Local activists have responded to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s warning to The Online Citizen (TOC), demanding that the website apologise and remove an article and Facebook post repeating allegations his sister Lee Wei Ling made during the explosive Lee family feud in 2017.
On Sunday (1 Sept), the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a letter to the editor of TOC which stated PM Lee’s request that TOC immediately remove the article and Facebook post and “publish within three days, ie by Sep 4, 2019, a full and unconditional apology, plus an undertaking not to publish any similar allegations, prominently on your website and on your Facebook timeline.”
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 does not comply.
The letter, which was written by PM Lee’s press secretary Ms Chang Li Lin on his behalf, contended that the TOC article and Facebook post repeated “several false allegations” made by Lee Wei Ling that are “completely without foundation.”
Calling the allegations “libellous,” the letter noted that PM Lee has chosen “thus far not to sue his siblings”and has told Parliament that “suing them would further besmirch his parents’ names, and was therefore not his preferred course of action.”
Noting that PM Lee made it clear that he would have “sued immediately” under any other circumstances, the letter warned that the PM’s “restraint in suing his siblings should not be misinterpreted by others as free licence to repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him.
“He has to rebut and deal publicly with such scurrilous attacks on his integrity and character, if necessary through legal action. This is especially as such attacks are also directed at his fitness to hold office as Prime Minister and to lead the Government.”
Activists responding to PM Lee’s warning to TOC have asked why the Prime Minister appears to have different standards for his family and other Singaporeans. Filmmaker Lynn Lee asserted that Mr Lee, as PM, “shouldn’t have one standard for his family and another for the rest of us.”
She also asked why the PMO issued the letter to TOC if PM Lee is acting in his personal capacity. Asserting that the PMO and its resources should not be involved in this matter, Ms Lee said that the “mixing of private and public” is “deeply disturbing”:
Another activist, Kirsten Han, echoed Ms Lee’s views and asked why the letter was written by a civil servant instead of PM Lee’s personal lawyers.
She asked: “Why is it the press secretary writing this letter? Since defamation is a civil case, shouldn’t it be Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyer(s) writing the letter? Why is a civil servant doing this?”
Activist Jolovan Wham called the matter a case of PM Lee “persecuting online critics” while Joshua Chiang, a former TOC editor, called the warning a “very disturbing development” since it essentially maintains that PM Lee’s account in the family feud was true since he was cleared in Parliament:
Howard Lee, a socio-political commentator who has also contributed to TOC, said that it is difficult for him to grasp PM Lee’s decision to send a warning to a third party for republishing comments made by someone else he may not sue: