Singapore — After having cross-examined Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Oct 6) in the defamation trial of writer and financial adviser Leong Sze Hian, the latter’s lawyer, Mr Lim Tean, took to Facebook on Friday (Oct 9) to ask the following question:
Why didn’t Mr Lee file lawsuits against The States Times Review (STR) or The Coverage, the publications responsible for the article that Mr Leong had shared?
This point seems to be a key element of Mr Leong’s defence and had been part of Mr Lim’s cross-examination of Mr Lee.
When asked about the matter, Mr Lee answered that lawsuits had not been served against STR and The Coverage since these publications are not in Singapore, and therefore are outside the country’s jurisdiction. Alex Tan, the Singaporean editor of STR, is based in Australia, while The Coverage is a Malaysian publication.
When Mr Lim argued that Mr Lee had gone after foreign publications in the past, including Bloomberg, the latter said Bloomberg has a presence in Singapore.
Mr Lim responded that Mr Lee had filed a lawsuit against a writer for The Online Citizen who is in Malaysia.
The trial ended abruptly when Mr Lim said on Wednesday that Mr Leong would not take the stand. The lawyer added that he was “very satisfied we have sufficient admissions to meet our case”.
The hearing has been adjourned to Nov 30, when both parties return to court for oral submissions.
Mr Lim has expressed satisfaction with how the trial has proceeded, saying in a Facebook post on Oct 7 that he is “very very happy with the way the evidence has emerged over the last two days”.
Mr Lim wrote in his latest Facebook post that he had “produced evidence” to Mr Lee during the cross-examination that the latter had sued Malaysian national Rubaashini Shunmuganathan, who was accused of writing a defamatory article about him last year.
“He obtained judgment in default against her when she did not enter appearance to the proceedings he commenced against her (expressed no intention to defend the claim),” wrote Mr Lim. He added that Mr Lee’s lawyers had been given leave by the Singapore Court to serve the Writ of Summons in Malaysia, though it was outside Singapore’s jurisdiction.
“If Lee Hsien Loong could have sued a foreigner in that case, why couldn’t he have sued The Coverage (a Malaysian website ) or The States Times Review, which is based in Australia ?????
“Lee Hsien Loong did not even ask his Lawyers to send these 2 media outlets a letter of claim! The States Times Review was the originator of the alleged defamation and The Coverage substantially republished The States Times Review article.”
Mr Leong is being sued over a public Facebook post he had shared on his page on Nov 7, 2018, containing a link to an article by The Coverage. The article alleged that former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak signed “secret deals” with Mr Lee in exchange for assistance from Singapore banks in laundering money from 1MDB, the embattled sovereign wealth fund.
Two days after Mr Leong shared the article, he said that he was told by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to take down his post with the article within 6 hours, to which he complied. However, on Nov 12, he received a Letter of Demand from Mr Davinder Singh of Drew and Napier LLC alleging that he had defamed Mr Lee and demanding a public apology as well as compensation for damages.
Mr Lim is the leader of the opposition Peoples Voice party. He stood with Mr Leong and two other candidates in Jalan Besar GRC in this year’s General Election. /TISG