SINGAPORE: Lee Hsien Yang took to social media on Thursday (Oct 5) afternoon suggesting an 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.

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On Sept 16 this year, Mr Lee was served legal papers by Cabinet Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan as part of a defamation lawsuit they have filed against him. Mr Lee wrote on Facebook on Sept 16: “Ministers Shanmugam and V Balakrishnan have just served papers for the alleged defamation on me. The Singapore courts gave permission for them to do so via facebook message.”

The ministers are suing Mr Lee over a Facebook post he made on July 23, which referenced their rentals of two state-owned bungalows. Both ministers initially 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.”

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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 then filed an application for substituted service to serve court papers on Mr Lee via Facebook Messenger.

In his post on Oct 5, Mr Lee wrote: “I suggested to Ministers K Shanmugam and V Balakrishnan that they should sue me in London courts, since the statement which they took offence to was made in the UK. London has long been a jurisdiction of choice for defamation suits. They have declined to do so, and have instead proceeded to take action in the Singapore Courts and have been given permission to serve papers via Facebook instead of in person”. /TISG