Prominent blogger and ex-President of human rights NGO Maruah, Mr Leong Sze Hian, is set to defend himself in the legal proceedings for defamation that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has commenced against him.
Mr Leong, who earlier rejected the notion that he deliberately set out to malign the PM with malicious intent, told TOC today that he has entered an appearance to the defamation suit. Revealing that he will be representing himself, he added: “I have the best counsel – the people of Singapore.”
Declining to comment further on the ongoing case due to “legal reasons,” Mr Leong said “Singaporeans will get their answers now” to questions like “why is Singapore the only Government in the world that – from a cashflow perspective – does not spend any money on pensions, public housing and healthcare,” since the “the inflows exceed the outflows annually in these areas?”
He reportedly added that the authorities have not given him “any substantive response” over the past two decades where he has tried to seek “transparency and accountability” by writing “a few thousand articles, newspaper forum letters, speeches and protests”.
PM Lee commenced legal proceedings against Mr Leong for defamation, after Mr Leong shared an article on his Facebook page that alleged that the head of government helped launder 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.
The article, entitled “Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target – Najib signed several unfair…”, originated from Malaysian website The Coverage, which has since been geo-blocked in Singapore by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
The article was originally published on the now-defunct States Times Review website on 5 Nov. The article stated that PM Lee had entered into “secret deals” with ex-Malaysian PM Najib Razak to launder 1MDB funds. Singapore’s High Commission in Malaysia has deemed the article “fake news and clearly libellous”.
The IMDA reportedly served a letter of demand to Mr Leong asking him to take down the Facebook post from his wall. Mr Leong reportedly complied and removed the post that had received about 18 shares, on 10 Nov.
Two days later, on 12 Nov, PM Lee’s lawyers at Drew & Napier sent Mr Leong another letter of demand and asked him to make a public apology and compensate the Prime Minister for damages.
In an earlier statement, Mr Leong said that he was “bewildered” by the legal proceedings that have been initiated against him. Speaking to This Week in Asia, he said:
“For legal reasons, I am unable to comment on my case. In my defence, I can say that this is a fight not between me and the prime minister, but between the people and him for freedom of expression, transparency and democracy. I am bewildered as to why he is suing me for defamation.”