Saturday, December 26, 2009
Dr Mahathir challenges former WSJ editor to criticize Singapore leaders
Malaysian former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had challenged the former Managing Editor of the Asian Wall Street Journal, Barry Wain to criticize Singapore leaders.
Wain, recently released his book “Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times,” in which he accuses Dr Mahathir of wasting RM100 billion in public funds during his tenure as Malaysian Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003.
In a posting on his blog chedet yesterday, Dr Mahathir made a point for point defence against the accusations leveled against him and said he welcomed opposition leader Lim Kit Siang’s call for the Malaysian government to set up a royal commission to probe whether he “burned” RM100 billion.
True to his combative style, Dr Mahathir poured scorn on Wain for criticizing him only and challenged him to take on the leaders of Singapore, where he now resides.
“Barry Wain was formerly with the Asian Wall Street Journal and Asia Week. Presently he is with the Singapore think tank, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. He knows that if he writes anything against Singapore leaders he would be dragged to the courts, sued and forced to pay huge indemnity. His colleagues have all been found guilty of defamation when they wrote something that was not approved by Singapore leaders.” Dr Mahathir wrote.
He suggested that journalists dare to do so as the Malaysian courts are “lenient” with them:
“It is safe for journalists to impute all kinds of misbehaviour by Malaysian leaders. There have been many cases where the courts have found in favour of the journalists,” he added.
Dr Mahathir was referring to a recent court case involving WSJ’s sister publication – Far Eastern Economic Review which was sued for defamation by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The Singapore High Court had ordered the Review Publishing Company, publisher of the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), and editor Hugo Restall to pay 200,000 dollars in damages and 30,000 dollars in legal costs to Premier Lee Hsien Loong.
His father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, will get 150,000 dollars in damages and 25,000 dollars in legal costs.
The penalties were set after the Court of Appeal last month upheld a 2008 decision finding the defendants guilty of defaming the Lees in a 2006 article based on an interview with Chee Soon Juan, an opposition party leader.
The article at the heart of the case — entitled “Singapore’s ‘Martyr’, Chee Soon Juan” — described the opposition Singapore Democratic Party secretary general’s battle against the ruling People’s Action Party and its leaders.
Leaders from the Singapore’s ruling party have won numerous defamation suits against their political opponents back home and foreign publications such as The Economist, Time, Bloomberg, AsiaWeek and the International Herald Tribune.
Despite similar leadership style between him and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Mahathir seldom sued those who opposed him for defamation.
The litigious nature of Singapore’s leaders have attracted international criticisms and opprobrium, especially from human rights organizations.
Singapore’s Law Minister Shanmugam defended its harsh defamatory laws lately to an American audience on the grounds that it is important to safeguard the reputation of its leaders from “scurrilous and baseless” accusations.
As one Malaysiakini reader puts it succinctly:
“And about Singapore, I bet my life, Barry Wain will never, never write anything about their ” Incorruptible Leaders ” Least he wants to be bankrupt. Just so you know, a very famous opposition leader in Singapore, spent donkey years getting out of bankruptcy, and died few months later.”
It will be interesting to see if Wain, Restall, or any other WSJ editor will write a fair, accurate and objective assessment of MM Lee when he passes on finally.
China’s Mao was a living god when he was still alive. Today, he is persona non grata in China and denounced as a mass-murderer outside China.
Lee will probably suffer a similar fate as Mao with few Singaporeans being remotely aware of his contributions or even existence long after his PAP is booted out of office.