I just saw an AFP news feed, 8 hours ago [around 7 on Thursday evening Sydney time], saying the Singapore blogger Gopalan Nair has been released. As of now I can’t find any coverage in the NZ Herald or the Dominion Post.
Nair posted $5000 bail and walked out of prison after four days, but without his US passport. Nair arrived in Singapore on 25 May and challenged authorities to come and get him from his hotel.
He had posted his room and phone numbers on Singapore Dissident [link inside]. Gopalan’s charged with insulting a judge in a defamation case involving two of his political allies. His blog, regularly criticises the government.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is protesting Nair’s arrest. He was in Singapore to cover the defamation trial involving Democratic Party activists Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin.
That trial is also a story worth following as Nair is trapped in Singapore and now facing serious defamation charges himself.
I haven’t looked closely at the detail yet, but I’ll update in an hour or so. If the CPJ is supporting Gopalan Nair that’s good enough for me right now.
New York, June 3, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the detention of blogger Gopalan Nair on charges of insulting a Singaporean judge during a high-profile libel case.
Nair, a former Singapore citizen who obtained U.S. citizenship in 2005, was arrested in a hotel on Saturday evening, according to news reports citing his lawyer. He was visiting his former home to observe proceedings in a libel case filed by Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in connection with a 2006 newspaper article, the reports said. Nair is accused of insulting the judge presiding over the trial, a charge which carries a fine of up to 5,000 Singapore dollars (US$3,670) or a one-year jail term, according to Agence France-Presse. (read CPJ news alert)
This is a fairly serious charge. Nair has form, going back nearly 20 years. After several lawysuits, the lawyer and activist left Singapore. Nair took American citizenship in 2005.
The Singapore government and its chief ministers and high officials have a long history of suing opposition politicians and dissidents often handing out hefty fines that bankrupt activists. This is the fate awaiting Gopalan as Agence France Press reported in the story of his release.
Nair, 58, who declined comment to reporters, is due back in court for another hearing next Thursday.
He was arrested in the city-state on Saturday and charged Monday with insulting a public servant, his lawyer Chia Ti Lik earlier told AFP.
According to a court document, Nair is charged with insulting Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean last week by sending an email which said she “was throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders”.
Chia said the comments essentially repeated those Nair made in a recent blog about a defamation case filed by Singapore’s leaders against an opposition party and its members. (AFP story)
[Gopalan's blog Singapore Dissident.]
I first read a story on a Wednesday afternoon flight to Sydney. It was a story by katrinia Nicholas in Singapore in the Australian Financial Review. Which unfortunately I can’t link to because it’s pay-per-view. Sorry I’ve only just got round this post.
However, Nair wasn’t in court alone. He had a legal team and another brave blogger was there to support him.
A blogpost by Chia Ti Lik, a witness in court for the bail hearing.
I appeared in Court 23 this morning at 855am to defend Gopalan Nair.
Having learnt of his plight and arrest by the Singapore Police Force on 31st May 2008 for insulting Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean on Sunday morning 1st June 2008 , i decided to appear in Court to defend him. I went to see that justice was being done. I was given more than what i could expect, more than what could meet my eye in the usual case. More than what i wanted to see.
The Court mention was fixed for 9am sharp. I saw Mr. Gopalan Nair in the dock, he waved to me. I spoke to him and he told me of how he was arrested. I reassured him that i would do my best for him. I met Ms Julie Kavanagh Counsul from the Consular Office United States Embassy. She was there to ensure that Mr. Gopalan Nair was given a fair trial. I explained in brief to her what to expect from the proceedings and Mr. Nair’s concerns which i found out moments earlier.
The CPJ News Alert also has some useful historical background and information about the original defamation case:
Defendant Chee Soon Juan, who heads the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, personally cross-examined Lee Kuan Yew about the government’s use of the libel law to silence critics. “There are various parts of this government which do not comply with Western practices, including the law of libel. But it is a system that has worked,” Lee said, according to the International Herald Tribune.
I don’t know a lot about Singapore politics, but I’ve seen reports that Mr Nair has previously been a member of the Singapore Workers Party and has stood as a candidate on their platform. I don’t know if he’s still associated with them. So I take no responsibility for the reactions of anyone, especially dribblejaws, to the content of this following link.
Here’s part of their May Day message, dated 2 May. The last most recent post.
The WP Labour day message raised three issues pertaining to workers in Singapore in view of the changing economic circumstances, the government policy on foreign manpower and the government’s attitude towards the employment of foreigners.
WP said, first, the government’s attitude should be to put Singaporeans first; secondly, we should resist any erosion of Singaporeans’ societal standing; and thirdly, it is the government’s responsibility to show compassion for the plight of the workers facing the pressure of high inflation.
Therefore, the issue here is not of foreign workers’ employment per se but rather how the Singapore Government and the Labour Union will ensure that the dignity and societal position of Singaporeans workers are not compromised in view of globalization and labour mobility.
Yaw Shin Leong
The Workers’ Party
Politically and in terms of who Gopalan Nair is and all the other players I can’t vouch for any of them. Gopalan’s blog entries seem to be long-ish rants, so I am still checking all of this out, in the meantime, here’s a post by Gopalan on celluloid reality(s) on something slightly different.
A Nair post at SgForums repeats his allegations against a Singapore judge [legal disclaimer?]- the basis of the defamation case. Be warned, the entries are quite long and possibly very similar in content. However, I found this passsage interesting enough.
It is this large section of the population that form the Singapore Diaspora; hundreds and thousands of Singaporeans who just cannot stand the sight of Lee Kuan Yew and his minions. They have packed up and left for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and Sweden. It is these who are the best and most talented of Singaporeans. And unlike the likes of Judge Belinda Ang who will say or do anything for the right price, what I mean is unprincipled souls; the Singaporeans who leave are the upright educated human beings with principles, with honor, with pride; who refuse to dance whenever Lee demands it.
And by the destruction of the minds of Singaporeans who have chosen to remain and driving out the best and most able from Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew has not modernized Singapore, he has destroyed it. Those remaining in Singapore, the likes of Judge Belinda Ang, who is prepared to say that 2 and 2 make 5 anytime; are not the kind of people that can advance a country to greatness. The best have already left the country for good.
I’ll keep you posted.