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Resolution adopted by consensus by the Governing Council
at its 177th session (Geneva, 19th October 2005)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Having before it the case of Mr. Joshua Jeyaretnam, a former opposition member of the Parliament of Singapore, which has been the subject of a study and report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in accordance with the "Procedure for the examination and treatment, by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of communications concerning violations of human rights of parliamentarians",

Taking note of the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/177/11(a)-R.1), which contains a detailed outline of the case,

Referring also to the resolution it adopted on this case at its 170th session (March 2002),

Taking account of a letter, dated 27 September 2005, from the Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore,

Recalling that Mr. Jeyaretnam, having become in 1981 the first opposition candidate in Singapore to be elected to parliament since the country attained independence in 1965, faced a series of defamation charges brought against him in 1995 and 1997 by, among others, the then Prime Minister and the then Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs; Mr. Jeyaretnam was declared a bankrupt in January 2001, and lost his parliamentary seat and was barred from practising as a lawyer; recalling also that the concerns it expressed in its previous resolution on this case relate in particular to the sequence and timing of the defamation and bankruptcy proceedings brought against Mr. Jeyaretnam, which, in its view, suggested a clear intention to target him for the purpose of making him a bankrupt and thereby removing him from Parliament; and the fact that, although Mr. Jeyaretnam is jointly liable with other defendants in the cases in question and that at least one of them was more likely to be able to pay the sum owed to the creditors, the latter have never made any attempt to recover the moneys from them,

Considering the following new information on file:

  • In March 2004 Mr. Jeyaretnam filed an application for discharge from bankruptcy. The creditors, including Mr. Goh Chok Tong, now Senior Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Professor Jayakumar, now Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Law, opposed the discharge. In April 2004 the High Court refused Mr. Jeyaretnam a discharge from bankruptcy, and this ruling was upheld by the Appeal Court in November 2004;

  • The Appeal Court rejected the discharge on the grounds that the administration of Mr. Jeyaretnam's estate had not been completed, and that Mr. Jeyaretnam had not been cooperative and had concealed assets, which he denies, for which reason it was not even possible to grant him a conditional discharge. The main issue raised by Mr. Jeyaretnam, namely that the creditors' real reason for opposing his discharge was to prevent him from taking part in the next parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for 2007, a purpose which would amount to abuse of the court's process, was found by the courts to be an irrelevant, extraneous factor in this case;

  • Mr. Jeyaretnam subsequently lodged a new application for discharge from bankruptcy, as some previously outstanding matters, which the court had considered were blocking it from granting discharge, had in the interim been treated. He offered to pay the creditors 40 per cent of the debts due to them, instead of the one third that he had offered in his first application. The creditors refused the offer, without providing any reasons. On 23 June 2005, the court dismissed his application, and Mr. Jeyaretnam filed an appeal, the consideration of which was stayed until payment of legal costs that had arisen out of the first discharge from bankruptcy proceedings, a sum that Mr. Jeyaretnam considered exorbitant;

  • After payment of the creditors' costs, the Court of Appeal rejected Mr. Jeyaretnam's second appeal for discharge from bankruptcy on 1 September 2005; according to Mr. Jeyaretnam, had his offer been accepted, Mr. Jayakumar would have recovered 93.33 per cent of the debt and Mr. Goh Chok Tong 83.5 per cent,
Noting that the Bankruptcy Act gives the court broad discretion as to the granting of discharge, including on conditions with respect to any property devolving to the bankrupt or acquired by him after his discharge (subsections 3 and 4 of the Bankruptcy Act, cited in the judgement of the Court of Appeal),

Noting that the Speaker of Parliament has stated that it was clearly erroneous to suggest that the rejection of Mr. Jeyaretnam's discharge from bankruptcy could be justified on other than legal grounds, and has rejected the view that any political considerations were involved,

  1. Thanks the Speaker for his letter and consistent cooperation in this case;

  2. Deeply regrets that Mr. Jeyaretnam, who is now 75 years old, was not granted a discharge, despite his offer to pay 40 per cent of the damages still due and the possibility for the Court to grant conditional discharge, so that he remains debarred from practising as a lawyer and may be debarred from standing in the next elections;

  3. Cannot share the Speaker's view that this case involves purely private interests without any political connotation, when important government authorities, among them the former Prime Minister, at present Senior Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Law, are judgement creditors and have driven a staunch opponent, Mr. Jeyaretnam, into bankruptcy;

  4. Acknowledges that Mr. Jeyaretnam is jointly liable with other defendants for paying the damages; nevertheless can but consider that, had the purpose of the creditors been to recover the damages awarded to them, they would not have driven Mr. Jeyaretnam into bankruptcy and would have attempted to recover the sum from the other defendants as well; strongly believes therefore that their actions were based on other than legal considerations;

  5. Deeply regrets having to conclude, as it did in 2002, that the state of affairs in the bankruptcy proceedings clearly suggests that Mr. Jeyaretnam was targeted for the purpose of making and keeping him bankrupt, thereby debarring him from politics;

  6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the authorities and to the source.

* The delegation of Singapore took the floor to express its reservation regarding the Resolution, and to state its position regarding the cost review hearings in this case, and its general position on the case as outlined in the present Resolution and the one adopted at the 170th session of the Governing Council.


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