Singapore — In court on Friday (Oct 30), lawyer M Ravi argued that The Online Citizen (TOC) contributor Daniel De Costa was acting in good faith when he made allegedly defamatory statements.

Mr Ravi added that his client had simply intended to repeat what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s siblings — Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling — had alleged in a joint statement in 2017. He argued that, under the law, those who express opinions about the public conduct of public servants in good faith are not guilty of defamation.

Daniel De Costa and TOC editor Terry Xu were both charged with criminal defamation in 2018 for allegedly defaming members of the Singapore Cabinet in a letter published on the TOC website.

“In our public statement on 14 June 2017, we wrote that Lee Hsien Loong opposed our father Lee Kuan Yew’s demolition wish, that Lee Hsien Loong misused his power as prime minister, and that he hijacked the organs of state to pursue his personal goals,” Mr Ravi quoted PM Lee’s siblings as having said, according to a report on Friday (Oct 30).

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The letter which De Costa wrote and Xu published alleged: “The present PAP leadership severely lacks innovation, vision and the drive to take us into the next lap.”

It added: “We have seen multiple policy and foreign screw-ups, tampering of the Constitution, corruption at the highest echelons and apparent lack of respect from foreign powers ever since the demise of founding father Lee Kuan Yew.”

Mr Ravi added that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee were not sued by PM Lee, nor were they investigated for criminal defamation.

Mr Ravi put forth these arguments in the course of making an application to have the prosecution disclose De Costa’s long statement made to the Criminal Investigation Department during the police investigation in 2018.

He said he needed the long statement as it was “not clear what case the prosecution is running without these documents”.

On Friday, Xu’s lawyer, Mr Remy Choo of Peter Low and Choo law firm, made a similar application to have Xu’s recorded statement disclosed.

Mr Choo argued that the statement is relevant to the question of Xu’s intentions in publishing the letter and whether he deliberately published it knowing it would harm the reputation of Cabinet members.

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He added that there was no reference to members of the Cabinet in the claim that there was “corruption at the highest echelons”, adding that an ordinary, reasonable reader of the article would not conclude that it refers to Cabinet members.

The applications were dismissed by the court.

The parties will return to the State Courts for a pre-trial conference on Nov 19 before the resumption of the trial. /TISG

TOC’s chief editor and one of its writers on trial for alleging corruption in Cabinet