Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will testify in court if his defamation suit against the chief editor of The Online Citizen (TOC) goes to trial, said PM Lee’s press secretary.
In a statement on Tuesday (September 10) night, Ms Chang Li Lin answered media queries on a suit filed by PM Lee against Chief Editor Terry Xu.
In her statement, Ms Chang noted that allegations in an August 15 article published by TOC are “completely false”.
She also told the media, “His siblings can decide, together with Mr Xu, whether they too will testify and repeat the allegations in court,” she said, referring to PM Lee’s siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling.
“The court can then establish the facts,” she added.
On Sunday (September 1), the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a letter to the editor of TOC, demanding that the website apologise and remove an article and a Facebook post repeating allegations PM Lee’s sister Lee Wei Ling made during the Lee family feud in 2017.
The letter put forth PM Lee’s request that TOC immediately removes the article and Facebook post by Wednesday (September 4) and publish a “full and unconditional apology” along with an undertaking that it would not publish similar allegations in the future.
The letter warned that “PM Lee will have no choice but to hand the matter over to his lawyers to sue to enforce his full rights in law” if TOC did not comply.
In his response, Xu refused to take down the article saying he is “of the opinion that the contents of the Article are not defamatory” and that he was “merely republishing” the words uttered by the PM’s siblings.
Xu wrote that he believes the contents of the article “constitute fair comment.”
PM Lee’s statement of claim finds fault with an article published on TOC, “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members”, stating that the article contained statements that are false and baseless and were calculated to disparage and impugn PM Lee and his office as the Prime Minister.
In her Sept 1 letter, Ms Chang noted that PM Lee had given a full explanation on matters related to 38 Oxley Road in Parliament in July 2017.
She also noted PM Lee had said then that so far he had chosen not to sue his siblings as it would further besmirch his parents’ names. But his decision did not mean he would never take legal action, should this become necessary.
She added that PM Lee’s restraint should not be “misinterpreted by others as free licence to repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him, as the article and post have done”.
PM Lee is claiming damages, an injunction to restrain Mr Xu from publishing or disseminating the allegations, and costs.
Mr Xu said in a Facebook post on Tuesday he had filed a memorandum of appearance with the High Court earlier in the day to indicate he will contest PM Lee’s suit.
He added that he will represent himself in court.
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Oct 15.
TISG has reached out to Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling for comment. /TISG