Singapore— Blogger Leong Sze Hian celebrated a little too early when he thanked Singaporeans on Facebook on Apr 4 for contributing the S$133,000 he was ordered to pay by the High Court as damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
His legal expenses have just doubled. Now he is looking at a legal bill from the Prime Minister himself for almost the same amount.
Mr Leong took to Facebook on Thursday night (Apr 15) to say that PM Lee is seeking legal costs (S$50,000) and disbursements (S$79,322.22) amounting to almost S$130,000.
The 66-year-old blogger and financial adviser compared the additional amount he needs to pay to that of another Singaporean, Mr Roy Ngerng, who was sued by PM Lee in 2015.
“Roy Ngerng 3 days hearing $29,000; Leong Sze Hian 2.5 days hearing $129,327,” he wrote.
Mr Leong took only 11 days to raise the S$133,000 the High Court awarded as damages to PM Lee from a 2018 defamation suit. Over 2,000 donors chipped in.
And now he has started a fresh round of crowdfunding.
He posted that S$5,100 had been raised only an hour after it started.
Mr Leong added that the most supportive statement he had received is from PM Lee’s own brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang. “I was happy to be one of the many donors who came forward to help Leong to pay off the damages awarded by the court. It is very significant so many Singaporeans came forward to express their support.”
Mr Leong appealed once more for help from “courageous fellow Singaporeans”, as did his lawyer, opposition leader Mr Lim Tean.
In a Friday morning Facebook post, Mr Lim wrote that the additional amount being sought from Mr Leong is “An Affront To The Singaporean Sense Of Fairness And Justice!”
He added, “I know that the Singaporean sense of fairness and justice will be Sze Hian’s shield and bulwark once again, and I ask you to join the many who rushed to Sze Hian’s protection in the first hours of his crowdfunding for the legal costs and disbursements yesterday.”
He added that S$10,015 had been raised after only six hours of crowdfunding.
Mr Leong was sued by the Prime Minister for sharing an article from The Coverage, a Malaysian news site, on Nov 8, 2018.
Roy Ngerng’s successful crowdfunding campaign
As for Mr Ngerng, he was sued by PM Lee over an article he wrote on his blog: The Heart Truths. In December 2015, the activist was ordered to pay damages of S$150,000 because of a blog post questioning the Government’s management of the Central Provident Fund.
Mr Ngerng, now based in Taiwan, has been paying in monthly instalments. Starting from this month, he would have to pay over half of his salary every month, he said.
He, too, started crowdfunding, encouraged by his friends, following Mr Leong’s example.
And his crowdfunding campaign has been just as successful.
“We have made it!” Mr Ngerng exulted on Facebook on Friday (Apr 16).
“As of 11.45 am today, you have helped raised S$144,389.14 to pay the money Singapore’s prime minister has demanded. (The damages demanded were S$150,000. Over the last 5 years, I have paid out S$6,000.).”
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