The People's Action Party (PAP) had always derided the SDP for putting up as candidates cab drivers and secretaries who could never run the country vis-a-vis scholar generals who supposedly can. Chee and other intellectuals moving into the party were clearly qualified professionals with more impressive credentials. They also had a strategy: to build up the opposition gradually and visibly so the electororate could see it happening and not to fear a change from decades of one-party dominance. This was perceived as a serious threat to the PAP.
Three months after the by-election, Dr Vasoo (Associate Professorial Fellow, July 2002- Present), who happened to be a member of parliament for the PAP (Tanjong Pagar 1991-2001), sacked him. The alleged offence was that Chee had used research funds assigned to him to express mail his wife's doctoral thesis to her academic adviser in the United States. Chee responded by saying the university had authorised the mailing and that his sacking was designed to make people think very carefully before saying "the wrong thing". Dr Vasoo promptly sued him. Chee's lawyers said he could not afford to lose a court case, and he agreed to pay "about pounds 100,000" in an out-of-court settlement. (The Independent, "Inside Story: Singapore grip" ).
Last week Dr Vasoo, now 71, through his lawyer Davinder Singh sent a letter of demand to two socio-political websites, alleging words were “published maliciously and recklessly” and constituted a grave libel. The letter said the allegation that Dr Vasoo had “fabricated evidence” to deprive opposition politician Chee Soon Juan of his living was “false and baseless”, since Dr Vasoo had successfully obtained a judgment against Dr Chee for making similar allegations in 1993.
It demanded that the websites remove the offending words and related comments, warning that legal proceedings will start against them if they did not comply. Dr Vasoo did not ask for any damages or costs, which was pretty magnanimous of him, considering Mr Singh's rates are like $1,800 per hour (directors/managing directors $900-$1,500/hr, associate directors/deputy directors $700-$800/hr, senior associates $500-$650/hr). But Mr Singh is also a nice man, known to provide pro bono services. The websites quickly apologised to Dr Vasoo.
Asked by reporters to comment about the matter at a forum, Dr Vasoo said he had nothing more to add, leading us to understand that he "did not raise a whimper", to borrow the terminology in the offending quote:
|Not a whimper|
It also leads us to wonder why Chee was not sued over the said book published by him. Like why Ross Worthington was not sued for documenting the slapping of S Dhanabalan in 1990 (page 150, "Governance in Singapore", Taylor & Francis, Inc, Dec 2002).