Singapore — On the third day of the defamation suit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against Mr Terry Xu, editor of The Online Citizen, a lawyer for PM Lee said Mr Xu had been “disingenuous” in the wording of the article at the heart of the suit.
The suit was filed last year after an article with the headline “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching, weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members” was published on the TOC website and Facebook page on Aug 15, 2019.
The article mentioned the rift between PM Lee and his siblings, the will of their father the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and the family property at 38 Oxley Road.
TOC was asked by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) the following month to remove the article as well as a Facebook post repeating allegations made by PM Lee’s sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, during the family feud in 2017. The PMO also asked that a full and unconditional apology be issued.
Mr Xu did remove the article from TOC’s site “at first, but uploaded it again on Sept 4, 2019, adding a parenthetical note that had to do with the will of the late Prime Minister, referred to as LKY in the TOC article, as seen in the excerpt below.
“However, according to Dr Lee, LKY began to doubt the truth that Oxley had been ‘gazetted’ in late 2013, and it was subsequently revealed to late LKY that the house wasn’t gazetted.
“If that is not all, the late LKY also removed PM Lee as an executor and trustee of his will, making only the other two siblings, LHY and LWL, as the executors. (Note that this is not related to the prior alleged event mentioned before this sentence).”
PM Lee’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, asked what the phrase “If that is not all” referred to, and Mr Xu answered that it was to the feud between the Prime Minister and his siblings, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang (referred to as LWL and LHY in the TOC article.)
Mr Singh then said: “But this whole paragraph is about the family feud … you mentioned the whole family dispute. My question is if you already referred to the Lee family feud, what are the words ‘if that is not all’ meant to refer to?”
The TOC editor said that it referred to “how bad the relationships are, that’s why I said it’s a family feud”.
Later in the cross-examination, Mr Singh suggested that Mr Xu’s reference to the rift between the siblings was “disingenuous”. The TOC editor did not agree.
Mr Singh said that the reason why the editor added the parenthetical note was that he saw that there was a possibility that the article could be misinterpreted. Therefore, he clarified that the Prime Minister’s removal as an executor of the will was unrelated to Mr Lee Kuan Yew discovering that the property at Oxley Road had not been gazetted.
He told Mr Xu: “I suggest to you that it was not a misinterpretation, you were finding an excuse having got caught out for saying something false.” The editor again disagreed.
Mr Xu added later that he had inserted the parenthetical note into the article because of the complaint he received from the PMO.
The cross-examination of the TOC editor continued in the afternoon. /TISG