Mr Shanmugam clarifies his past directorships in companies controlled by Sinar Mas Group. And a private conversation with Remy Choo, public by Kirsten Han who read sinister motive to the conversation where there was none.

Singapore’s Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam clarifies his past directorships in companies controlled by Sinar Mas Group. – CNA.
News link-  Shanmugam clarifies his past directorships in companies controlled by Sinar Mas Group

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   K Shanmugam Sc

1. The media has asked me questions on my past directorships in Asia Food & Properties Ltd (“AFP”) and Golden Agri-Resources Ltd (“GAR”) (controlled by the Sinar Mas Group, “SMG”).These questions have been raised because one senior Indonesian official had said last week, that SMG, (which has some companies in Singapore), was among those who were burning in Indonesia, and causing the haze.

2. There are two aspects to consider:-

(1) are companies in Singapore involved in the burning in Indonesia?; and

(2) the facts relating to my past directorships in AFP and GAR.

I. Are companies in Singapore involved in the burning?

3. Senior Indonesian officials have issued contradictory statements on this point. One senior official said last week that Singapore linked companies were involved in the burning. But two other senior Indonesian officials have contradicted him and said that there was no basis for saying this. Indonesia has acknowledged that its officials have been contradicting each other on this point, and that what is needed is a proper investigation. SMG, as well as other companies, have also denied the allegations. SMG has invited observers to visit its plantations to see for themselves the situation on the ground.

4. Singapore has formally asked Indonesia, through a Diplomatic Note, for evidence of any Singapore linked company involvement in the burning. If and when such evidence is received, it will be handed over to the Attorney General to consider what action can be taken.

II. My past directorships in AFP and GAR

5. In June 1996, the SGX asked me and two others (Mr Wong Kok Siew and Mr Ho Tian Yee) to become independent directors, of a listed company called Amcol, because Amcol was in serious trouble. Most of Amcol’s then directors were told to step down. Amcol had over 11,000 shareholders, many of them Singaporeans who had invested using their CPF. The three of us were asked to go in and see how the investing public shareholders of Amcol could be helped. Price Waterhouse valued each Amcol share at 1 cent and Amcol went into Judicial Management (“JM”).

6. We handled the affairs of Amcol, together with the JMs. A white knight, SMG, was eventually found for Amcol. SMG took over Amcol in 1997, using AFP.

7. AFP was then listed, and I became a director of AFP. Based on the listing price, the original Amcol shareholders who had kept their shares got a substantial benefit – as opposed to Amcol going bankrupt and being wound up. I did not charge or receive any fees for this work – the work was done to help the public, who were Amcol shareholders.

8. GAR was listed in 1999 as a subsidiary of AFP and I was appointed a director of GAR.

9. When AFP was listed in 1997, I wanted to step down, as the work SGX had asked me to do, (to help Amcol shareholders), was completed. However, SMG asked me to stay on for a period, to give confidence to shareholders, given that the company had gone through difficult times. I agreed to SMG’s request.

10. In 2001, I stepped down from both the AFP and GAR Boards, as the transition was over and SMG had found new directors.

11. Throughout this period, I did not own any shares in Amcol, AFP or GAR. I did my duty on behalf of shareholders as requested by SGX. And I have never owned any shares in any of these companies. As director of AFP and GAR, I received director’s fees, similar to other directors.

12. I have also been asked about APP Ltd. APP was listed in the NYSE. I had no dealings whatsoever with APP.

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   K Shanmugam Sc

I have been asked about Ms Kirsten Han’s post at spuddings.net. Unfortunately the picture Ms Han has painted is quite untrue. To give her the benefit of doubt, she was not part of the conversation and may not therefore have had the full picture.

I spoke with Remy Choo whom I know and whom I have engaged with. I discuss issues with Remy – I have met him in my office, have met him for dinner, and have had phone conversations with him on various topics. Yesterday, I spoke with Remy about an article that had appeared, and told him the facts. He told me that he himself had thought that the article was actionable and contained a lot of unverifiable allegations. I agreed and told him that the article was libellious – both of us as lawyers agreed on that point.

We then went on to discuss a possible meeting between some of his friends and myself. This was part of my exercise to reach out to people and discuss issues. Remy said he will try and arrange such a meeting.

Remy sent me an email today which pretty much confirms his views that the article is libellious, and saying that he would like to be an “honest and forthright dialogue partner” even if we disagree on issues where we disagree strongly.

My conversation with Remy was like all our usual conversations, where we shared views frankly with each other. I am surprised to see that conversation appearing in print, twisted to give quite an untrue picture.

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   Remy Choo Zheng Xi   ( Remy Choo is the co-founder and consultant editor of The Online Citizen. )

Yesterday evening I received a call from Law Minister Mr K Shanmugam regarding an article written by Eric Ellis for The Global Mail, entitled “Out of the Haze, a Singapore Spring?”

The call came rather late at night, but I guess lawyers (and Law Ministers) are rather nocturnal. Minister shared his views about the article, noting that he thought it was libellous. Minister also noted that it had been re-published. I agreed that there were many unverifiable facts in the article and that it appeared to me that the article was libellous. 

As the conversation concerned an article that was being re-published by my friends, I informed them of this conversation and the views of Minister. I had earlier in the day informed them of my opinion that the article was libellous under Singapore’s laws on defamation (and that as much as I disagreed with the scope of defamation laws, this was the law as I understood it).

I want to clarify that all my communications with Minister have been cordial, open and frank and that my phone call with him relating to the Ellis article felt anything but sinister to me. 

I thank Kirsten for the concern she expressed towards me in her article “Midnight phone calls”.

*Latest update *

Many people have been attacking Kirsten Han for her assertion in her article “Midnight Phone Calls” that I was told to “convey” a message by Law Minister to persons who were re-publishing the article written by Eric Ellis for The Global Mail, saying that he was aware about it being shared widely online and that he would not hesitate to sue those republishing it.

This misapprehension is no fault of hers: this is what I told her after my phone call with Minister Shanmugam. It was incorrect and unfair of me to indicate that the Minister wanted to “convey” a message that he “will not hesitate to sue”, and for her to be blamed for the mischaracterization.

The fault for the mischaracterization lies completely with my misunderstanding of the purpose of the phone call from Minister. As I said in my earlier post, the purpose of the phone call was a personal communication about a public matter. I apologize to both the Minister and Kirsten for the miscommunication, which was solely occasioned by me.

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“Midnight phone calls”  – by Kirsten Han

Yesterday I heard from a friend that he had received a phone call – at midnight – from our Law Minister K Shanmugam. It was regarding an article written by Eric Ellis for The Global Mail, entitled ‘Out of the Haze, a Singapore Spring?’

The Minister said he was aware that the article was being re-posted widely online, and wanted my friend to convey that he would not hesitate to sue those republishing it.

This was most troubling to hear. Firstly, it must have been a surprising and worrying phone call for my friend to receive so late at night. Personally, I find it rather bizarre behaviour.

Secondly, why did the Law Minister feel it necessary to call someone up in the middle of the night to get him to ‘convey’ a message? And to whom, exactly, did he want the message conveyed?

Last, but not least: apart from the original on The Global Mail I don’t know how many times the article has been reproduced in full. I have, however, seen it shared widely on Facebook and Twitter as people are sharing the link. Are these the people the Minister will not hesitate to sue?

People share links on social networks for a variety of reasons. (In fact, those who have frictionless sharing turned on might be sharing links without even realising it.) It doesn’t necessarily mean that they endorse the article.

Should we now be afraid of sharing things on Facebook?

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Comments  :

(refer to an article written by Eric Ellis for The Global Mail, entitled “Out of the Haze, a Singapore Spring?” )
It is outright and unsubstantiated claims that will be the downfall of our government if they do not take it seriously and prevent it from happening. The sheer amount of “shares” of those who believe it to be true goes to show how blinded people are to actual current affairs, or even by certain opposition elements.

The author himself probably doesn’t even know his facts, and most of these about corrupt Burmese or Indonesians, can be found on a few dubious websites owned by dissidents who’ve made unsubstantiated claims.

It has also been said that the Singapore government cannot control what a listed company does in another country. That would be conflating politics with business interests; it is up to the affected sovereign country to take action. Claiming that our politicians are corrupt and have intimate dealings with these polluters is merely conspiracy theory: where’s the proof?

Is the inaction of Indonesia’s government our fault?

Furthermore, what you put on your CV is a personal and professional preference – who are you to lay the ground rules for what others want or do not want to put on their CV?

I wonder where the writer got his sources from. The dubious opposition politicians like Chee Soon Juan who have been sued for their slander and libellous statements and claims against the government, or did he get it from the political dissidents who have fled the country because they were afraid to be sued for their unsubstantiated claims, such as Gopalan Nair?

I’ve seen the stuff Chee has put on Youtube, and what Gopalan has written, and these are fictitious claims that have been twisted, shredded, and rehashed to a semblance of “truth” – if you could call these truths. So much spin has been put by these outspoken opposition politicians, that those who actually follow current affairs as they occur know they’re false claims. Only the ardent supporters of these dubious political figures buy into their rhetoric wholesale without searching out data that’s contrary to their claims – which are available publicly.

In a way, if Singapore’s mainstream media dares to publish articles with bold claims by anyone, and even the government, you can be sure that they’re not afraid of a challenge to the contrary. Hey, it’s public information, and you are welcome to challenge it rather than hide on the interwebs and spam your conspiracy theories with anonymity. But at the end of the day the challenge is for you to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what’s published and easily verifiable in the mainstream media is false, and your claims are true.

Alas, we are a generation of people who prefer to queue and fight over cheap Hello Kitties from McDonald’s, and the latest mobile gaming crazes.

The impetus then for the Average Joe who routinely opposes the government is to stop, read and think about the claims made by both sides, and look for sources available to give you a better understanding of the situation, instead of perpetuating the ridiculous and slanderous claims of the real “Demoncratic” parties.

Well it seems from Choo Zheng xi ‘s clarification that it was indeed Kirsten Han who overrated and read a sinister motive to the conversation where there was none.

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Its no surprise that Remy choose to feed this info to Kirsten Han.

Kirsten has many of the similar hangups that Remy saw in a much older Andrew Loh. Both Kirsten and Andrew are desperate to carve a career as investigative journalists in Singapore. Andrew went from TOC to Public House and now concentrates on Yahoo News.

Kirsten also had her start in TOC, and now dabbles in The Huffingtonpost and The Diplomat. With Kirsten, Remy knows he has a willing fetcher of any bone he throws. He probably tried to get Andrew to start the rumour mill going, but I guess Andrew’s expletive-laced outburst at President Tony Tan meant he needs to go into hiding for a little while.

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From what both Shanmugam and Remy have said here, all that happened last night was a conversation between two professionals sharing their views on a matter of law (as lawyers tend to do, I think), and that it wasn’t the first time Remy has met or discussed things with the minister.

And it seems that despite the article being libelous, Shanmugam was looking to “reach out and discuss” it with those who were sharing it. So the real question here is what exactly Kirsten was trying to do by making their conversation public.

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Libel is Libel..

if anyone publishes an untruth…then they must be prepared to face the consequences of their actions. Otherwise every tom dick and harry would publish lies more lies and even further lies.

“netcitzens” if they post lies or as is the proper description “Publish” then just like any other publisher must be responsible for what they print.

Why should any victim of libel be denied their good name.

One or more commentators above appear to hold a view [ that in their view ] some office holders are not entitled to protect themselves...why?

The Minister is entitled to his name! And, if anyone publishes a libel…to protect himself from scurrilous attacks!

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