Singapore — One of the biggest stories to emerge in the country today, May 22, (Wednesday) is that of Lee Hsien Yang, the brother current PM Lee Hsien Loong and son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, putting up the S$20,000 for activist Jolovan Wham to use as a security deposit for his appeal against the High Court in his case for scandalising the judiciary.
Mr Wham announced this himself late on Tuesday night via Twitter, writing,
“My lawyers have informed me that they’ve put in 20k to the prosecutor’s account as security for costs. This is for my appeal against the high court decision which found me guilty of scandalising the judiciary. If I lose, I may not get the full deposit back. Justice is not cheap!
Fortunately, the Prime Minister’s brother, Lee Hsien Yang reached out to me and offered to put up the security for costs on my behalf. I’m grateful to him for his generosity.”
Mr Wham also took a dig at the recently-passed anti-fake news law in his tweets, “Also, in the recent debates on the online falsehoods law, our ministers assured us that appeals to the court against decisions that they make will not be costly. The amount I have to pay for security to appeal this conviction doesn’t inspire any confidence in their assurances.”
Lee Hsien Yang has been widely praised for his generosity toward Mr Wham, who is a social worker as well as an activist, and who in February of this year was already fined $3,200 for organising an illegal assembly and refusing to sign police statement.
On April 30 he was also slapped with a S$5,000 fine for contempt of court for having put up a Facebook post on April 27, 2018, commenting on the independence of Singapore’s judges compared to Malaysia’s. He also included a link to an article entitled “Malaysiakini mounts constitutional challenge against Anti-Fake News Act.”
It is for this case that he is making his appeal against the High Court.
However, this is by no means the first time that Lee Hsien Yang has put his own money towards the defence of an individual who has crossed swords with his own brother’s government.
Last December, the Prime Minister’s younger brother was the first donor to the defence fund of blogger Leong Sze Hian, a well-known Singaporean writer, and blogger, who is facing a lawsuit from the Prime Minister for sharing a reportedly defamatory article from The Coverage, a Malaysian news site, on November 8, 2018.
Mr Leong told TISG back then that “people have started to crowdfund for my Defence Fund. Lee Hsien Yang sent me a message that he has transferred – lo and behold he is the first one to do so into my account!”
Though the exact amount Lee Hsien Yang gave to Mr Leong was not disclosed, he did say that it was a “meaningful sum”.
Two days after Mr Leong shared the article from The Coverage, he said that he was told by Singapore’s IMDA (Infocomm Media Development Authority) to take down his post with the article within 6 hours, to which he complied. But on November 12, he received a Letter of Demand from Davinder Singh of Drew and Napier LLC, alleging that Mr Leong had defamed PM Lee and demanding a public apology as well as compensation for damages.
He wrote on his Facebook page, “the Letter of Demand also stated that I had posted TheCoverage.my article maliciously and to damage his client. I reject all these allegations categorically.”
He also said that a Writ of Summons and other court papers were posted on his front gate on December 4. Mr Leong included photos of his gate, as well as the documents, on his post, which ended with “I turned 65 on 23rd of November and belong to the so-called “Merdeka” generation. I have fought for fundamental human rights in Singapore for the better part of my adult life in the last 2 decades or so, and the freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental of these human rights.”
Aside from filing a defence, Mr Leong is also filing a counterclaim against PM Lee for “abusing the process of the court in bringing the claim against me.”/ TISG