“Patriots” in Court

Local news about their local boy, a US citizen but really a “Singapore patriot at heart”. So he is a Singapore patriot who decided to take up US citizenship. I am all for divided loyalties and love-hate relationships as that is a fact of life, but Gopalan’s insistence that he is a patriot just didn’t sound sincere.

He after all got a US citizenship and did not merely get an employment visa to work and stay in the US. A citizenship and all its traditional implications of oath of loyalty to the state. Gopalan’s “patriot” explanation was more like groveling in front of a judiciary which has an almost perfect track record of letting the PAP win in court cases involving critics of the government. Survival. Self-preservation. Anything to save his skin from a fine and jail sentence. But compare the “I am Patriot” rhetoric with a local US news version of Gopalan’s bravado and arrest as that of persecution of a US citizen (not a Singapore patriot).

Gopalan has bitten more than he can chew and the US Embassy has not swooped down to save him from certain incarceration (merely a matter of how long). His “I am Patriot” quote probably didn’t sit well with the Embassy. Why should they devote time to a citizen who says that he is a Singaporean patriot even if it is insincere? Gopalan’s lawyer Chia Ti Lik also cannot devote 100% to defending the former WP candidate as he has his own problems because the PAP is swarming down on its perceived adversaries.

What kind of sentence would the courts pass to show that US citizens, especially those who are former Singaporeans, are not immune from prosecution if they come all the way here to play chicken with the PAP? The PAP could have let him off and allowed him to rant in peace, a smarter political decision as they are now making a martyr out of Gopalan who is a nobody until this incident emerged. But the PAP could not curb their knee-jerk reaction to silence almost anybody and everybody and ironically making them somebodies and even charlatan “patriots” in the process.

Everyone is watching to see how the resolve of the PAP is tested. What would Gopalan’s sentence be?

Fremont blogger in legal limbo till case next month

FREMONT — A local TV news van pulled up this week outside the building where Gopalan Nair runs his immigration law firm, and a cameraman came out to videotape the entrance.

The static image of a sign out front listing business names might seem an oblique way to illustrate the story of a detained U.S. citizen. But it does underscore the absence of the man himself, stuck in legal limbo as a libel case looms against him next month in Singapore.

“No charge has been formally tendered in court, and to date no plea has been taken from me,” said Nair, whose passport was confiscated in the island nation after he criticized the government online. “The police are constantly requiring me to attend interrogation sessions.”

The Fremont lawyer traveled to his native Singapore last month to observe the defamation trial of some opposition political leaders. While there, he criticized the judge on his blog for “prostituting herself” for the government.

Nair was arrested and held in solitary confinement for days. His passport was confiscated, and he awaits a court appearance July 14. He also is accused of calling another judge “corrupt” two years ago in another e-mail.

He said the case against him could lead to fines of about $7,000 and up to two years in jail for his blog comments, which are garnering sympathy in the free-spirited blogosphere.

Margaret John, an Amnesty International coordinator who has monitored human rights in

Singapore, said the government has a history of going after dissidents by using defamation suits and driving opponents into bankruptcy for speaking out.

With print journalists wary of making waves in a nation that denies free speech, she said Nair’s arrest is the latest example of a government that has turned to targeting Web reporters.

“Dissidents are increasingly turning to Internet newsletters as an alternative to news they see in the government-controlled media,” John said. “So the Internet is now seen as a threat to the government.”

On his blog, Nair described the situation by comparing Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe, who recently thwarted an election that favored an opponent, with Singapore’s ruling family patriarch, Lee Kuan Yew.

“Mugabe uses guns to stay in power,” Nair said. “Lee uses the courts.”

Although the U.S. Embassy has been supportive, Nair said representatives “naturally said that they cannot directly intervene in this matter since it is a matter of Singaporean laws and domestic affairs.”

When the charges do officially move forward, he said, “Of course I intend to plead not guilty.”


2 responses

  1. Pingback: The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 30 Jun 2008

  2. qwerty

    He took up US citizenship not because he was angry with Singapore but because he was unhappy with the PAP. If he was unhappy with Singapore, why would he come back?

    I think he was smarter than Chee Soon Juan. By taking up US citizenship, he tried to level the playing field. After all the cards are stacked against you if you are a Singaporean and want to fight the PAP. They can seize your assets and declare you a bankrupt (like they did to Tang Liang Hong).Or they can use the ISD against you(like they did to former Law Society President and Harvard academic Francis Seow).

    Obviously, they can’t do these things to you if you are not a Singaporean on paper and have assets overseas.

    The whole system is just biased against dissenters. Lee Kuan Yew can bully his way through our ‘unbiased’ courts but the moment he step outside the borders he can’t do anything to you.

    For example, his defamation case against (former president)Devan Nair in a Canadian court was thrown out in 2002. Lee also unsuccessfully tried to stop a counter-suit by Devan Nair .

    That is why Gopalan Nair changed his citizenship, Not to reject his country but to reject the status quo and not give Lee any advantage over him.

    July 1, 2008 at 12:26 am

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