$30,0000.. And The Implications For Singapore Politics

Many have written about the magnanimity of the two old men in accepting $30,000 as a full discharge of Chee’s bankruptcy. But the implications of their actions are far more important for Singapore politics than mere magnanimity.

$30,000 is not a very large sum for a real politician, but it is a reasonable amount of compensation, if one has truly been defamed. The defamation trial and judgement in themselves are just as important in establishing the defamatory nature of the defendant’s unfounded allegations, and play a much more important role in protecting and restoring the reputation of the plaintiff.

Indeed, defamation amounts are notoriously hard to quantify fairly, and our esteemed judges, learned as they are, are neither brand consultants (who specialise in qualifying the market values of brands) nor accountants/investment bankers by training. Thus, damages awarded should be seen less as compensation but more as a deterrent to further acts of defamation.

Through their action, our two former leaders have thus set a precedent for PAP politicians. It means any PAP politician in future will be seen as mean and petty if they do not settle for $30,000. Or even less than $30,000, since their reputations may not be as large as Mr Lee’s and Mr Goh’s combined.

It means no single PAP politician can demand more than $15,000– less than one month’s MP allowance. A new benchmark.

The implications of the $30,000 settlement on Singapore politics is thus HUGE.

It means ‘opposition’ politicians will no longer have to fear defamation suits. Not that they won’t be sued, but at least they may not be bankrupted by such suits, and they will most likely be able to carry on into the next election.

This removes a distinct black mark against Singapore politics, which has been characterised by vocal opposition critics shut out of elections for decades by bankruptcy, thus not allowing the PAP the moral victory of being them in open elections.

With this settlement, that will change for good. It will allow PAP to hold its heads high and say that we defeated them roundly and soundly at elections, and it will also allow ‘opposition’ politicans no excuse to be ‘martyrs’.

The implication of the $30,000 settlement is that defamation lawsuits will no longer be seen as a way to weaken political opponents, or to keep them out of politics. If a politician can’t raise $15,000, he won’t get far in politics anyway.

Finally, the implication of the $30,000 settlement may be that the judiciary will reconsider its practices, so that so that future defamation awards do not drive defendants into bankruptcy. Much depends on whether they wish to follow judicial precedent or political precedent, and whether they see the contours of the new political landscape.


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Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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7 Responses to $30,0000.. And The Implications For Singapore Politics

  1. cgy says:

    these implications are a bit of a stretch aren’t they? the facts of every defamation suit will vary from each other. the sum of the damages awarded (and the settlement sum, if any) will depend heavily on the particular context and circumstances of that suit.

    • Thanks for comments. I think the merits of each defamation suit are less important than the intents of the parties, how they’ve changed.

      On the PAP side, perhaps the old men realise that does them more harm than good, that it’s better for PAP to beat their most vocal opponents roundly and soundly at the polls.

      On the ‘opposition’ side, perhaps they will no longer view defamation as a deadly political weapon, and thus removes one fear of joining politics.

      The point is that, with settlement, defamation actions will no longer be seen as a means to cage up political opponents. With the lead provided by Messrs Lee and Goh, I think it will be hard for future PAP politicians to insist on their full awards. It will make them seem mean and petty and hurt their electoral chances.

      The ‘moral suasion’ effect is the greatest outcome of this settlement.

  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 17 Sep 2012 | The Singapore Daily

  3. Lim YS says:

    The defamation costs are $30,000 PLUS all the lost years of inaction

    • Exactly. See this for a discussion.

      But if you want to look forward, $30,000 may be the reasonable expectation for future settlements. More importantly, it may reflect a change in the PAP thinking, that they should be more ‘magnamimous’ and let their opponents back in the ring, rather than keeping them out of action for decades.

      That is the real implication for Singapore politics.

  4. Thanks. You’ve just opened my eye to side things from another angle.

  5. Pingback: Libel Capital Of the World Gives It Up; What Now, PAP? | Political Writings

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