Oddly Enough

Singapore politicians hurl insults in court

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore politicians hurled insults and clashed over transparency in the city-state in a court case on Tuesday.

Secretary General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Chee Soon Juan (2nd L) and his sister Chee Siok Chin (front R) arrive at the Supreme Court in Singapore May 26, 2008. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Former leader Lee Kuan Yew, 84, and his son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, took the stand as part of a hearing to determine defamation damages against the opposition Singapore Democratic Party and its leader Chee Soon Juan, who is not a member of a parliament dominated by Lee’s party.

“He is near psychopath,” Lee Kuan Yew said of Chee Soon Juan.

“I don’t think even Solomon would be able to mediate between a psychopath and sane rational people,” he said, referring to the biblical King Solomon.

“I don’t hate you, I feel sorry for you, I think you cut a pitiable figure,” said Chee of Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee took out an award from Transparency International Malaysia on the stand to prove a point about his character.

Most of Chee’s questions to Lee Hsien Loong, which ranged from the secrecy of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund investments to ministerial pay that is amongst the world’s highest, were objected to by Lee’s lawyer on the grounds of irrelevance and upheld by the judge.

Lee Kuan Yew is credited with policies that have been critical to making Singapore one of the region’s most prosperous countries, but has been criticised by human rights groups for his use of lawsuits against political opponents and the media.

Singapore’s political landscape has been dominated by one party -- the People’s Action Party -- since its independence in 1965. Its past two prime ministers still retain loosely defined cabinet posts, namely “minister mentor” and “senior minister”.

The three-day hearing ends on Wednesday.

Reporting by Melanie Lee, editing by Neil Chatterjee