Vault door, window in spotlight in Singapore Gun Club defamation trial

Michael Vaz Lorrain (right), Singapore Gun Club president, leaving the Supreme Court on June 22, 2017. — Picture by Robin Choo/TODAY
Michael Vaz Lorrain (right), Singapore Gun Club president, leaving the Supreme Court on June 22, 2017. — Picture by Robin Choo/TODAY

SINGAPORE, June 23 — A dispute surrounding the installation of a vault door and an issuing window took centre stage on the third day of a defamation trial between Singapore Rifle Association (SRA) and Singapore Gun Club (SGC) president Michael Vaz Lorrain.

The trial, which opened on Tuesday, involves two allegedly defamatory letters that Vaz had written to SGC members on the closure of the National Shooting Centre (NSC).

He is also president of the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA), which oversees the national shooting fraternity.

The shooting centre, which is shared by the SRA and SGC, was ordered to shut down on February 6 last year, after the Police Licensing & Regulatory Department (PLRD) found “serious licensing irregularities” during an inspection of the armouries.

The police seized 77 weapons without proper records from the armouries then.

Last December, the SSA expelled the SRA from among its ranks, claiming that it no longer had the “best interests” of the fraternity at heart.

In Vaz’s letters, circulated on the SGC website and over email, he had apparently shifted the blame of the closure of the shooting centre on the SRA, for “deliberately (failing) or (refusing) to comply with the PLRD’s requirements to install a new vault door and an issuing window”.

However, Drew and Napier’s Wendell Wong, acting for the SRA, argued that it was the SSA and Vaz who had “deliberately prevented” them from complying with these requirements.

It turned out that the SSA had served the SRA an eviction notice on Sept 4, 2015, on the grounds that the former was upgrading the space to meet new security requirements.

On Sept 22, the SRA brought contractors and armed security officers to the shooting centre to install the new vault door.

But the SSA prevented them from doing so.

Referring to this incident yesterday, Wong said: “If you’re truly concerned about security concerns, why not put the bickering aside and let the SRA get on with the installation of the door?”

Earlier in the trial, SRA chairman Eng Fook Hoong claimed that Vaz harboured “bad blood” towards his association due to a past struggle for the SSA presidency.

Vaz said that the SSA then had plans to build a central armoury in the shooting centre, and store the guns separately from the ammunition for security. The SRA had not agreed with the plan at that point.

“They refused, so why should we let them install the door?” he said.

During yesterday’s session, Vaz was cross-examined on a number of issues, including whether the plan for the central armoury had been approved by the police, and whether he had brought in “higher authorities” to mediate between the SSA and the SRA.

He said he had turned to the police and told them the SRA had been evicted, and to “get them out”.

The trial continues today with Vaz taking the stand again. — TODAY