A court ruled yesterday that Martin Lee Chu-ming may not represent an opposition leader in a high-profile lawsuit as the case was not complex enough to merit the appearance of a Queen's Counsel. The decision represents a further setback for Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party, who faces a defamation lawsuit brought by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. Mr Chee had asked the court to allow Mr Lee, chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, to represent him in the case together with an Australian QC, William Henric Nicholas. '[But] Judicial Commissioner Tay Yong Kwang now decides that the case is not complex enough for me to engage QCs,' Mr Chee said after the decision was handed down yesterday afternoon. Mr Chee's first choice of counsel - Stuart Littlemore, an Australian QC and an outspoken critic of Singapore's judicial system - was rejected by the city-state's courts in January because of his previous comments. The case concerns remarks made by Mr Chee during last November's general election about a loan allegedly made by the Singapore Government to Indonesia's former president Suharto. It is the latest in a long line of legal actions brought by members of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) against opposition figures. PAP leaders have said that court action is the most effective way of safeguarding their reputations, but local and foreign critics argue that the strategy stifles free expression in the tightly run country. 'This matter of the loan . . . is a serious matter that must be examined in court,' Mr Chee said. 'With the present decision, it is clear that the courts have yet again frustrated my efforts to defend myself and get to the truth of the matter in the most effective manner.' Mr Chee said he had yet to decide whether to try to find another candidate to represent him.