Roy found out very quickly that there is a price to pay for saying what he wants. The High Courts of Singapore asked the defendant, Roy Ngerng, to pay S$29,000 in legal costs to Mr. Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyers, Davinder Singh of Drew and Napier after being found by way of summary judgement hearings (that is without going to a full trial) that he had defamed Mr Lee in his blog The Heart Truths. This is merely the first stage. There is still the assessment of damages stage where PM Lee and Roy Ngerng will testify as to how much damages should be awarded for the defamation.
This is not the first time a ruling party politician has used the defamatory laws to mute the vocal critics in Singapore.
The late J.B Jeyaretnam had to pay S$200k is damages to the former Prime Ministers Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr. Goh Chok Tong.
Vincent Wijeysingha paid S$5k in damages to manpower minister Tan Chuan Jin. Chee Soon Juan paid damages to our former prime ministers Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong.
Roy Ngerng’s case is the most recent attempt to silence the critics by using the defamatory laws. But some political watchers say, that this is not as effective as before.
In late May last year, Ngerng crowd sourced S$100k from the Internet to cover his legal costs and expenses in less than a week – a grassroots movement that didn’t go unnoticed by anyone. It is an indication; some say that the “people of Singapore will not be mere bystanders when their fellow citizen gets bullied.”
So what was Roy Ngerng sued for?
Ngerng made several allegations that Prime Minister Lee had misappropriated funds from CPF, citing that as the reason as to why the government is not transparent with our national reserves (savings).
Sudir Vadaketh, a leading commentator and economist has debunked Ngerng in his blog post. He wrote, “what he (Ngerng) insinuated about Singapore’s prime minister was clearly wrong.” Vadaketh also went on to say there is a “deep-seated informational, data and communication asymmetry that underpin this country’s drastically unequal social power structure.”
In another article, I wrote “The lack of transparency does not necessarily mean that our CPF system is vulnerable, corrupt or that the funds are misappropriated by high level government officials. The notion of a corrupt CPF system is a little far-fetched as it would involve many government officials to be complicit of a crime over three to four generations.”
Reporters without borders wrote, “Press freedom organization says PM’s libel suit is designed to silence whistle-blower and warn off others.”
The suing of Roy Ngerng has a chilling effect. It is apparent when you see less of Alex Au’s post these days.
Freedom of information is the foundation of any democracy. It is sorely lacking in Singapore.