SINGAPORE: Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest son, Lee Hsien Yang, has questioned why two Cabinet ministers are suing him for defamation in Singapore courts instead of taking the action to the UK where he presently lives and where the alleged defamatory post was published.
Mr Lee’s post comes a day after it came to light that Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan are going ahead with a defamation lawsuit against Mr Lee over a Facebook post he made which referenced their rentals of two state-owned bungalows.
Both ministers then sent legal letters to Mr Lee promising to sue him unless he apologised, retracted his allegations and paid damages. Mr Shanmugam said:
“Lee Hsien Yang has accused us of acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road. These allegations are false.”
The Government also issued a correction direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to Mr Lee, asserting that his post contained untrue statements.
Mr Lee complied and posted the correction notice but published a new post two days later, saying he stood by what he wrote. Asserting that he was simply stating facts, he invited the ministers to sue him in the UK if they were sure of their case since the post was made within the UK.
The cabinet ministers’ legal teams have now filed an application for substituted service to serve court papers on Mr Lee via Facebook Messenger.
Substituted service is a legal term used to describe alternative methods of delivering court papers when conventional in-person service attempts have proven unsuccessful. These alternatives include posting documents on the defendant’s premises, sending them via registered post or email, or even placing an advertisement in newspapers.
In 2016, the High Court ruled that court papers could be served through various online platforms, including Facebook, Skype, or internet message boards, particularly when defendants cannot be reached in person.
Court documents reveal that lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers, acting on behalf of the two ministers, have applied for substituted service as it is impractical to personally serve papers to Mr Lee in the UK. The lawyers assert that “substituted service by Facebook messenger will probably be effective in bringing the court papers to the notice of the defendant.”
In this case, the ministers seek a court order to consider the papers officially served by sending Portable Document Format (PDF) documents through Facebook Messenger to Mr Lee’s Facebook page.
Mr Lee, meanwhile, has questioned again why the action is being filed in Singapore instead of the country where the post was made.
He said: “I invited ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan to sue me in the UK, where I made the statement that upset them. Instead, they have chosen to commence legal action in Singapore.”
He added, “It is for the public to judge their reasons.”