In court documents, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyers state that the article published by The Online Citizen (TOC) on Aug 15 has “gravely injured” his character and reputation.
PM Lee is suing TOC’s chief editor Terry Xu for defamation. His lawyers say that the article and Facebook post by TOC contained “false and baseless” allegations, including that the PM had misled his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, into thinking the Government had gazetted their Oxley Road home.
Lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers served Mr Xu, 37, the writ of summons and statement of claim at his home in Choa Chu Kang on Thursday (Sept 5).
According to a Straits Times report quoting court documents seen by paper, the charges are PM Lee has suffered loss and damage, and has been “brought into public scandal, odium and contempt”.
The TOC article titled “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members”.
It referred to a Facebook post made by PM Lee’s sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, in which she set out a purported sequence of events related to the 38 Oxley Road property.
On Sunday (September 1), the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a letter to the editor of TOC, demanding an apology from the portal and the removal of an article and a Facebook post repeating allegations made by PM Lee’s sister Lee Wei Ling 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 a letter, Xu refused to take down the article saying that 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 he believes the contents of the article “constitute fair comment.”
The lawyers said that TOC’s baseless allegations were “calculated to disparage and impugn” PM Lee, and his office as the Prime Minister.
They also noted that TOC’s Facebook post had attracted hundreds of reactions and comments and was extensively shared.
According to the Straits Times report, PM Lee’s lawyers said they will rely on the following facts to recover aggravated damages.
First, the nature and gravity of the libel.
Second, the mode, extent and timing of the publication of the libel.
Third, malice on the part of Mr Xu, as he had published Ms Chang’s letter on his website and made the article accessible again.
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 Friday that he will not be responding to media queries on his case.
He has eight days to file a notice in court that he will defend himself against the suit.
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Oct 15. /TISG