The court has dismissed Li Shengwu’s application challenging an order that allowed the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to personally serve court papers on him out of jurisdiction, with costs.
This means that Shengwu – the grandson of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew – will have to pay for the costs incurred by the AGC to respond to his application. Shengwu’s lawyers, Abraham Vergis and Asiyah Arif from Providence Law Asia, told reporters yesterday:
“Earlier today, we attended the hearing of our application before Justice Kannan Ramesh. After considering written and oral submissions, Justice Ramesh dismissed the application with costs.
“While Shengwu respects the court’s decision, he is understandably disappointed with the outcome. Given that novel and important legal issues arose for determination, he is currently considering whether to appeal against the decision.”
This latest development paves the way for the AGC to commence contempt of court proceedings against Shengwu, who is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s nephew.
Shengwu attracted the attention of the AGC on 15 July after posting a private “friends-only” Facebook post, criticising Singapore’s government and judiciary.
Linking a Wall Street Journal article that offered a thorough analysis of the public Oxley Rd feud, Shengwu had said in his own words: “Keep in mind, of course that the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.”
He then linked a New York Times article on censorship and the use of defamation laws by both Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong to censor the foreign press.
Shengwu’s post followed the explosive Oxley Road dispute, in which his father Lee Hsien Yang and paternal aunt Dr Lee Wei Ling had been embroiled in a public feud against their elder brother, PM Lee Hsien Loong.
The PM’s younger siblings alleged that the PM was abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in June and July this year.
They also accused the PM of convened a secret committee to make a decision on the house and claimed that state organs were being used against them.
PM Lee addressed the allegations against him in a Parliamentary debate where he declared that he has been cleared of all charges. He added that he does not intend to sue his siblings.
Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang reinforced their allegations, following this, but offered a ceasefire on releasing further evidence in favor of settling the matter in private, on the condition that they nor their father’s will be attacked or misrepresented.
Dr Lee Wei Ling has come out in support of her nephew when Shengwu’s post caught the eye of the AGC. Sharing his post on her Facebook page, she wondered whether government staff are used to monitor her family’s private musings and suggested that this case could be an example of how Singapore may be governed by a “big brother” system:
“I am surprised that AGC takes such negative reaction to a private post. Is there a government servant whose duty is to follow the Facebook activity of all people related to Hsien Yang and I, including our private musings. Also, what Shengwu posted is a common topic amongst Singaporeans who are well informed. Is this not an example of ” big Brother government”. Perhaps it is a case of “if the hat fits, take it.”
Shortly thereafter, the AGC filed an application in the High Court for leave to commence committal proceedings against Shengwu for “contempt of court in connection with the publication of a Facebook post.”
The AGC subsequently served committal papers on Shengwu while he was in the US, out of jurisdiction. Shengwu challenged the court order that allowed the authority to do so and his lawyer revealed in December last year that court documents were in excess of a whopping 1,300 pages.
Social commentators had opined at the time that the AGC’s act of serving papers on Shengwu while he is in the US may contravene the Hague Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, of which the US is a signatory. They added that this may explain why the AGC needed to resort to “novel grounds” and a 1,300 page document to justify their actions.
Now that Shengwu’s application challenging the order has been thrown out, social commentators are expecting the lawsuit against him to proceed full-steam.
32-year-old Shengwu – who is a junior fellow at Harvard University in the USA and is expected to become a associate professor at the University next year – has asserted that he has no intention to disrupt his “happy” and “fulfilling” life in the US by returning to Singapore to face the legal proceedings initiated by the AGC.