had failed to prove or even establish a "reasonable apprehension" of bias against it.

In its case before the Ontario Court of Appeal, Oakwell's lawyers said EnerNorth had in fact been represented by a lawyer who witnesses said had strong links to the People's Action Party, while Oakwell had been represented by Philip Jeyaretnam, the son of the opposition figure.

They said the case had been "heard before the courts of a country built on foreign investment, with an impeccable reputation for fairness to foreign businesses like EnerNorth."

But Backman, the consultant and author, said the risk for Singapore, regardless of the verdict in Canada, was that foreign companies might become increasingly wary about business transactions in the city-state. If EnerNorth wins, he said by telephone, courts in other countries might also come under pressure not to enforce Singapore legal judgments. "This will only impact on the desire of investors to invest and remain in Singapore," he said.