A local man has failed in his attempt to sue Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for imposing “regulations” on his life that seems to hamper the plaintiff’s quality of life.
In the judgment on the case that was released on the Supreme Court’s website last Friday, it appears that the man, Mr Cheong Wei Chang, tried to sue PM Lee in his capacity as the head of Government for imposing “regulations of activities” on him that “concern my health and activities.”
In the legal application that he submitted to the courts in February this year, Mr Cheong claims that PM Lee and his departments “did not address my concerns on the regulations of activities when I asked for the regulations of activities to stop,” and that they “continued regulating my activities while withholding information” and “even during emergencies.”
Mr Cheong further submitted three volumes of documents labelled “Supporting Documents 1”, “Supporting Documents 2” and “Trial Document 1” with his Statement of Claim. These volumes contained pictures and captions that pointed to the problems he faces due to the “regulations” he believes the PM and his departments impose.
Revealing that the volumes pointed to a wide variety of topics such as failed job interviews, health issues and errors in finance textbooks, judicial commissioner Valerie Thean provided three examples of the issues Mr Cheong attributed to PM Lee, in the judgment.
In the three examples, it appears that Mr Cheong blames PM Lee for causing him to bleed when passing motion, for making him lose out on job interviews due to the “regulated setting” and for his failure to receive help from the Legal Aid Bureau:
“On page 88 of Trial Document 1, Mr Cheong displayed a picture of what appeared to be tissue paper or toilet paper covered in blood, with the caption: “Internal bleeding on and off when passing motion, happened many times over the span of 2016 and 2017. Suspect something is left in the body after consuming food products.” The caption continued to describe other matters related to defaecation.
“On page 83 of Supporting Document 1, Mr Cheong displayed an email exchange between himself and an employee of Citibank Singapore, arranging for an interview for the position of Treasury Service Manager. The caption read: “Interview at Citi for Treasury Services Management was a regulated setting. There were other job interviews during that period affected.” Although it was unclear, I inferred that he was not selected for the position, and he attributed this to the fact that the interview was “a regulated setting”.
“On page 72 of Trial Document 1, Mr Cheong displayed a letter from the Legal Aid Bureau informing him that he was not eligible for legal aid as his disposable capital was above the statutorily prescribed means testing limits. He captioned the picture “Regulations at legal aid bureau”. He claimed that the “Criteria’s do [sic] not make sense”.”
Noting that the Attorney-General (AG) should have been named in the suit instead of the Prime Minister since PM Lee was not being sued in his personal capacity, the AG applied for an application to strike out Mr Cheong’s claim on the basis that it was “frivolous, vexatious and disclosed no reasonable cause of action.”
Agreeing that the action disclosed no reasonable cause of action, judicial commissioner Thean struck Mr Cheong’s action out. In the recently released judgment, she explained:
“On 30 April 2018, I struck out the action for the reason that it disclosed no reasonable cause of action. In brief, Mr Cheong’s claim was that Mr Lee or the Prime Minister’s Office were imposing regulations on his activities. He appeared to be asking for a contract, or for the disclosure of a contract that regulated his activities.
“Mr Cheong did not, however, plead any facts which demonstrated that Mr Lee or any person from the Prime Minister’s Office had offered any terms to Mr Cheong, or had accepted any offers made by Mr Cheong. The factual premise of Mr Cheong’s contention on being regulated was similarly incoherent.
“First, Mr Cheong did not plead any facts which demonstrated the existence of any “regulations” that originated from Mr Lee or the Prime Minister’s Office. Second, there were no facts which demonstrated how the “regulations” caused or contributed to the host of problems he had identified in his supporting documents. The details provided in the supporting documents appeared to be a collation of conspiracy theories with no supporting facts.
“To use the allegation identified at [6(b)] above as an example, it was difficult to understand how and why Mr Lee or the staff in the Prime Minister’s Office or in fact any government body would have any role in Mr Cheong’s interview at Citibank.
“Even where public servants were involved, such as in [6(c)] above, it was clear that whatever requirements that were imposed upon him were of general application and to the extent that he was suggesting that he was somehow unfairly treated, that could not be sustained.
“There was simply no basis to suggest that the vicissitudes of life faced by Mr Cheong were caused by the Prime Minister or his department.”
Mr Cheong, however, was not to be deterred. On 9 May, Mr Cheong again named PM Lee as the defendant in a new lawsuit with a similar Statement of Claim and near identical supporting documents.
In the new suit, Mr Cheong said that he wants “to obtain the receipt, contractual payment/document(s) stating terms and remuneration with regards to the regulations of my activities,” and wants to end the “regulations of my activities coming from the Defendant and/or his department(s).”
Again, the AG sought to quash the new suit and further asked the High Court to exercise its inherent powers to stop Mr Cheong from filing further legal proceedings on the same subject matter without the leave of the High Court.
After considering “whether the court has the inherent power to make an order preventing a litigant from commencing future legal proceedings,” the judicial commissioner chose to exercise the court’s inherent powers in this case.
Ms Thean further said that there is no need to categorise Mr Cheong as a “habitual and persistent vexatious litigant as defined under the section or to list him in the Gazette as one” at this point in time and instead encouraged Mr Cheong to seek medical treatment:
“The court encourages him to seek the medical treatment that his supportive family has expressed desire to assist him with. If the source of his incoherence is addressed and he is able to delineate sustainable causes of action, he is at liberty to file such a suit. If, on the other hand, his behaviour escalates, it may yet prove timely for the AG to seek a stronger remedy.”