Singaporean gave generously to Workers’ Party (WP) politicians Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh when the three MPs appealed for financial assistance from the public, to help with mounting legal costs as they fight the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) trial that is progressing in court.
The MPs received such overwhelming support that they closed their appeal within three days. Yesterday, the trio paid $1 million from public donations to their lawyers, as promised.
While the WP crowdfunding appeal resulted in many interesting responses – such as the response of many Singaporeans who planned to give their SG Bonus, which they were supposed to receive from the Government by the end of the year, to the WP MPs even though they have use for it – the most notable response came from the Government.
The Government chose to be silent over the WP crowdfunding appeal. This is quite curious, especially since this same Government looked down upon WP founder, the late veteran opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam, who tried to funds for legal costs arising from a lawsuits launched by PAP leaders, nearly 20 years ago.
Nearly two decades ago, in 1999, Jeyaretnam sought assurance from the Ministry of Home Affairs that the public would not be barred from donating funds to the WP.
The WP faced being closed, similar to how an insolvent company is wound up, after Jeyaretnam had difficulty paying off the hefty legal costs he was slapped with, thanks to lawsuits launched by Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore’s second Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, among other ruling leaders.
Although the ministry said it would look into his request, minister of state for home affairs Ho Peng Kee referred to regulations that only issue licenses to collect donations from the public are issued to charitable causes or community projects, as he said in Parliament:
“The Workers’ Party’s intention to collect funds to pay damages incurred for defaming others can neither be considered a charitable cause nor a worthy community project. Public charity should not be exploited to underwrite criminal or civil penalties arising from one’s wrongdoing.”
Two years later, in 2001, Jeyaretnam was stripped of his NCMP seat and barred from contesting politics when he was declared bankrupt after failing to keep up with payments for damages owed to PAP leaders.
Jeyaretnam left the Workers’ Party later that year. He was discharged from bankruptcy in 2007, but died of heart failure a year later, in September 2008. Last month marked the late opposition figure’s tenth death anniversary.