Singapore—Mr Terry Xu, the editor of The Online Citizen (TOC), defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in an 2019 article published on the news website, as well as continued with this defamation in the court proceedings that ensued.
As a result his lawyers are seeking substantial damages, reported the straitstimes.com.
PM Lee’s lawyers presented their closing submissions on Monday (Feb 15).
High Court judge Audrey Lim will hand down her judgment at a later date, which is yet to be determined.
According to the Prime Minister’s lawyers, defamation damages in the past that involved government ministers ranged between S$100,000 and S$400,000.
Although they have not yet specified the amount of damages they are asking for, previous defamation cases were mentioned by the lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers representing Mr Lee.
Former Prime Minister Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and PM Lee himself sued Dr Chee Soon Juan, the head of the Singapore Democratic Party, after the 2001 General Election. Dr Chee lost the suit, and was made to pay damages to both men in amounts ranging between S$330,000 and S$300,000.
In Feb 2006, Dr Chee failed to pay the amount and was declared bankrupt by the High Court.
PM Lee’s lawyers said that the extent of the libel in the case of the TOC editor, as well as his “malice and aggravating conduct”, were more serious than the previous defamation suits.
The suit was filed almost two years ago 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 of that year.
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.
Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said in his closing submissions that PM Lee’s side should have been published by TOC as well, and that the Prime Minister’s sister and brother should have been called by Mr Xu’s lawyer, Mr Lim Tean, to testify.
Mr Lim, whom TODAY quotes as calling the proceedings a “complete waste of time and totally unnecessary”, answered that the Prime Minister has already aired his side of the story in Parliament and that instead of suing his siblings, “source of the libel,” PM Lee instead decided to go after Mr Xu.
“His siblings have been calling him names and have been making most damning allegations against him… even calling him a dishonourable son, which must be the gravest wound to any person of Chinese origin. (He) claims in this court to believe in filial piety. He takes no action against them,” said Mr Lim.
The lawyer added, “He wants S$300,000 (in damages) in the hopes that it would bankrupt Mr Xu. The inevitable conclusion one must draw is this was a man who was afraid of allowing the truth to come out.”
He also said that the TOC article did no damage to the Prime Minister’s reputation, and that no evidence of this has been brought forward.
PM Lee also has another defamation case against blogger Leong Sze Hian, wherein he is seeking S$150,000 in damages.
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