SINGAPORE: In a judgement released on Monday (Nov 27), Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan obtained court injunctions against Mr Lee Hsien Yang over his defamatory Ridout Road Facebook post.
Broadly, an injunction is a judicial order restraining a person from beginning or continuing an action threatening or invading the legal right of another or compelling a person to carry out a certain act. The court injunctions restrain Mr Lee from making defamatory allegations against two ministers over their rental of black-and-white bungalows at Ridout Road and were granted by the High Court. In a judgment dated Nov 2 but released on Nov 27, Justice Goh Yihan ordered for hearings to assess damages in both ministers’ cases to be fixed. He also granted injunctions restraining Mr Lee from “publishing or disseminating the false and defamatory allegations” that the ministers had acted “corruptly and for personal gain”. Justice Goh also ordered that Mr Lee pay both ministers costs, which will be fixed at the hearing in which damages are assessed.
Justice Goh explained that he entered judgment in favour of the two ministers based on the Rules of Court, which state that a claimant may apply for judgment to be given against a defendant if the defendant fails to file and serve his notice of intention within a stipulated period. A notice of intention refers to a notice to a court informing of a defendant’s intention to contest a claim or not. He said he would have found that the ministers had made out a cause of action in their defamation claims. Their claims remain unchallenged because Mr Lee had not filed a notice of intention. Because Mr Lee had not filed this notice, the judge added that he was unable to take into account any “countervailing material regarding the claims” and instead was confined to assessing whether the ministers had made out a cause of action.
Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan sued Mr Lee for defamation over a Facebook post on July 23. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau found in a report released in June that there had been no wrongdoing or preferential treatment given to the two ministers. Both Ministers had sent lawyers’ letters to Mr Lee in July, saying they would sue unless he apologised, withdrew his allegations and paid damages to be donated to charity.
Lee Hsien Yang took to social media on Oct 5, suggesting independent arbitration as a means of resolving the defamation suit between himself and Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan. Arbitration is a procedure in which a dispute is submitted, by agreement of the parties, to one or more arbitrators who make a binding decision on the dispute. In choosing arbitration, the parties opt for a private dispute resolution procedure instead of going to court. According to the Law Society of Singapore, an arbitral award made by an arbitrator is binding on the parties to the dispute. This means that the parties must comply with the decision of the arbitrator or arbitral tribunal. A party can choose to enforce an arbitral award against the other party by registering the award with the relevant court.
In his post, Mr Lee wrote: “I have since responded to suggest the following means of resolution: that we mutually agree to an independent arbitration where we each choose an arbitrator of high international standing. The Ministers’ nominee could be, if they wish, a retired Singapore Supreme Court judge”. He added that the two arbitrators, in turn, could choose a third individual. He explained that the proceedings would be conducted in confidence, but the decision would be made public, and it would be final and binding on all parties.